21 Funny Pranks That Are Totally Harmless and Hysterical

These practical jokes won't ruin your friendships—but they will get everyone laughing.

Who says you have to wait until April Fools' Day to carry out a few funny pranks on your friends and family? People have been engaging in this type of humor for hundreds of years, and not just on that one spring day. Yes, we said hundreds. Some theorize that the concept of pranks was first introduced back in 1392 via The Canterbury Tales, penned by Geoffrey Chaucer. Pranks were brought up in 1659 by Francis Osborne in his Deductions from the History of the Earl of Essex and again 17 years later in John Aubrey's Remains of Gentilism and Judaism.

In the years since, pranks have evolved tremendously, informed by advances in technology along with changes in what we consider funny and what we definitely do not. Below, we've put together a list of safe pranks (meaning that no one will get hurt or be so angry that they'll cut you out of their life) to play on friends. Whether you want to incorporate these into your April Fools' planning or deploy them on another occasion is totally your call.

RELATED: 126 Good Roasts, Comebacks, and Funny Insults.

Why Do We Love Pranks?

Before we get into how to pull pranks, let's first discuss why we love doing it in the first place. Pranks, also known as practical jokes, are often viewed as a form of play-fighting, used to cement social bonds and help you grow closer with others. They also free us from inhibition, allowing us to act candidly and in ways that are not necessarily "proper."

But there is another reason why humans love pranks, and it's not as innocent as the points mentioned above. "It's a form of superiority," says Giselinde Kuipers, Ph.D., told Salon about pulling them off. Other psychologists continue to study this side of pranking culture, particularly as it relates to bullying and harassment.

Fortunately, this kind of mean-spirited humor doesn't account for the majority of pranks pulled. Most good-natured gags are simply designed to highlight our fallibility, allowing us to learn something, so we don't end up falling for the same stunt again.

How to Pull Off a Successful Prank

Sticky notes on back of young man working in office.
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A harmless prank is really the way to go here. You should never aim to inflict any physical or emotional harm on whoever it is you've decided to play a joke on. Also, stay away from pranks that might appear personal or diminishing to the other person involved. If your target does get offended or angry, then be sure to own up and apologize. Accidents happen and plans can go awry, but it's important to touch base to make sure that no one is walking away with hurt feelings.

With that in mind, it's also important to know your audience. What one person considers benign could be a little much for someone else. Think about the individuals involved and try to design your prank to suit them.

Once you've figured out what you're going to do and who you're going to prank, it's time to get serious. Approach the situation with a straight face so as not to give yourself away. Be patient and let events unfold as organically as possible. And finally, don't forget to have your phone out and ready because these are moments you definitely won't want to forget.

Funny Pranks to Pull On Friends Who Are Sleeping

little boy and girl shushing each other while mom sleeps, cat whiskers drawn on her face
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1. Mystery Mustache

All you need to pull off this classic prank is a marker (not a permanent one!) and a steady hand. Wait until your friend has fallen into a deep sleep (look for signs like slower breath or light snoring). Then, make your move. Draw in a mustache and any other facial hair you'd like them to wake up with. Try not to give the joke away before they notice their new look. It's way funnier when they discover your artwork on their own!

2. Whiplash

Here's another funny prank to pull on a sleeping friend. All you need to do here is wait until your friend is asleep and in a position that makes it possible to put something on their hands. Then, take a can of whipped cream and spray some into each palm. The more they move around in their sleep, the more they'll spread the mess around. By the time they wake, they'll have it all over themselves, their clothes, and probably the bedding.

3. Bottled Up

This is a simple prank but one sure to get a big reaction. Wait until your friend is asleep and nab their phone. If they don't already have an alarm set, use their face ID to set one for them. Then, grab an empty plastic bottle and cut a hole in the side big enough to accommodate the size of the phone. Place the device in the bottle and turn it so that the hole is facing away from your friend. They'll wake up to the sound of the alarm without a clue as to how to retrieve their phone. But beware: This one could be the start of a full-blown prank war!

RELATED: 209 Dad Jokes So Bad They're Actually Hilarious.

Harmless Pranks to Pull at School

man holding up a broken cellphone screen
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4. Pencil Gate

Here's a fun prank to pull on friends during class: Take a handful of pencils and paint the tips with clear nail polish. This will prevent the lead from sticking to the paper. Wait until the teacher instructs everyone to grab a pen or pencil. There will probably be someone in need of a utensil at this point. Offer them one from your bunch and watch their frustration grow.

If you want to double down, offer them a sharpener—one that's been coated with super glue so that it won't actually work when you try to use it!

5. Screen Break

For this joke, you'll need to borrow your friend's cell phone or tablet for a few minutes. Once in, Google "cracked screen" and save the photo. Set it as their screen saver as quickly as you can and then hand the device back to them. Sure, they might be mad at first, but they'll be so relieved once they figure out that they don't have to pay to have their screen fixed!

6. Sticky Tape

We don't want anyone to get into trouble over a silly prank, so get the OK from your teacher before attempting this one. Come prepared with clear packaging tape to attach your friend's chair to their desk. Try to make it look as natural as possible. You can attach both chair legs, but only taping one will probably result in a little more noise and a little more chaos. They'll be plenty confused when they go to take a seat!

