Social Media Won’t Kill the Whoopee Cushion

Today’s Pranks May Be Boosted by the Algorithm, But They’re Still Cultural Weapons for Both the Powerful and the Petty

The whoopee cushion, sure to be dusted off by pranksters young and old this April Fools’ Day, is among the most enduring pranks in human history. The gag was already part of the societal laugh track as far back as 218 CE when the Roman priest-emperor Elagabalus used it on unsuspecting dinner guests, as Near Eastern archeologist Warwick Ball recounts in Rome in the East.

You could argue that the teenaged Elagabalus deployed proto-whoopee cushions solely for his own amusement. Or maybe they provided a way for him to put stuffy …