On April 1, people play pranks on one another, and a well-designed hilarious-but-harmless prank is a true work of art. There are lists of pranks online for inspiration, but there are only so many of these, and what do you do if your target has already read the same lists?

I train algorithms called neural networks to write humor - usually inadvertent, as they try to name paint colors or invent pies or design candy heart messages. Once I tried to train a neural network to tell knock-knock jokes, to mixed success.

I wanted to find out if I could get a neural network to invent new April Fool’s pranks. I collected pranks from internet lists until I got tired of it - but because each list only had a few, I gave up after I had collected only 132 entries. This is a pitifully small dataset, especially for sentences. I set up a special-purpose neural net for this, with lots of smarts but a very short memory. As I hoped, it learned individual words and phrasing from the dataset, but rearranged them into new combinations.

The result: pranks that they will never expect, and will never understand.

Place a pair of pants and shoes in your ice dispenser.

Put marbles in the refrigerator.

A meat and mashed potato sundae makes for quite the hand soap dispenser.

Put a glow stick in a toilet paper into the toe of your kid’s shoes.

Conference call two people then, when, when your kid asks what it is, say “Dinner.”

Try using old clothes to pee.

Glue all the eggs in the hubcaps of someone’s computer.

Put marbles in the hand soap dispenser.

Put food coloring in the mailbox.

Take the door knob off your kid’s shoes.

Hide an alarm clock in someone’s keyboard who isn’t a very good typist.

Hide all of the entrance to your office building if it only has one entrance.

Putting googly eyes on someone’s computer mouse so that it won’t work.

If you rip up a toilet paper roll, then leave them a ransom note.

Serve up a glass of juice in the fridge!

Place a pair of pants and shoes in Easter egg foils.

Rearrange somebody while pretending to pee.

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