Created By: ProfessorPancake on November 19, 2012 Last Edited By: Rjinswand on October 13, 2015

Prank War

Two characters one-up each other with pranks.

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Page Type:
Trope
Do We Have This One? Basically, it's when the plot or a sub-plot revolves around two characters pranking each other in sequence. I did a quick search for this and couldn't find it. Feel free to take over the description and title.

UPD: Okay, let's try to revive this. Needs a better description and some example editing

Subtrope of Escalating War, which does not necessarily involve pranks. Can be considered a Lighter and Softer version of Cycle of Revenge. A character would often engage in these with their Sitcom Archnemesis. May be deconstructed when Deadly Prank is involved.

Example:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • In the ElfQuest backstory, for a time the conflict between the humans and the elves de-escalated into a war of pranks with each side trying to one-up the other non-fatally, but sadly that escalated again into a full-on war.
  • Fantastic Four:
    • Johnny Storm & Ben Grimm have an ongoing prank war, with Johnny usually the winner.
    • Ben Grimm and the Yancy Street Gang have an ongoing prank war as well, and again Ben is usually on the losing side.
    • When Spider-Man crosses over with the FF, he often engages in prank wars with Johnny, and then it's usually Spidey who gets the last laugh.

Fan Works
  • Emergency! fanfic writers love to do this with Gage and Chet. Chet was only playing pranks in one canon ep, but there are quite a few fics where it's a full scale war. This series is a good example. Chet does things like rig up a special pot of chili for John and the old 'funnel in the pants' gag, while John short-sheets Chet's bed (and gets latrine for it due to waking up the captain). By the end, Chet sets up a big shower prank that results in him being able to take a picture of a naked, blue-dyed Johnny (which is connected to an incident in an earlier fic on the same site).

Literature
  • The opening chapters of Roald Dahl's The Twits describe a series of escalating pranks the titular characters carry out on each other. Eventually, the narration says that they can't spend the whole book describing all the ways the Twits are horrible to each other, and it's time they got on with the story properly.

Live-Action TV
  • That '70s Show: In the episode "Prank Day" Kelso pranks the other kids, and they plot a revenge prank, but accidentally victimize Red with it — who then takes over planning the revenge on Kelso since they screwed up. Unfortunately, Kitty falls victim to Red's prank, slipping on ice in the driveway—and she chews out everybody and puts a stop to this "prank day".
  • Night Court: A younger, hipper judge challenges Harry to a prank war. Harry appears to lose, but that's just lulling his opponent into a False Sense Of Security as Harry unleashes his crowning prank.
  • M*A*S*H. In the episode "An Eye for a Tooth," Charles stages an increasingly intense war of pranks between Hawkeye and B.J., and Margaret by secretly plotting with them behind each other's backs. After a series of jokes against each other, so as Margaret stealing Hawkeye and B.J.'s bathrobes while they're in the shower, or Hawkeye and B.J. hiding a dummy in Margaret's closet after she goes to bed, Margaret ups the ante by writing a Dear Jane letter to Peg on B.J.'s behalf, B.J. attacks her, prompting Charles to confess his involvement in the prank war; he then learns the tables had been turned, he and they just pranked him to get even. This is also a case of Real Life Writes the Plot, as David Ogden Stiers had been notorious for staging elaborate practical jokes on his castmembers, and once they found out, they staged one of their own to get back at him.
  • The West Wing C.J. hides Charlie's schedule to get back at him for being, in her view, miserly with the President's time. They go back and forth throughout the episode until he rigs her desk to collapse at a touch, at which point she concedes defeat.
  • The Brady Bunch has an episode where the boys and girls keep trying to out-scare each other. But then they team up to scare Alice and it backfires with Carol's art project getting destroyed.
  • The Zoey 101 episode "Prank Week" has the boys and girls engaging in a prank war. Eventually, the girls (somehow) place a pair of panties on the statue of PCA's founder, something that infuriates his son so much, that he says he'll make PCA an all-boys school once more. The boys, who feel sorry for the girls, end up staging a protest riot to get them to stay.

Web Comics
  • In The Order of the Stick, Belkar and Vaarsuvius engage in a short but nasty prank war. Vaarsuvius later tells Durkon that he started it because he's concluded that Belkar's Stupid Evil brain can only react to people with either hatred or lust, and he needed to re-establish himself as hated.
    Belkar: That pointy-eared pissbucket has set off 11 Explosive Runes spells on me since I woke up today, and that doesn't count the Fire Trap on the toilet lid!

