PRANK THE MONKEY
SAMPLE Q&A WITH SIR JOHN HARGRAVE
Of all the pranks in PRANK THE MONKEY, which is your favorite?
“The Celebrity Sincerity Test,” where I pranked Charles Manson, is probably my favorite chapter in the book, and possibly my favorite piece I’ve written. It will be hard to top that one.
Has Manson contacted you again?
After the thank you note that I sent him in the book, he sent me back the four-page handwritten letter that closes out the book. It was just four pages of disturbing randomness, completely insane. So I guess we’re kind of pen pals now.
Did you get in trouble with any of your pranks?
I was arrested once, when a prank on the CVS drugstore chain went wrong. This is the story that opens the book, and it shows a few critical mistakes that I made early in my pranking career. I was dressed in jeans. I was a smartass to the police officer. Nowadays, I always wear a suit, and I cooperate with the police when they’re called in.
In the book, the story of your arrest ends rather abruptly. What happened afterward?
We were taken to individual holding cells at the local jail, where they kept us until we posted bail. I remember some of the other prisoners were screaming obscenities at the cops, who would just point and laugh at them through the door. In jail, the cops have all the power, so they abuse it. I had a right to a phone call, but they kept ignoring me whenever I asked for it.
Afterward, they dropped the charges against my cameraman, but I had to hire a lawyer and spend a morning in court. They finally threw my case out as well, but I had to pay about $2,000 in legal fees, so I suppose I learned a lesson. I learned not to shop at CVS.
You make repeated references to Christianity in PRANK THE MONKEY, and yet much of your behavior is decidedly un-Christian. How do you reconcile that?
At the end of the book, I make a reference to my favorite story about Jesus, the one where He drives the moneychangers out of the Temple. He just goes in and trashes the place. I see this as taking a stand against corporate greed, which is the theme of much of my work. I try to do it with humor rather than a whip, but maybe that’s why I’m not the Messiah.
Are all the stories in PRANK THE MONKEY true?
This question drives me up the wall, because I put so much time and effort into these pranks that it’s very frustrating when people think I’m making it up. That’s why I try to include as much documentary evidence as I can.
Now, I will sometimes take “storyteller’s license” for the purposes of tightening the narrative. Pranking Ashton Kutcher, for instance, was a massive hoax that stretched over several months. If I detailed every conversation and letter, word for word, the book would be long, boring, and unfunny. Much like one of Ashton Kutcher’s movies.
Some of the pranks stretch over a period of years. How long did it take you to write PRANK THE MONKEY?
The last chapter of the book—where I faked my own death—is actually the first to happen chronologically. That was about fifteen years ago. In a sense, the book is kind of a memoir, a chronicle of my greatest pranks, starting with being born on April Fool’s Day and continuing through my “death.”
You make reference to the Michael Jackson prank costing “thousands of dollars.” How much did you spend on these pranks?
I actually spent my entire book advance on the pranks themselves. Let me explain the economics of being a first-time author: they suck. My advance was $5,000, which is pretty common unless you’re Monica Lewinsky. My strategy was to write the best and funniest book I could, even if I wouldn’t turn a profit on it. Ultimately I’m hoping that a great book will draw more readers to my Web site, which will lead to more great books. But you don’t become an author to grow rich, unless of course you write a book called HOW TO GROW RICH BY WRITING BOOKS. Those are the only people that actually grow rich by writing books.
So how do you make a living as a professional prankster?
I have a day job as the Interactive Director at a large Boston ad agency. It’s a great gig where I get to be creative and think up new ways of getting attention on the Internet. Which is what I do all day anyway, but there I do it for my clients instead of myself.
What’s the next prank you’re planning?
I will not rest until I have pranked the President of the United States.