Can You Pull Pranks For a Living?

It’s a classic story: boy gets good grades in high school, boy gets full-ride scholarship to great engineering school, boy does well in engineering school, boy instead opts for a career of pulling practical jokes on people. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it 1,000 times. Here’s Ren:

Hey Josh! I’ve really enjoyed reading your answers to the questions people have sent you. Now I have a question myself: Is there a way to turn a not-so-fabulous passion into a legitimate career?

Sure, it’s possible. It’s a lot more possible now that the Internet makes connecting with like-minded people really easy and fairly cheap. So, where it might’ve been difficult to find a market for your rare passion 10 years ago, it’s a lot more viable these days.

Who has time for this? Ren, that's who.

Right now I am a sophomore and the only activity I’m really passionate about is pulling pranks.

Tell me more.

While the resulting hilarity is a plus, I enjoy putting the plan together and executing it, directing people and resources towards a common goal that many people benefit from (a good laugh at a school known for being all work and little play is always appreciated). I also enjoy using creative solutions to random problems that can come up, and some of my best “work” is done on the fly.

Let me quickly interject and point out what may already be obvious to many of you reading this: If you’re good at putting together plans involving multiple players and then making sure your team successfully executes those plans, to the satisfaction of all involved — then you will have no difficulty finding success in your choice of industries if professional pranking does not work out for you (although we’ll discuss the viability of that in a sec). What you just described is known in the professional world as “project management” and is a very important skill. Great project managers are paid very well.

I like having new challenges on each “project”, and while I get bored and distracted easily, I like my “hobby” because every aspect is constantly changing. It’s also fun to plan out scenarios for outcomes to various situations in order to find the best plan of action. Also, mov ies like “21”, “Oceans 11”, “Accepted” and “The Illusionist” really get me excited because they all involve intricate plans and risky situations.

Have you seen “The Prestige” with Christian Bale? If not, try that one — if you liked the twists and turns of “The Illusionist” then you’ll love it.

I was wondering if there were any legitimate career paths that would use this particular interest for other more noble purposes. Right now I am studying engineering at Georgia Tech on full scholarship, and my grades are more than high enough to keep it. I just want to figure out if I can integrate something I love with a way to make a living without working for “Punk’d” or ending up in prison. I know this is an odd request, but any advice is appreciated.

Well, I’m not sure about *noble* purposes, but you’ve already touched on one of the two industries I was going to mention where it might be a career option, and that’s the entertainment world. People dig prank shows, and Punk’d is only the latest and most successful iteration of those shows. Candid Camera started it all back in late 1940s, actually, and people have been eating up those shows ever since.

If you’ve got the stuff to be the next one of those, you’ll have to differentiate your pranks from those of Ashton and Jamie Kennedy and Howie Do It and all the others. Capture them on video, of course, then start a YouTube channel if you haven’t already. Throw your work at the mercy of the masses and see what they think. Get enough fans, and you can attract some Hollywood interest. (I know I’m making it sound super-easy, which it’s not, but the bare-bones plan is pretty simple — the hard work of executing it is all yours).

The other option that I thought of was to start your own side business pulling pranks on people for cash. Seems like this would only be viable in a large metro area, and even then, only if you really bust ass to thoroughly market yourself. Believe it or not, someone has actually written a book on the subject, called Pranks For Profit. I have no idea whether it’s any good or not, but it’s definitely relevant to the topic at hand.

But like I said before, the skills that make you a good prankster are also skills that would make you valuable to any number of organizations: creative problem solving, thinking on the fly, managing a team all the way from the planning stages of a project to successful completion, blah blah blah — that’s all stuff that businesses of any size or ambition need to have.

Hope that helps. Anyone out there have additional advice for Ren? Let us know in the comments below.

24 thoughts on “Can You Pull Pranks For a Living?”