Web Original

Web Video

Western Animation
  • In various Looney Tunes shorts, Foghorn Leghorn and the Barnyard Dawg constantly engage in these. Exploited in one of the shorts, "The High and the Flighty", in which Daffy Duck is a salesman for the Ace Novelty Company who tries to make some money by selling them prank kits to use on each other.
  • Some of the Daffy Duck shorts also use this formula (usually against Porky Pig). One could argue some of the Bugs Bunny shorts are a more one sided example, antagonists try to make return blows, but find they are anticipated and outmatched by the prankster rabbit.
  • Similarly some Tom and Jerry shorts ditch the chase formula in favor for a cartoony Escalating War between the two.
  • Chip 'n Dale engage with these against Donald Duck. In tradition, they usually take as many blows as they dish out, but they always get the last laugh on Donald.
  • Recess: In one episode, TJ tries to earn the title of 'Prankster Prince' by successfully pulling a prank on King Bob. In a later episode, Bob attempts to prank TJ in order to reclaim the title for himself.
  • Regular Show has an entire episode that involves a literal prank war. Resident prankster Muscleman loses his will to prank, and a rival park seizes the chance to claim the park for his own, by invading with an army of pranksters.
  • American Dad! has an episode where Stan pranks Francine in order to genuinely scare her. She retaliates with her own prank, and things escalate back and forth in a bigger and bigger Jump Scare to each other. They finally decide to end it after a prank results in a minor car accident. The rest of the episode, they make sure to loudly announce their presence and let each other know what they are planning to do next just to make sure neither is setting up anything.
  • Teen Titans: Beast Boy and Cyborg tend to have them. One episode focused on such a battle going wrong with one of BB's pranks firing on Starfire instead, causing her (and the rest of the team) to call him a Clorbag.
Community Feedback Replies: 45
  • November 19, 2012
    NESBoy
    In various Looney Tunes shorts, Foghorn Leghorn and the Barnyard Dawg constantly enguage in these.
  • November 20, 2012
    Astaroth
    • In one episode of Recess, TJ tries to earn the title of 'Prankster Prince' by successfully pulling a prank on King Bob. In a later episode, Bob attempts to prank TJ in order to reclaim the title for himself.

    • The opening chapters of Roald Dahl's The Twits describe a series of escalating pranks the titular characters carry out on each other. Eventually, the narration says that they can't spend the whole book describing all the ways the Twits are horrible to each other, and it's time they got on with the story properly.
  • November 20, 2012
    DRCEQ
    • Regular Show has an entire episode that involves a literal prank battle. Resident prankster Muscleman loses his will to prank, and a rival park seizes the chance to claim the park for his own, by invading with an army of pranksters.
    • American Dad has an episode where Stan pranks Francine in order to genuinely scare her. She retaliates with her own prank, and things escalate back and forth in a bigger and bigger Jump Scare to each other. They finally decide to end it after a prank results in a minor car accident. The rest of the episode, they make sure to loudly announce their presence and let each other know what they are planning to do next just to make sure neither is setting up anything.
  • November 20, 2012
    DracMonster
    Cycle Of Ven-Jests. Could cover escalating bantering too.

    Snowclones Cycle Of Revenge but this is a Lighter And Softer Sub Trope anyway, so it should be allowable.

    I'll take this over if you dont want it, Professor Pancake

    EDIT: Uh wait, Escalating War has this covered actually. Dang, my beautiful pun.
  • November 21, 2012
    Stratadrake
    Pun? ... Oh. That is one horrible pun.

    I would have preferred Prank To Prank Combat rather than Prank Battle because it is an actual battle, just with jokes in lieu of weapons.

