Fake News: 5 best April Fool's gags from As It Happens
This story was originally published on March 31, 2017.
As It Happens listeners generally suffer no fools — except, of course, on April 1.
Every year on April Fools Day, we slip one fake story into our lineup in the spirit of the holiday. But this year, instead of trying to trick you, we've compiled this list of some of our best gags for your enjoyment.
In 2011, As It Happens host Carol Off interviewed a Royal Canadian Mint spokesperson about a plan to phase out the Canadian $5 bill and replace it with a $3 coin dubbed the "threenie."
What the listeners didn't know was that the Mint representative was actually As It Happens writer Chris Howden.
"Carol, we at the Mint are always trying to get costs down and the fact of the matter is that paper money costs money and wears out quickly, as you know if you've carried a bill around for any length of time," he said, matter-of-factly.
"The fives in particular — I'm not exactly sure why, I think that it has something to do with the face of Wilfred Laurier — they get defaced, which is illegal, of course."
Why not a $5 coin? Do the math!
"We've brought mathematicians in," Howden explained. "The combinations that are available to us with a $1, $2 and $3 coin are infinitely greater we've found than if we had a $5 coin, and believe me, we've done our research on this. We've had some of the great minds in the country on this."
Off invited listeners to weigh in with their opinions, and they did not disappoint.
One Nova Scotia man was alarmed the threenie would be bigger than the toonie, which is bigger than the loonie.
"I mean if they get up to a $10 coin, it's gonna be as big as a pizza pan in your pocket!" he exclaimed.
A Toronto woman expressed her concern for Canada's elderly population being weighed down by change.
"As our population is aging, this is getting to be a hardship just to carry money around," she said.
One clever listener called in with a name suggestion for the new money: "Coinage a trois."
This was a fake story based on a real one.
On April 1, 2011, As It Happens falsely reported that poutine would be served as the official Canadian dish at the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, all thanks to a real 2009 New Yorker about the Quebecois staple.
Off interviewed New Yorker food writer Calvin Trillin — who was in on the joke — and things got downright combative.
"You say about the taste of poutine that the best you can come up with is it's 'surprisingly inoffensive.' Is that, in fact, comment on the Canadian character?" Off asks.
"The Canadian character is inoffensive, but not surprisingly," Trillin retorts.
"There's a Yankee suggesting the food that Canada will contribute to a royal wedding. I mean, can you just appreciate how Canadians will be a bit ticked off by this?" she pushes.
"Well, I think you're blaming the messenger," Trillin says. "It's not my fault that Canadians like poutine more than they like food that sophisticated people eat."
Fur helmets that keep growing
Back in 1980, then-host Barbara Frum picked up on an April Fool's Day prank by Soldier magazine, claiming that the fur on Canadian-sourced bearskin helmets worn by British guards grows.
"They do, in fact, need to be trimmed each year for the first four or five years or so," Maj.-Gen. Charles Findlay, who is not a real person, told Frum.
If that wasn't enough to tip readers off, Frum then went to a second guest, Winnipeg's Col. Cyril Frisbee, a so-called expert on the subject, who told of a similar problem with the Buffalo coats worn by Canadian constables.
"They were sprouting small, horny-like proturbances," he said, causing Frum to chuckle despite herself. "This was an actual rejuvenation of the bone marrow cells that were still in the hide."
Ultimately, he says, they solved the problem using electrolysis.
"The immediate solution was to excise them, but of course this ruined the coats. They would fall to pieces," he said. "The problem was getting quite embarrassing for these chaps."
In the spring of 2002, As It Happens co-host Barbara Budd drew nationwide ire when she announced she'd recieved a Canada Council grant to visit all the places she's mispronounced on the air.
This gag prompted listeners to call to express their fury with Budd, the Council and the CBC.
"I am just totally disillusioned and disappointed with Budd's gloating about how she scored a Canada Council Grant," a Saskatchewan caller said. "I think you've got to be more responsible with the taxpayers' money Ms. Budd."
Sometimes, the prankster becomes the prey.
On March 31, 1976, CBC freelancer Bernard Clark called us from the U.K. and tricked us into believing a story about a a Scottish town so windy, people wear lead-lined kilts.
"They have stories of sheep being blown away," he said. "They've got two miles of rope along the coasts so that when you're walking, you've got something to grip onto, it's that sort of strong wind. You park your car with the front facing the wind because otherwise the car door doors just fly off."
Host Frum was baffled as to why people would live in such a place.
But Clark told her there was money to be made as the community was building the world's first network of "horizontal wind mills," which he described as "a multi-million-dollar exercise to channel electricity into the industrial areas of Scotland."
Clark and the crew of CBC London called again the next day to tell us we'd been had.