Pranksters relive favorite UW stunts

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April 12, 1999
By Brett Krzykowski
of the Daily Cardinal Staff

Maybe they could call it Pranks 101: "Introduction to Administrative Annoyance."

Former UW-Madison Pail and Shovel Party members Stu Baker and Jim Mallon of "Mystery Science Theater 3000" fame and current Ten Fat Tiger Ben Granby spoke to a full house in Bascom Hall Friday night, reminiscing about some of the favorite pranks they have pulled in their years at UW-Madison.

Granby led off the festivities with a prank manifesto. He preached their usefulness, their thoughtfulness and a rundown of the basics.

"There are two kinds of pranks. The first is stunts. It's a spectacle, something we don't expect to see," Granby said. "The second type is the hoax--for example, fake signs for fake meetings to see who shows up, or what happens when we burn the building down."

Although Baker and Mallon attended the university more than 20 years ago, their words found an appreciative audience.

"Our first exposure to anything like this was street art," Mallon said. "The great thing about street theater as opposed to indoor theater is the only ones who watch are the ones who really want to."

The two set out on a long stretch of pranks that led to their biggest prank of all: taking over student government.

"We ran on two main issues. We wanted to convert the UW budget to pennies, dump them in Library Mall and give students pails and shovels to pick them up," Mallon said. "We also promised to move the Statue of Liberty to Madison."

The two accomplished that task with one of their most famous pranks: placing a replica of the statue on a frozen Lake Mendota in a fashion reminiscent of "Planet of the Apes," making the statue appear to be buried, save her torch and upper half of her face.

"Our first one was actually burned down by frat guys. Do frat guys still drink here?" Baker asked. "So we had a tombstone made up that said, 'She died for lack of tolerance.'"

Granby went on to outline his favorite stunts over the past few years, including the re-enactment of the Jonestown massacre and the public crucifixions he and his fellow Tigers staged in his early days at UW-Madison.

"A prank isn't something that's bad or good. It's done to get a response," Granby said. "Pranks are the ultimate art. It forces the viewer to interpret the piece."

Select members of the audience illuminated Granby's words by pulling a few interruptions of their own over the course of the speech. In the middle of the speech, a crying baby was heard coming from the back corner of the room, and Granby was doused with silly string near the end.

Granby summed up the evening by explaining the major benefit of pranks.

"Anyone can do these," Granby said. "And the best part is when the cops are called."

Stu's World
Updated: January 1, 2000