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A Practical Joke where people are wound-up on hidden camera for entertainment purposes. Can be done with celebrities or members of the public. There's usually the inevitable reveal. Swearing may occur at this point.
In fact, given the number of pranks that involve a total waste of time on the part of the prankees - for example, the time Candid Camera managed to turn around people at the border to one state, saying the state was "full" - there might be a question as to how much this whole pranking costs people. (At the very least, it's likely to make a few people late for important appointments.)
This stuff isn't just confined to television since radio has done its fair share; in fact, Candid Camera was originally a show called Candid Microphone. Radio has the advantage in that everyone in the world is already set up with an audio device at home; i.e., the telephone.
- Allen Funt's Candid Camera is pretty much the definer of the genre. It did both ordinary people and celebs. Its Catch Phrase, "Smile, you're on Candid Camera," is well known around the world.
- Candid Candid Camera was the same show, with the same host, only Direct to Video and with nudity.
- Funt also made two theatrical films of this type, What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? and Money Talks.
- The show is referenced in Bill Cosby's '60s standup sketch "Noah's Ark", where an incredulous Noah, receiving construction instructions from a voice in the air claiming to be God, eventually asks "Am I on Candid Camera?"
- In The Cannonball Run II, state troopers Don Knotts and Tim Conway pull over a speeding limousine; finding that it's being "driven" by a chimpanzee, they're convinced Allen Funt is hiding in the back somewhere and filming them for Candid Camera.
- Allen Funt became so well known for this that when he once got on a plane that was hijacked and flown to Cuba, he was the only passenger who didn't spend the entire flight laughing hysterically, thinking that this was a Candid Camera gag.
- Noel's House Party with its "Gotcha" (originally "Gotcha Oscars" until the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences threatened legal action) feature on celebrities. Memorable ones include a football manager ending up doing the Christine Keeler pose and something involving "Custer's Last Hat Stand".
- Punk'd is an entire American series of this.
- Beadle's About involved ordinary people.
- Some of the things they did out of the studio with people in What Would You Do?
- The Chaser's War on Everything also does both ordinary people and celebrities. The celebrity targets are often politicians, and the pranks are more satirical than most other shows - most famously, getting into the security zone around the APEC conference thinly disguised as a Canadian motorcade.
- Dick Clark and Ed McMahon played pranks on celebrities as part of TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes.
- Stay Tuned parodied this with Show Within a Show Sadistic Home Videos.
- The Adam and Joe Show included these as a regular feature of the show.
- An interesting British example is called Swag, where people who actually did something wrong were targeted instead of helpless, random members of the public (which, for some people, is considered quite cruel). Prop goods are left around and are filmed until someone attempts to steal them, at which point the thief is punished in an embarrassing fashion. One of their more popular skits is when they leave boxes of snacks at the back of a truck; someone tries their luck and hops inside to grab them, only for the door to slam behind them and the sides of the truck to fall off to reveal a cage. They are then driven around the street.
- Trigger Happy TV is a British show that sticks more to the traditional Candid Camera formula.
- Scare Tactics. Like Candid Camera, but innocent people are tricked into extremely frightening situations. There's been at least one lawsuit by a victim, but the show continues.
- Subverted in a Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch. An interviewer puts an applicant through a bizarre series of tests, with other people watching. After the applicant gets angry he's told that all the positions had been filled weeks earlier.
- Subverted as a part of an ad: it begins as the normal "guy hiding in a mailbox and throwing peoples' letters out" gag, complete with canned laughter and several successfully fooled people, but after the expected results, a huge bald guy gets his letter spat out at him. He tries again a few times, but instead of just standing there with a baffled expression, he pulls out a gun and fires several times through the mail slot.
- On the Discovery Kids channel, there's a version of Punk'd (with kids and animals) called Skunk'd TV.
- Creature Comforts (both versions) was a weird sort of Candid Camera Prank in that the victims knew it was happening - they were told at the time that they were being recorded for a TV show. Where the prank comes in was that neither character designers nor animators ever met the people being recorded. They wanted them to base appearance and performance on voice alone, so they were isolated from the process of recording so they wouldn't get any preconceived notions before setting to work. So there was an even chance you'd either be surprised to find out just how owlish you were, or offended that someone equated you with a gorilla. Thank God for anonymity, eh fellas?
- It's doubtful that they weren't told that they would be rendered in Claymation, but it might be a surprise to find out exactly how.
- Videomatch/Showmatch was this before focusing entirely on "Bailando por un Sueño", and now it's back to doing this.
- The Jamie Kennedy Experiment.
- Scrubs used this in an Imagine Spot on one occasion - after guiding a couple through a difficult and important medical decision, JD wishes that life were more like his favourite TV shows - cue the unconscious wife sitting up and saying 'you're on candid camera' and JD and Cox pointing cameras out, including one guy with a big shoulder-mounted camera hiding under the bed...
- The Daily Show parodied these shows (and Punk'd specifically) at the end of a "This Week in God" segment, with a fake advertisement for a show called Baptiz'd. Instead of an elaborate prank, the action involved Stephen Colbert throwing a paper cup of water into a coworker's face, then cracking up, showing him the "hidden cameras" (which can't be that hidden since they're just standing in the hallway by a water cooler), and informing him that he "just got Baptiz'd!" (Next week: Circumcis'd!)
- Just For Laughs Gags is a Canadian version of these. Because there's pretty much no dialogue at all (overdubbing with music), it's often shown during flights.
- Done in several Disney shows including Sonny With a Chance and Hannah Montana, both with a Punk'd-esque show called 'Gotcha'
- Improv Everywhere does it just for the amusement of the participants, bystanders and readers of their website.
