Call it shenanigans: New book is how-to guide for pranksters

Are these the five greatest pranks of all-time?
Courtesy of Andrew Boyd

Protests are out, pranks are in.

The time-honed tradition of politicized mischief is back — and author Andrew Boyd is leading the way with his new book “Beautiful Trouble: Toolbox for the Next Revolution,” a how-to manual for effective, socially targeted pranks that he says can be more effective than demonstrations and rallies.

“You can pull off a prank with much fewer people than a traditional protest,” said Boyd, who will launch the book at powerHouse arena in DUMBO on April 5 in what he promises will be a surprising evening (to our knowledge, the event itself is not a prank). “Your target is usually some large powerful and swaggering entity, and with some deft intervention you’re able to both undercut their authority or reveal the true motives behind their statements or actions.”

Boyd might be a prankster, but he’s no hoax — as one of the founders of the cigar-wielding Billionaires for Bush satire groups that spread across the country in the aughts, he’s no stranger to tomfoolery.

And the how-to book, which examines the tactics, practices, and methods of pranking, includes plenty of case studies of successful social stunts that can guide would-be gags.

Some gems include the story of the Barbie Liberation Organization, dubbed the BLO, the Canadian teddy bear catapult, and “Public Option Annie,” a guerilla musical put on in Washington DC at the height of the health care debate.

All these shenanigans may seem juvenile, but Boyd promises there is an art to the prank.

“You could say that pieing somebody in the face, or throwing burning stink-bombs into somebody’s meeting is fairly low brow: all heat and no light,” said Boyd. “But pranks can be a very high art form as well, especially if they are ethical, democratic and non-violent.”

And sometimes, pranks can be a window to the future, like the “Corporations are People Too” slogan, which was popularized as a satire by Billionaires for Bush before it was picked up by Mitt Romney in earnest on the stump over the summer.

“Political reality usually makes political satire a business by having absurd laws,” said Boyd, whose book hit shelves on May 1. “But it’s very strange to have reality catch up to you.”

Andrew Boyd with Dave Oswald Mitchell at powerHouse arena [37 Main Street at the corner of Water Street in DUMBO, (718)666-3049]. April 5, 7 pm. To order pre-order the book, visit http://beautifultrouble.org.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.