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Berger’s Burg: This April Fool’s Day, don’t just settle for any old prank

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Congratulations, readers, you have endured the winds of March and hopefully survived the winter unscathed. But you are not out of the woods yet.

Today is April 1, a day of mischief and chicanery for fools to rush in and make fools of themselves. If you want to partake in the fun, professor Alex “Wiseacre” Berger of April Fool distinction has some suggestions for you.

The groom was on his honeymoon and at the bar in his hotel having drinks. A friend asked, “Where’s your bride?” He groom answered, “Upstairs with my best friend making love. I April Fooled him into thinking he was me.”

Some popular whims resorted to by pranksters like rats running amok in the Holland Tunnel, sewer alligators devouring a transit worker, Northern Boulevard completely covered with green snow and the phony love note sent to the office nerd supposedly written by the pretty receptionist are stale. Do not use them.

Others are tales of a man who won an around-the-world cruise raffle but refused to accept his prize because he has no way of getting back home, the streaker who ran fully clothed through a nudist colony and the woman who wrote a post card to a creditor stating “check enclosed.”

A thousand times no. These yarns are also vapid and not up to the standards of professional April Fool’s Day devotees, like me.

A man’s birthday is April 1. Every year when it rolls around, he is reminded of it by the April Fool’s prank his mom played on his dad 30 years ago.

Do not employ listless capers such as inviting a friend to sleep over for the weekend and covering the bathroom door with drywall to make it appear there was no bathroom in the house, faxing a TV station and complaining its programs are being played upside down, placing a rubber chicken in your boss’s bottom drawer, tweeting friends the U.S. government has just raised the mandatory retirement age to 82 and yelling through the street that the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled the income tax law was unconstitutional. All are passe.

Then there are these non-sequiturs: A man purchased a round-trip ticket to Hawaii and fools the airline by returning home by boat. Then he orders an expensive dinner at a classy restaurant and, after it is served, leaves the payment on the table and departs shrieking, “April Fool” without touching a bite. Much too trite.

Every escapade ever thought up by the finest brains in the business has already been used except for one special gem that still lives in prank infamy.

Some 25 years ago, writer George Plimpton crafted a story about a New York Mets baseball phenom he named “Sidd Finch,” whom the team secretly signed. Sidd reportedly could fire a baseball at 168 miles an hour and hit a baseball 600 feet. A sports magazine picked the story up and it took off. Plimpton chose a gangly, 6-foot-4 Chicago man as the model for pictures.

Of course, the story was an April Fool’s joke and pure fiction. The prank left thousands of frenzied fans delighted or furious at being duped.

That whimsical story — often imitated, but never duplicated — was the apex. I tried to top it once with a story about the New York Giants secretly signing 300-pound football player “Barney Frank Kurowski,” who could throw a football 100 yards, run a hundred-yard in eight seconds and hates the Dallas Cowboys.

I envisioned it becoming the second grandest prank of them all. But it was not meant to be. Gloria nixed it on the grounds that the Giants would be displeased and cancel our 2010 ticket subscription.

Psychologists have said April Fool shenanigans help relieve stress and improve morale, but would-be pranksters beware. April Fool’s Day lawsuits are not uncommon and lawyers say the damage from a prank gone awry can be lasting and costly.

Workers in a chemical plant once planted a rubber snake above the manager’s office door. He did not come to work that day, but the snake dropped onto the shoulders of the night cleaning lady. She fell screaming to the floor, smashed her head and passed out. The company paid the medical bills, but she refused to work there again.

So, jesters, be careful. Choose your prank thoughtfully, tastefully and with no malice aforethought. With that being said, go out and have some fun.

Newsflash: I am leaving my position as humor columnist for this newspaper to accept a similar position as Dave Barry’s replacement in Miami.

(Dear editor: I was just April Fooling.)

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

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