- A Saturday Night Live sketch with Christopher Walken had such a show, Pranksters. It starts with a guy pranking his rat-hating sister... and goes into a man who pranks a workmate who kept using his parking space by killing him with a tire iron.
- What Would You Do is a variation of this, in that it's a hidden camera show not done for comedy purposes; instead, it's more along the lines of a sociological/morality experiment.
- Several of the competions between the hosts of Dick and Dom in da Bungalow were this; for example, Om Pom Stick where they would have to try and stick pictures of themselves to members of the public without being noticed, or Bogies! where they would shout "Bogies" (US English= "Boogers") louder and louder in a public place. The producer would do a funny sports-style commentary over the footage.
- Inverted in The Gumball Rally. The Dodge police cruiser team gets an Arizona state trooper to believe that they are filming a movie from a camera hidden on a far-away peak, and ask him to hold still for a face shot, as they make their getaway.
- Steve Allen was a pioneer in the use of this gag, on his '60s variety show.
- One of the most famous practitioners in the United Kingdom is impressionist Jon Culshaw, mostly but not exclusively on Dead Ringers, He once rang up then Prime Minister Tony Blair live on air and pretended to be William Hague, who was then leader of the opposition. The prime minister spotted it pretty quickly. Culshaw is also famous for his scarily accurate impression of the Fourth Doctor from Doctor Who. He's used this several times, including in prank calls to Sylvester McCoy [the Seventh Doctor], Colin Baker [the Sixth Doctor], Peter Davison [the Fifth Doctor] and... Tom Baker, who actually played the Fourth Doctor:
John Culshaw: "Hello, this is The Doctor."
Tom Baker: "What, oh no, no you must be mistaken, I am The Doctor."
- Most Morning Zoo radio shows will do this at some point.
- The radio station PLJ in New York City actually calls it "Phone Scams".
- 93.3 FLZ's MJ Morning show really likes REALLY annoying crank calls.
- This Morning Zoo prank call went very very wrong http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sRmAyyvAcZY
- Snopes relays the tale of a woman who called into a radio show on Valentine's Day to have the DJs prank call her boyfriend. The DJ called the man and offered him free flowers, and he chose to send them... to his wife. Oops.
- Crank Yankers was an example of phone scams on television. The performers would do the crank calls, and then a set of puppeteers wielding Hensonesque caricatures of both parties would act out the scene with extra visual gags. One of the best was rapper Ludacris calling up his manager, claiming he wanted to change his name to "Mr. Peanut". On Luda's end, his puppet was trying on monocles and top hats, while his manager's puppet was calmly shredding Ludacris' contract, and pressing the Big Red Button marked "In Case of Insane Rapper".
- Apparently the fear of this has become so ubiquitous that a US senator hung up on US President-Elect Barack Obama because she thought he was a prankster. The fact that VP candidate Sarah Palin fell victim to a just such a prank several weeks earlier (this one from a group pretending to be the French president and his aide) probably contributed. Barack Obama was said to have been amused.
- El vacilón de la mañana was famous in the Hispanic world for creating the infamous "Manolo Cabeza de Huevo" (Egghead Manolo) prank. It all begins with the DJ calling a concierge who hates being called "egghead". He promptly calls him and tells him "egghead". Then the DJ calls him and, with a high screeching voice, claims to be his bunhole. The final result: Manolo ends up yelling "Fuck you, fuck your mother, fuck you all, and fuck all your motherfucking genealogic tree!".
- Said radio show also managed to successfully trick Hugo Chávez into thinking he was being called by Fidel Castro, and viceversa.
- The most prolific American practitioners of the Phone Prank are The Jerky Boys, who've sold over 8,000,000 albums showcasing their work.
- Inverted by comedian Tom Mabe, who plays pranks on people who call him - namely, telemarketers.
- James Florentine has dabbled in this as well. Crank Yankers has also featured incoming call pranks to people who thought they were calling a package delivery service strongly hinted to be UPS.
- Steve Wozniak once owned a telephone number that was a frequent misdial for an airline. He would test his callers to see what kind of imaginary flights he could book, lowering the price by adding a ridiculous number of connections, and so forth. But these calls were never recorded or published.
- Minneapolis radio personality T.D. Mischke hosted a podcast when he was between jobs. The phone number his sponsors gave him turned out to have been previously owned by a few different people with credit problems. When the collection agencies would call in, he would have a lot of fun with them. Here's a sample!
- The Fonejacker's entire schtick.
- The Simpsons, in its early years, had the Running Gag of Bart prank-calling Moe's Tavern with Double Entendre names, similar to the Red Tube Bar Prank Calls.
- In "Krusty Gets Kancelled", Krusty's TV replacement, Gabbo, gets ready to perform a "patented Gabbo Crank Call" (on Krusty himself). When Bart complains that "he stole that bit from Krusty", Lisa counters that Krusty stole it from Steve Allen.
- In Quebec, the most well known phone pranksters were the Justiciers Masqués, a team of radio hosts. They usually prank normal people from around Quebec, but they also successfully pranked many Canadian politicians, and even Nicolas Sarkozy, president of France, by passing as Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They also fooled Britney Spears into thinking she was speaking to Celine Dion... despite them being an all men team and having French as their first language.
- Russell Brand sometimes does this in his stand-up set, usually finding a slightly silly advertisement in the local newspaper of the town where he's doing the show and calling the business up with outrageous requests.
- He also did this on his radio show, which led to the infamous Sachsgate Scandal, which (long story short) a message on comedian Andrew Sach's answer phone caused outrage due to comments about his grand daughter, leading to The BBC getting fined by the regulators, Jonathon Ross (who was also present) being suspended and Brand's eventual resignation from the BBC. Proof that this kind of joke isn't always appreciated.