Thanks to YouTube and social media, pranks have a lower comedic reputation than ever before. In order to save the specific art of “mildly irritating your pals” from the kind of people who make mean-spirited Netflix shows, hurt themselves doing stuff while blindfolded, or run video channels premised on treating their kids like shit, all of us have the responsibility to elevate The Good Prank.
This brings us to Rob Sheridan, an artist, writer, and graphic designer who previously worked as Nine Inch Nails’ art director, and his story of annoying the living hell out of a tour manager with a beeping machine.
Prompted by news that online retailer ThinkGeek is being absorbed into its parent company, Sheridan describes how he and others on the crew used the company’s Annoy-A-Tron—“an absolutely insidious office prank device” that emits “a loud high-pitched electronic beep” at intervals with “no understandable pattern”—to drive the tour’s manager to the brink of madness.
Sheridan recounts how the manager—who he refers to only as “J” and describes as both “the nicest guy” and “a big man from Texas who didn’t take any shit”—had to be pranked, like everyone else from “the NIN family.” To do this, they stuck the Annoy-A-Tron beneath his desk and waited for the evil little machine to do its work.
Once the Annoy-A-Tron began making its erratic beeps, Sheridan says its effects on the tour manager quickly moved from funny to worrying.
The manager’s mind having broken down to the point that he began destroying the ceiling with a broom, Sheridan and friends pulled the plug on the joke and swore one another to secrecy. Did they quote “you and me, we’re in this together now” in the process? We’ll never know.
Sheridan went on to assure readers that the manager also pulled pranks on others, so the whole thing wasn’t completely one-sided, and shared, too, that the entire process of the man’s mental collapse occurred within hours.
This, in essence, is a Good Prank—one that results in a good story where nobody is actually hurt or humiliated. The only way it could be improved is if Trent Reznor, looking to the cutting-edge smoke alarm stylings of Nathan Fielder’s The Banzai Predicament for inspiration, had sampled the beeping device and the tour manager’s irritated screams for a Nine Inch Nails track.
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