  1. he_who_is_tired_of_reading_responses_to_stupid_questions

    Out of all the emails Josh apparently gets everyday he chooses to respond to the guy who has a full scholarship at GA Tech, but just want to pull pranks… give me a break! How about responding to those of us who aren’t fortunate enough to have a “full ride” and actually want to do something with our college degrees? I’m about one more pointless post-and-reply away from unsubscribing from this hogwash.

    1. OMG, the person providing you a free service is not providing the service in a manner that meets with your exact desires? When you actually pay for the advice, then you can whine.

  2. “I enjoy putting the plan together and executing it, directing people and resources towards a common goal that many people benefit from (a good laugh at a school known for being all work and little play is always appreciated). I also enjoy using creative solutions to random problems ”

    Sounds like an engineer to me. Just find the right kind of engineering you enjoy the most and put your skills to use.

    Pranks will still be needed for birthdays, anniversaries and such, but at least you’ll be making money as an engineer while you continue pranking your friends and family.

    My advice: don’t quit your “day job” (getting the engineering degree then eventually working as an engineer), do what Josh said (the you tube stuff) until you have something solid going on in the pranking business….

  3. I had no idea people could do that! That’s pretty…interesting once you think about it….Maybe he can create some sort of small business as a side-project where…he and a group of friends (or some people who are creative/safe/like-minded in this pursuit) can hire themselves out as prank-players with a brochure and everything 😀

  4. Silly me… I thought you had to go to college to get a decent career, but apparently that’s not the case. Good to know. College is too hard anyway. I am quite passionate smoking pot and playing video games. How might I pursue a career that combines these activities?

  5. Counselor Buddy

    In response to he_who_is_tired’s comment, it seems to me that most questions fall into one of a few canned scenarios, tweaked with a few personalized details here or there… regarding career path, going back/changing schools, or having no money for school. While it’s no doubt hard to hear someone have a full-ride and want to trade it for an in-probable career, the underlying question is still similar to many… is it practical to pursue a passion,even if it means giving up a full-ride and having tough job prospects at the end. I appreciate to occasional quirky details in the questions as it adds a little variation to the canned scenarios being thrown at Josh.

  6. Okay, this is really funny because I was asked a couple of years ago by one of my professors what my dream job would be and my reply was to be able to play pranks on people. I totally understand where you are coming from. Yes, you can “manage” a project working for someone else in another field but it is not the same as the thrill you get from start to finish trying to prank someone. The only two things that can make me forget about anything else on my mind is playing laser tag and pulling pranks – I get so involved and I’m sure that is the type of passion we should have for what we’re going to do everyday. I have thought about this before for myself and I think there would be a market for it in an area where there are a bunch of rich people who have a lot of money to spend. And I think guys like to play pranks on their friends more than girls. I can imagine it being popular with camping trips, slumber parties, birthday parties, work parties, bachelor parties, and people who are just plain bored and want a good laugh. Thanks for posting the book Josh. I will have to check it out. Good luck to the poster. I’m sure there are more of us out there.

  7. I laughed out loud at Wow’s comment…haha
    Good one, although a little disrespectful to our kind always helpful host of this site…but worth the laugh all the same;
    “Silly me… I thought you had to go to college to get a decent career, but apparently that’s not the case. Good to know. College is too hard anyway. I am quite passionate smoking pot and playing video games. How might I pursue a career that combines these activities?”

  8. Pull pranks as a living but NOT at your college! I sent a professor adult diapers and she took me to court..Best of luck to those who can successfully pursue a career involving pranks! 😀

  9. There’s also ImrpovEverywhere, these guys also pull massive public pranks involving coordinating hundreds of people. You guys have probably heard of No Pants Subway Rides. They come up with the randomest, and creative things to put smiles on new yorkers’ faces.