  • November 21, 2012
    Arivne
    This can be used to determine who is the true Prince Of Pranksters.
  • November 21, 2012
    DRCEQ
    Cycle Of Ven Jests is a horrible snowclone. Horrible...
  • November 21, 2012
    SteamGoth
    Related to Escalating War.
  • November 21, 2012
    FantasyLiver
    The book War With Grandpa is this trope
  • November 21, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    That 70s Show's episode "Prank Day": Kelso pranks the other kids, and they plot a revenge prank, but accidentally victimize Red with it--who then takes over planning the revenge on Kelso since they screwed up. Unfortunately, Kitty falls victim to Red's prank, slipping on ice in the driveway--and she chews out everybody and puts a stop to this "prank day".
  • April 19, 2013
    Noah1
  • April 19, 2013
    BOFH
    Web Original
  • April 19, 2013
    Psi001
    • Some of the Daffy Duck shorts also use this formula (usually against Porky Pig). One could argue some of the Bugs Bunny shorts are a more one sided example, antagonists try to make return blows, but find they are anticipated and outmatched by the prankster rabbit.
    • Similarly some Tom And Jerry shorts ditch the chase formula in favor for a cartoony Escalating War between the two.
    • Chip And Dale engage with these against Donald Duck. In tradition, they usually take as many blows as they dish out, but they always get the last laugh on Donald.
  • April 20, 2013
    Arivne
    Western Animation
    • Merrie Melodies short "The High and the Flighty". Foghorn Leghorn and his dog opponent regularly play pranks on each other. Daffy Duck is a salesman for the Ace Novelty Company who tries to make some money by selling them prank kits to use on each other.
  • April 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • Night Court: A younger, hipper judge challenges Harry to a prank war. Harry appears to lose, but that's just lulling his opponent into a False Sense Of Security as Harry unleashes his crowning prank.
  • April 21, 2013
    MonaNaito
  • April 21, 2013
    JonnyB
    Done numerous times on Mash.
  • June 6, 2013
    Prfnoff
  • June 7, 2013
    Melkior
    Comic Books:
    • In the ElfQuest backstory, for a time the conflict between the humans and the elves de-escalated into a war of pranks with each side trying to one-up the other non-fatally, but sadly that escalated again into a full-on war.
  • June 7, 2013
    randomsurfer
    • The Fantastic Four: Johnny Storm & Ben Grimm have an ongoing prank battle, with Johnny usually the winner.
  • June 8, 2013
    Skylite
    • Teen Titans: Beast Boy and Cyborg tend to have them. One episode focused on such a battle going wrong with one of BB's pranks firing on Starfire instead, causing her (and the rest of the team) to call him a Clorbag.
    • In FF, Thing and the Yancy Street Gang have an ongoing prank battle as well.
  • June 8, 2013
    eowynjedi
    • The West Wing C.J. hides Charlie's schedule to get back at him for being, in her view, miserly with the President's time. They go back and forth throughout the episode until he rigs her desk to collapse at a touch, at which point she concedes defeat.
  • August 23, 2015
    Berrenta
    Just did some namespacing. Also, the Looney Tunes example notes that it occurs in several shorts, so I merged the example below it with it.
  • August 23, 2015
    dalek955
    • In The Order Of The Stick, Belkar and Vaarsuvius engage in a short but nasty prank war. Vaarsuvius later tells Durkon that he started it because he's concluded that Belkar's Stupid Evil brain can only react to people with either hatred or lust, and he needed to re-establish himself as hated.
      Belkar: That pointy-eared pissbucket has set off 11 Explosive Runes spells on me since I woke up today, and that doesn't count the Fire Trap on the toilet lid!
  • August 23, 2015
    chicagomel
    Fan Works: Emergency fanfic writers love to do this with Gage and Chet. Chet was only playing pranks in one canon ep, but there are quite a few fics where it's a full scale war. This series is a good example. Chet does things like rig up a special pot of chili for John and the old 'funnel in the pants' gag, while John short-sheets Chet's bed (and gets latrine for it due to waking up the captain). By the end, Chet sets up a big shower prank that results in him being able to take a picture of a naked, blue-dyed Johnny (which is connected to an incident in an earlier fic on the same site).

