Prince's greatest pranks and practical jokes

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2015 American Music Awards - Show Prince
Musician Prince speaks onstage during the 2015 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on November 22, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images) (Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

After Prince's death in 2016, many of the remembrances and tributes revealed that he was a notorious prankster and practical joker. Here's a collection of some of the Purple Yoda's most notable mischievous moments to brighten your April Fools' Day.



On October 21, 1998, Prince appeared at the GQ Man Of The Year Awards held at Radio City Music Hall in New York to present an award to Chris Rock. Prince showed up dressed like an old man and kept a straight face the whole time.



On April 19, 2004, Prince appeared on CNBC's Special Report With Maria Bartiromo. She asks him to play, but he says he'll only do it if she sings. He plays guitar for "Delirious," "12:01" and "Purple Rain" coaxing her to sing. Baritromo says "You're killing me." Prince, without skipping a beat, replies "that's the idea."


Kim Berry, Prince's longtime hairdresser, in The Telegraph [UK]: " I worked with Prince for 28 years. He grew up, and I grew up next to him. He was funny, always cracking jokes - a lot of people didn't know that Prince was a practical joker. He'd drop packing peanuts on the soundboard guys during shows, and he studied 'yo mamma' jokes."


Guitarist and Revolution member Dez Dickerson told The Hollywood Reporter: "I laughed more in those five years than any other time in my life," he said.

"There was a reporter in Minneapolis he trusted. He arranged for a private interview in our dressing room, but Prince set us up to wreak complete havoc. My job was to give the reporter a completely serious interview and in the background Prince and other band members started this knock-down, drag-out fight, while I completely ignored them and kept very serious, while they were yelling and throwing things at each other.

"It was a cage match while I just carried on with the interview. The reporter was freaked out until we had a candid-camera moment and let him in on the gag. That was one of the epic practical jokes of all time."


Chaka Khan shared this encounter with Billboard: "[Prince] was in San Francisco recording at Electric Ladyland at the time. I was recording up North as well. He called me at my hotel — I was and still am very good friends with Sly Stone. He knew that, I guess, 'cause he mimicked Sly's voice completely. I was completely fooled. He said, 'This is Sly, I'm down at Electric Ladyland.' 'OK, I'll be right down!' And that's how he got me down to the studio. I get there and there's nobody there except for one little guy in this room with a guitar. And I said, 'Do you know where Sly is?' He said to me, 'Hi, I'm Prince, I called you.' I was very pissed. And that's how we met (laughs).

And were you able to sit in with him?

"Not that time! I was so pissed, I left. (laughter) I was all, 'How dare you, who are you, anyway' and all that."


From the Star Tribune's 2004 piece, "Prince: An Oral History":

David Z [producer of Prince's early demos]: Prince is a great practical joker. We were all staying in the same house, and one night [engineer] Tommy Vicari was out with his girlfriend. We took some of [manager] Owen [Husney]'s clothes, stuffed them full of leaves. Prince put a knife in the back of this shirt and we laid it on the floor of Tommy's bedroom. Tommy comes home about 4, 5 in the morning, and he flipped out. We were downstairs playing Pong. We laughed our asses off.


Andrea Swensson posted on TheCurrent.org about a Paisley Park party that took place on October 5, 2013:

The band came back for an encore at about 1 a.m., and Prince re-emerged in a new outfit (he traded a slinky, silky, and bejeweled vest and turtleneck for a Sgt. Pepper's-evoking maroon tunic) and paid tribute to Larry Graham with a joyous cover of "It's Alright."

"You know I like to play practical jokes - look at my outfit," he joked after that song, returning to his little character sketch of a woman and man arguing about dinner and talking about a woman who left him. "Take me back," he pleaded, then turned to the audience and said, "Minneapolis, take me back! Please, Minneapolis!"


A story by a former Paisley Park employee from paisleyparkconfessions.tumblr.com:

Pranks were something I was like initiated into because Prince would lose his mind laughing if he got you. Christmas, my first year, he knew we were opening alotta mail so he went & zip tied shut ALL of the scissors in Paisley so all the staff were just stumped. We had to buy more scissors to free the old LOOOOOL. Prince was crying cause he thought it was so funny & so did we. Another time he put a huge life-size cutout in the ladies bathroom at the Park, & me & my girl Kathy when we went to lock up were SCREAMING cause we were so shook!! 

