Zug.com: Prince of Pranks

The sordid tale of Sir John Hargrave and Zug.com's Super Bowl prank

It's hard to know when to believe Sir John Hargrave. Did he really legally change his name to Sir John in hopes of being knighted by Britain's Queen Elizabeth II? Did he really name his son Luke Rocket Hargrave because he thought Rocket was the coolest name ever? When you've been orchestrating pranks for 13 years, Hargrave says, people don't believe anything you say because they're scared that they're part of the joke. Hargrave specializes in stunts that expose security. He's taken a special interest in credit card companies' inability to stop fraud. He's signed up for several credit cards under famous people's names (e.g., Michael Jackson) and even had a real card issued to him under the name Giant Monkey. "I'm a comedian first and foremost," Hargrave explains. "If I've made you laugh, I've done my job. But I find the most interesting pranks are about things that make me really, really mad." Debriefing spoke to Hargrave about Bluetooth headsets' ­comedic value, his biggest prank yet and his preternatural ability to self-promote.

Debriefing: So you're a comedian? Do people always ask you to say ­something funny?

Sir John Hargrave: You mean besides right now? When you run the world's oldest comedy website, Zug.com, for 13 years, and you were born on April Fool's day, people always expect you to be funny.

That's not funny. Say something funny.

[Weak, impatient laugh]

On your site you have a detailed text and video account of walking right into Dolphin Stadium prior to the Super Bowl with two pallets of suspicious little light-up devices. What was the goal of the prank?

The goal was to orchestrate the world's greatest prank of all time—

Wait. A prank even bigger than Ashton Kutcher's career?

Is it true you opened a credit card in Ashton Kutcher's name? That you Punk'd the Punk'der?

Yeah. That's a chapter of my book.

You self-promote much better than you tell jokes.

That's z-u-g dot com. Again, the book is Prank the Monkey.

Back to the Super Bowl. Some think you wanted to—surprise, surprise—spell the name of your website with the light-up devices during Prince's halftime show, but failed. Some say you never got into Dolphin Stadium at all but since you couldn't handle prank failure, you faked it. I call hoax!

I find it consistently amusing that a conspiracy theory has risen around this. It's remarkable that we pulled something off and people can't believe it. Americans crave this illusion of total security. It just wasn't that hard. Wouldn't it cost more to fake the moon landing than actually go to the moon?

Um, no. But anyway, assuming you did get by security at the Super Bowl, how'd you pull it off?

A lot of it is appearance. I wore a suit and a Bluetooth headset.

Bluetooth headset? Loooserrrr.

I agree they're obnoxious, but if you look the part, people give you credit you don't deserve. Security's trained to look for someone "suspicious." The other thing I did was initiate conversations and ask for help. People want to help, and once they do, they don't want to suspect they just helped someone they should have been suspicious of.

Hey, that's Festinger's cognitive dissonance theory, that incompatible cognitions result in physical and emotional discomfort, which we try to eliminate by justifying one cognition over the other.

Now who's not funny?

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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