    The Brady Bunch has an episode where the boys and girls keep trying to out-scare each other. But then they team up to scare Alice and it backfires with Carol's art project getting destroyed.
  • August 24, 2015
    randomsurfer
    [nevermind]
  • August 24, 2015
    Rjinswand
    Thanks everyone for the help and suggestions!
  • August 25, 2015
    justanotherrandomlurker
    Since the MASH example has been marked as a Zero Context Example, allow me to expand on it:

    • MASH. In the episode "An Eye for a Tooth," Charles stages an increasingly intense war of pranks between Hawkeye and B.J., and Margaret by secretly plotting with them behind each other's backs. After a series of jokes against each other, so as Margaret stealing Hawkeye and B.J.'s bathrobes while they're in the shower, or Hawkeye and B.J. hiding a dummy in Margaret's closet after she goes to bed, Margaret ups the ante by writing a Dear Jane letter to Peg on B.J.'s behalf, B.J. attacks her, prompting Charles to confess his involvement in the prank war; he then learns the tables had been turned, he and they just pranked him to get even. This is also a case of Real Life Writes The Plot, as David Ogden Stiers had been notorious for staging elaborate practical jokes on his castmembers, and once they found out, they staged one of their own to get back at him.
  • August 25, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^ Thanks, that's a very good example! Added.
  • August 27, 2015
    Kartoonkid95
    • The Zoey 101 episode "Prank Week" has the boys and girls engaging in a prank war. Eventually, the girls (somehow) place a pair of panties on the statue of PCA's founder, something that infuriates his son so much, that he says he'll make PCA an all-boys school once more. The boys, who feel sorry for the girls, end up staging a protest riot to get them to stay.
  • August 28, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^ Thanks! Added.
  • August 28, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ OK I'm fuzzy on this one, and I haven't seen the remake, but wasn't there an escalating prank war in the old Disney film The Parent Trap? The girls are at a summer camp and in different peer groups (or maybe assigned cabins), and people get dumped out of canoes and it culminates (I think) in one group sabotaging the other group's cabin the night before a tidiness inspection (string, honey, chocolate syrup...). Maybe somebody who's more familiar with it can write a proper example (assuming I'm remembering it correctly at all)?
  • September 9, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    I went to the page and found this trope entry for No Sympathy:

    In the 1961 version, Susan and her bunkmates slip into Sharon's cabin and trash the place while Sharon and her bunkmates are asleep. Even though the damage is clearly the work of saboteurs, Sharon and her bunkmates are punished for having a messy cabin. The 1998 version makes more sense, with the cabin sabotage being the climax of the prank war that gets them both in trouble.

    I seem to recall the prank war was also in the earlier film (especially the canoe bit). Anybody know? I don't have a copy of this movie.
  • September 9, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^^ Thanks for the example! Let's wait a bit to see if anyone provides more info. If not, we can at least include the 1998 version.
  • September 9, 2015
    randomsurfer
    ^^As a part of the war Sharon also cut out the the back of Susan's dress during a fancy dress party.

    EDIT: "The Camp Prank scenes from The Parent Trap"
  • October 13, 2015
    69BookWorM69
    ^ Yes! I knew there was more to it than just the cabin sabotage. I'mm thinking it started with the canoe dunking and built from there, but I'm not sure. Anyway, it seems like the spur-of-the-moment thing would be for starters, with the more premeditated stuff later.
  • October 13, 2015
    Rjinswand
    Cool! So, how should the Parent Trap example sound like?
  • October 13, 2015
    DAN004
    May be deconstructed when Deadly Prank is involved.
  • October 13, 2015
    Snicka
    A character would often engage in these with their Sitcom Archnemesis.
  • October 13, 2015
    HighCrate
    Looking at Escalating War, it looks like this is what that trope is meant to be, but Escalating War suffers from a bad name, vague description, and lots of poorly-written borderline Zero Context Examples. Still, it might be more worthwhile to try to salvage that trope than make this Sub Trope, considering that this would encompass about 95% of that trope's examples.
  • October 13, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Better cut that then, cuz TRS is busy right now.
  • October 13, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^^^^ & ^^^ Thanks, added. I need to try and write a description, maybe these tropes will be mentioned there.

    ^^ Escalating War is a supertrope: it's about someone doing anything unpleasant to another character, and then they continue doing unpleasant things to each other. These unpleasant things may or may not be pranks. Prank War is a subtrope specifically about pranks.
  • October 13, 2015
    HighCrate
    ^ I get that that's the intention, but in practice, 95% of Escalating War's examples are about pranks, so if this goes forward we're going to have a Super Trope with almost no examples on our hands.

    Maybe that's not a problem? I'm honestly not sure what the procedure is in a case like this.
  • October 13, 2015
    Rjinswand
    ^ Theoretically, we could keep this YKTTW on stasis, wait for TRS to de-clog, and create a TRS for Escalating War.
  • October 13, 2015
    DAN004
    ^ Dunno if you would like that though.
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