Another time he set off the fire drill during this...heatwave that came outta nowhere one year. We were wondering what in the blue hell happened & having a....heart attack thinking about any sort of fire damage in Paisley. Suddenly Prince...SPRINTED past us down the corridor yelling that he was too hot to handle & that we should evacuate the building. LOOL. He gave us all the whole day off & I remember I took my little sister & my nieces/nephew to the park which was real nice of him.


An early anecdote [8.22.84] from City Pages by Philip Weiss:

Everyone and his brother is hyping Prince these days — we thought we'd dig up something banal about him.

This was about 13 years ago. Class Piano, Bryant Junior High. At the time, says Prince's piano teacher, Mary Ann Stark, the prodigy was self-absorbed, unhappy, and not very articulate, but tremendously gifted. "I couldn't teach him a thing," she confesses.

For a month, Stark found a tack on her chair every morning. She was convinced Prince Nelson put it there - "I think I might have seen him do it." And every day she waited till no one was looking, then brushed it off and sat down.

Meanwhile, the diminutive artist noodled away brilliantly on the keyboards.

Occasionally he might call the instructor over and ask what a B flat minor 7th chord was — "he could play it, but he didn't know the name for anything." So Stark tried to teach Prince about musical notation.

Often she reminded him that John Lennon had had to learn how to read music and that writing it down was a protection against someone stealing it, but the sullen composer would just glare at her. Stark became intrigued by him: "I would have given my left arm to crawl inside that kid's head."

So one day she decided to sit on the tack. She walked to the chair briskly, lowered herself on the tack in such a way that it wouldn't pierce her, and let out a fake howl. Then she shot a glance at the budding genius. "He smiled," she reports. "It was one of the only times he did."


From The Most Beautiful: My Life With Prince by Mayte Garcia, Prince's first wife who was a dancer on the Diamonds and Pearls tour and a member of the New Power Generation:

"Prince was all about The Reveal, that moment of abre los ojos - open your eyes - when the artist meets the people for the first time. During one tour, he was rolled out onto the stage in advance, tucked inside a roadie case, which he then burst out of and blew people's minds. When word got out and ruined the surprise, he had to come up with something else with equal impact, and he always did. Another time, he had me dress up as him, so when I came out, people went wild thinking it was him until I whipped my clothes off, revealing a fuchsia bikini and combat boots. And then he came out for real and they went even wilder."



From the New York Post [8.25.13]:

"Prince can be hilarious," says former Revolution keyboardist Matt Fink (better known as Doctor Fink). "If anybody should have their own reality show, it's him. It would be so funny."

Fink remembers how the whole band used to go out on the town in silk pajamas, at Prince's behest. And the time in 1983 when Prince staged a fight to prank a music writer at a concert. "The guy was backstage witnessing a knock-down, drag-out fight among the band," Fink says. "We were throwing furniture and flipping over the tables. The writer was horrified. I think that fight lasted five minutes before Prince started laughing and broke it up."

In the '80s, when Prince wasn't filming his own bizarre comedy sketches featuring his bandmates — Fink recalls one in which Prince playfully led his group through a satire of an over-the-top church service, complete with a wailing preacher man — he was pranking airport security.

"We would find an empty wheelchair and put Prince in it with sunglasses on, roll him into an area where there was a lot of traffic and leave him there," says Dez Dickerson, former Prince guitarist and owner and founder of the Pavilion Group, which operates a social marketing agency. "Then Prince would fall out of the wheelchair, and people would scramble to help."

However, one joke went awry when Prince decided to take a bullhorn from a plane's emergency equipment.

"We were sitting out on the tarmac and they announced, 'Ladies and gentlemen, someone has stolen a piece of airline equipment," Dickerson says. He and Prince were
taken off the plane and locked up, "but it ended up being funny anyway," Dickerson explains, "because Prince was signing autographs at the jail."


Do you have a funny Prince story? Or a favorite Prince joke or prank? Leave a note in the comments below.

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