  10. JudgeJoshistheBest!

    To “He who refers to himself in third person” We all have the right an opinion…and here’s mine! We all have financial situations that bother us, but Judge Josh has already answered a lot of questions on financial aid. Hey buddy, apply for scholarships and get a couple jobs like I do! It’s not easy, but you gotta do what you gotta do to get a good college education, right? I am glad Judge Josh answered a question like this and addressed the fact this student has a full ride. It just goes to show that we are all capable of getting a full ride–it is not just some urban legend. Unless this prank puller just pulled one on us…

  11. They say anything is possible if you put your mind to it, and Josh’s advice, especially about the youtube channel seem like a good idea. Have you heard of friday night cranks? I don’t know if they get paid or not, but they seem to be getting kinda famous. And the websites hosted by the cheezburger network? They’re pretty much a place for people to post pranks and funny stuff they’ve seen and I know they make money. I’m sure you can find a way to turn your “passion” into cash. ↲p.s. If you ever do start a youtube prank channel, I’m sure I speak for more them myself in wanting you to let us know about it!

  12. Hey, have you given any thought to being a special effects engineer? Each project is different, and you would be responsible for making sure all the moving parts come together just right. I think you need a mechanical degree for that, you may also benefit from a masters in special effects engineering; I’ve heard there are some schools that offer that as a masters program. It is not exactly pranking, but it is close in the problem solving and planning aspects. Also you may benefit from trying out some of the contests for Mythbusters and Junkyard Wars. I’m sure you can find something out there that will be fun. Good Luck.

    As for Wow, there is a profession like that, but it is hard to get into. It is called “Videogame Tester” and they have a few outposts in Amsterdam. There you go: pot and videogames. Unfortunately, you often need a masters in computer science to be considered, and to have made a name for yourself in the videogame world through world-wide high scores, a few tournament trophies, some personally home-made/designed successful games, and maybe a few world records (wouldn’t hurt); to do that professionally. Good luck in your pot-smoking video game endeavors.

  13. Lolz, Jane. He said college was too hard, doing all that work to become a video game tester probably is too. Maybe you should let him know also that video game testing is not the most fun job either, you work in 12 hour shifts trying to “break the game” by doing things like perpetually walking into walls or doing in the wrong direction constantly. Video game testers basically are there to test the programming of the game to see if the finished product is foolproof.
    But I think maybe you’ve got a good idea with sfx designer though. It’s a dying craft though, since most sfx is done digitally, but there are still people that do it. you can get your bfa in production design, and then get a masters in sfx, or if you like digital stuff and are good at it you can get a bfa in digital sfx, etc. digital sfx still fool people in a way, but doesn’t exactly create new problems in the same way that studio sfx do, though.

  14. This article really got me excited. I am the female version of Ren from directing groups of people to execute something crazy at school, right down to the preferred movie titles! The main difference is that I am in business school. Anyone who said this article was a waste, just doesn’t “Get” creative minds like ours!

  15. You also need to learn Dutch if you want to live and work in Holland. I, uh…used to share one of Wow’s passions…

    Notice how most of the people who have prank shows already had careers as entertainers? Personally I don’t think you’re likely to make money at this. At least not as much as an engineer. Remember that your full ride scholarship might have gone to someone else who would have finished the program. At least think about that before you give it up.

  16. you know what? this is bullshit. Im a Computer Science student from Detroit, and graduated from high school with a 3.7 GPA and a 23 ACT score. you know how many scholarships I recieved? ONE! a $1,000 scholarship. You know what? If this asswipe wants to ditch a full scholarship to engineering school to play some jokes, and i find out who he is, i will break his funny bone! prank on that~!

    1. Congratulations on no sense of humor! U relate with people so well and obviously this explains your work with computers. We all feel deeply impassioned towards you. Really you have my regards, seeing how I didn’t recieve anything as well. Ren has obviously figured out his priorities, and how to have fun. Take notes. 🙂

    2. I have a 28 on the ACT and received no scholarships, and I’m not complaining. If this guy wants to have fun pursuing his passion, let ’em.

      Life is short.

      Lighten up Francis.

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