April Fools Day has been around for 2,500 years, give or take. According to Wikipedia, it dates back to the 500s B.C. in Iran. In many parts of the world, pranksters tag people with paper fish. The main thing is, whether you are a king or a knave, it’s a time to not take things too seriously.
You’ll read this on the 5th, days after the official day, but that’s okay. The point is that we have a day each year when we can play the odd joke or two and relax a bit. It was Sunday this year, which means, unless you went out with friends, you probably could only play pranks on family members.
When TV was young, newsman Bob Trout, after he secured his place in history as a correspondent in WWII and by teaching Edward R. Murrow the secret of intimacy with an audience, used to do crazy things from time to time. I remember once, about 1950, Trout broadcast part of his show (he was the anchor for CBS’s flagship WCBS in NYC) upside down. Why? Because it was April 1st, that was why. Trout was one helluva newsman, but he had a sense of humor. News folks today are too serious to do anything remotely funny. Many are barely human, and most are essentially readers who have mastered facial expressions. Newscasters have become so serious that they have given rise to the Ted Knight and Ron Burgundy characters, parodies of people who take themselves too seriously, as was the “star” in the movie “Broadcast News.”
In the investment business, I thought Bernie Madoff was serious. Could you imagine him laughing or playing a practical joke? On the other hand, Warren Buffett has a merry sense of fun, does not take himself seriously and is witty enough to keep people happily engaged for hours on end.
News is a serious business much of the time, but not all of the time. Investing and financial planning are serious work, but let’s not get so involved in the seriousness that we can’t see the funny side of all that is human. I think it’s not just about serious hard work. If we can’t have fun along the way, life could be a bummer, right?
Rejoice in spring, work, have fun and, from time to time, play a practical joke on someone (or enjoy having one played on you). Life is short.
For more from Richard Hoe, see: