[Ed: I'm a huge fan of Kembrew McLeod, a writer, nerdfighter, media theorist and hoopy frood. From epic pranks like Freedom of Expression (R) to genius analysis like Creative License, Kembrew always amazes. Here's an excerpt from his latest: Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, with an introduction just for us -Cory]

Since I was a kid, I have been fixated on trickery, which played a role in why I grew up to be an occasional prankster (my dad recalls that, as an adolescent, I would surprise him by placing my Sesame Street Ernie doll in grim situations, such leaving him in a noose hanging from a shower head or pinned to the kitchen wall with a knife). Now that I am an adult, I spend most of my time as a teacher and professor being a bit more serious -- enough to take the subject of pranking seriously, which is why I wrote Pranksters: Making Mischief in the Modern World, published by NYU Press on April 1 this year. The word prank is more often used today to describe stunts that make people look foolish and little more. I'm not interested in celebrating cruelty -- especially the sorts of mean-spirited practical jokes, hazing rituals, and reality television deceits that are all too common in today's popular culture. Although "good" pranks sometimes do ridicule their targets, they serve a higher purpose by sowing skepticism and speaking truth to power (or at least cracking jokes that expose fissures in power's facade). A prank a day keeps The Man away, I always say. Nevertheless, I should stress that this book is not solely about pranking. Many of the characters who populate its pages aren't driven by noble impulses, and even those who are more pure of heart can muddy the ethical waters with dubious tactics. With this in mind, Pranksters examines everything from political pranks, silly hoaxes, and con games to the sort of self-deception that fuels outlandish belief systems. The following is an excerpt from Chapter Nine of Pranksters, about the exploits of a married couple named Jeanne and Alan Abel who began as professional pranksters in the late 1950s, and are still at it today.

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