April Fool's Pranks for Friends

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7. Toilet Humor

Give your friends and family an April Fool's Day they'll never forget. To get started, you can either buy a roll of fake toilet paper or place a roll of duct tape on the toilet paper holder. Now, imagine your guests' surprise after doing their business. Just be sure to have an untampered toilet paper roll on hand and nearby—you don't want to leave them entirely on their own in there!

8. Shampoo Stoppage

This is a good prank to pull on a sibling or roommate or when you have folks visiting from out of town. To prepare, you'll want to put tape over all the shampoo bottle spouts. The next person to take a shower will be so confused as to why they can't get anything out of a seemingly full tube of shampoo!

9. Confetti Rain

This one is reserved for prankers with ceiling fans at home. But be warned: It will create a bit of a mess. Grab a ladder and load the top of the fan blades with small pieces of colored paper. Invite a few friends over, casually turn on the fan, and watch your friends' reaction as it rains down confetti!

RELATED: 120 Hilarious Knock-Knock Jokes.

Funny Food Pranks for Kids

Brussel sprouts with lollipop sticks in candy wrappers on table.
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

10. Imitation Cookie

Place a heaping serving of mashed potatoes and black beans into a bowl. Mix them up to the point where they start resembling cookie dough. Scoop some out, arrange dollops on a baking sheet, and wait for your concoction to rise. Serve to the kids and be sure to record their reactions. You might want to have the real deal on hand so no one gets too disappointed, however.

11. Frozen Cereal

This prank is one of the easiest to execute on this list, though it does require some lead time. Prepare a bowl of cereal—spoon and all. Then, place it in the freezer and leave it there overnight. Serve to your kid in the morning and watch them struggle to take a bite.

12. Apples for Onions

To set up this practical joke, gather all the ingredients you'd need to make candy apples, except replace your apples with onions. Make sure they are completely covered in whatever toppings you decide to use (chocolate, caramel, etc.) so that you don't blow your cover. It may be gross, but we promise it'll make for a moment your kids will never forget.

Practical Jokes to Play on Friends

man with cake all over his face, two women laughing
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13. Birthday Wishes

To successfully pull off this practical joke, you'll need access to a friend's Facebook account. Log in and change their birthday to the next day. See how many happy birthday wishes they receive before they catch on to what's happening!

14. The Food Has Eyes

This one is simple, silly, and oh-so-fun. Grab a pack of googly eyes and put them over random items in the fridge. The next time your friend is over, ask them to grab you something out of there and see how startled they get when they realize the food is actually staring back at them!

15. Jumping Spider

This is a great practical joke to pull on anyone with a slight fear of bugs. Attach a few fake spiders to a string and tape it just above your front door. Then, position the string in between the door and the door jamb. Invite your unsuspecting to walk in ahead of you and be sure to clock their reaction as the fake bugs fly into their face!

RELATED: 67 Chuck Norris Jokes in Honor of America's Favorite Tough Guy.

Hilarious Pranks to Pull in the Car

minivan wrapped in bubblewrap
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16. Plastic Ride

This prank will take some time and patience, but you definitely won't be disappointed if you follow through. Be sure that whomever you choose to target will be parked somewhere for a while (ideally, their home or somewhere else private). Then, head over with a couple of rolls of plastic wrap. Do what you can to cover the entire vehicle. If you want, you can also leave sticky notes to help them locate the ends and unwrap the car a little faster.

17. Windshield Weirdness

Don't try this prank unless you know your way around a car. If you do, pour a few drops of food coloring into the wiper fluid and wait for your buddy to use them. It'll take them a good minute to figure out what's going on.

18. For Sale

Sneak back out to the car after your friend has parked and tape a "For Sale" sign to the window. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even include your number on the sign and see how many offers they end up getting!

Best Pranks for Couples

young woman playing funny pranks on her boyfriend at home
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19. Can We Keep Him?

Imagine this: You and your significant other have been talking about getting a dog for some time. Suddenly, an opportunity falls into your lap. You have to act fast and bring the puppy home before discussing it with your partner. Only the "puppy" you brought home is actually a coyote. At least, that's what your partner will think when you send them a doctored image of the little guy cuddling up on your couch!

20. Bargain Sales

Try this joke if you're part of a couple who've only recently started pooling your money together. Ask your significant other if you can borrow their credit card to purchase just a few items for the home. Then, head over to a local packing store or supermarket and ask if they have any cardboard boxes to spare. Bring home as many as you can, tape them up, and slap a fake mailing slip onto the sides. Leave the pile outside for your partner to find. Make sure to have your phone out so you can capture them panicking over how much money they think you've spent!

21. Soap It

Remember the clear nail polish we mentioned at the beginning of this list? Hopefully you still have it handy, especially if your partner uses a lot of soap in the shower. Take the bar and coat it in polish. Place it back in the shower and wait for the confusion to unfold. The paint will prevent it from ever getting sudsy, leaving your significant other wondering what's happening and just how they're supposed to clean themselves.

Happy pranking!

Wrapping Up

That's it for our list of funny prank ideas, but be sure to check back in with us soon for even more laughs. You can also sign up for our newsletter so you don't miss out on what's next!

Carrie Weisman
Carrie Weisman oversees all SEO efforts at Best Life. She specializes in content optimization and editorial marketing. Read more
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