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Prank Gone Too Far

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"As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, so is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?"

OK, so you love a good joke? Probably not anything with laxatives or more deadly possibilities, but just the simple and mostly innocent classics designed to be one and done.

Oh, look, here comes your next mark. Wait for just the right moment, and... BINGO! Your little Silly String Spray, cream pie, Trick Bomb (particularly a Stink Bomb), or water cannon was a direct hit, and the mark never saw it coming.

But hold up there... is he upset or something?

Hello?! You just smashed the Nice Guy's ultimate Berserk Button: the disruption of his peace.

Not everyone has your sense of humor, including your mark. He might not have any issue with pranks themselves, just so long as he's not a part of them. Perhaps he learned the painful way not to disregard the potential mood of his target. Or you simply didn't match the prank to the prey. Whatever the reason — and there are plenty — he's going to show you firsthand why it's a very wise idea to Beware the Nice Ones.

While he's not so likely to engage in Revenge by Proxy — and less so to do anything that could provoke an Escalating War because of it — you will be doing damage control duty. On his terms.

If this is how The Prankster or resident troublemaker ends up getting A Taste of Their Own Medicine, there is a good chance of seeing Nothing Is the Same Anymore on their end (i.e. their opinion of pranks is permanently soured).

When considering an example, the time or location of the prank does not matter (meaning it does not have to be part of an April Fools' Plot to count). The way the victim responds to the prank is the key to its qualification.

If, however, the outcome is legit injury, or any death at all (particularly if the victim is Driven to Suicide or a Roaring Rampage of Revenge), put it in Deadly Prank instead.

Since this trope involves an In-Universe reaction, not an Audience Reaction, Real Life examples should not be added lightly.

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    Comic Books 
  • Titeuf: One page had Titeuf and one of his friends trying to emulate a Bucket Booby-Trap prank after watching it in a cartoon. Unlike in the cartoon, the bucket fails to rotate, resulting in a metallic container full of heavy water hitting their classmate's head bad enough to require bandages.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: Di occasionally tells Etta Candy off for some of her pranks, but makes her swear to tone her pranks down after she scares two of the Heyday triplets into running off where they were swiftly kidnapped by men working for their murderous uncle.

    Fan Works 
  • In Those That Smile Brightest (Have Seen the Darkest Sparks), some Autobots decide to get back at Sideswipe for his pranks by spiking his energon with a sedative that will make him act loopy and make a fool of himself. It would've been hilarious... had said sedative not been the same sedative used during his and Sunstreaker's gladiator days by the masters to get troublesome gladiators nice and KO'd so they could either kill them or implant them with a slave chip that would leave them a mindless husk. Long story short, Sideswipe freaks the hell out, becoming convinced the Autobots are trying to kill him (or worse), and by the end of it all, the twins end up leaving the Autobots. Whoops.

    Films — Animated 
  • In Trolls, Cloud Guy offers to help Princess Poppy and Branch when they're looking for one of the tunnels to Bergen Town. However, he instead spends time pulling jokes on Branch, which eventually gets him angered, trying to attack Cloud Guy in the process as he enters to the correct tunnel.
    • This happens again in the ending when Poppy is coronated as queen of the Trolls. When she and Branch hug together, Cloud Guy peeks behind them to hug them. The two quickly knock him out of the mushroom they were on.
    • In the follow-up show Trolls: The Beat Goes On!, Branch remains the target of Cloud Guy for his pranks and jokes. By the show's later seasons, though, Branch eventually got used to the pranks, which gives Cloud Guy a problem addressed in "Apple of My Ire".
      • Also in the show, Branch falls victim of this when Smidge accidentally falls subject to his pranks in "Prank Day", making her begin a "revenge streak" on everyone else in the Snack Pack.
    • This continues on in The Beat Goes On!'s sequel series Trolls: TrollsTopia. In the episode "Cloud Control", it was shown that Cloud Guy had also been pranking on other Trolls who found it annoying. Although, he did it with good intentions, since he just wanted to use his pranks to help them learn how to spend their time better.

    Films — Live Action 

  • This is the inciting incident of Claudia and the Bad Joke from The Baby-Sitters Club book (and graphic novel version). New client—and practical jokester—Betsy Sobak doesn't tell her one of the swings at her house has a busted chain, and Claudia flies off and breaks her leg. She's so upset that she considers giving up baby-sitting altogether, and the other sitters figure out a way to give Betsy a taste of her own medicine so she can realize it's not funny to trick people so much.
  • Carrie: Throwing tampons at Carrie while she thought she was bleeding to death is enough to get Chris kicked out of prom and for Sue to have a My God, What Have I Done? moment. The next prank that targets Carrie White has even worse consequences, and this time the entire town paid the price.
  • Earth's Children: In The Valley of Horses, a group of young women led by Radonio conspire to separate Jondalar from Cherunio to get his attention; this includes pulling Cherunio away and restraining her, and surrounding and groping Jondalar. He doesn't see the funny side, becoming increasingly agitated before finally shoving Radonio to the ground and demanding to know what they did with Cherunio. The situation is smoothed over and Jondalar is embarrassed by his reaction given no one was actually hurt, but most people agree that Radonio and her friends took things too far and that sexual harassment is never funny.
  • In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, it's revealed that Sirius Black tricked Severus Snape into entering the Shrieking Shack while Remus Lupin is in wolf form and Snape nearly gets killed as a result. Even Sirius's best friend James, who also hated Snape, thinks that this prank is going too far.
  • My Best Friend's Exorcism: When possessed by a demon, Gretchen does this a lot:
    • She writes letters to Glee pretending that they're from the Sexy Priest, convincing Glee that he shares her crush on him. This one nearly turns into a Deadly Prank when Glee is humiliated by learning that he never felt anything for her and she tries to jump off the bell tower, but she is ultimately saved.
    • She gives Margaret a complex about being "fat" and convinces her to use new diet supplements. They turn out to be tapeworms, which hatch in Margaret's stomach and causing her to lose a lot of weight and nearly starve to death. Once she throws them up, though, she recovers, much thinner but largely okay.
    • She crosses the line for Abby in a "prank". On Slavery Day, she signs Abby up to be her "slave". This is bad enough, but she utterly destroys Abby by forcing her to wash off her concealer in the bathroom, knowing that she has a huge complex about her severe acne.
  • The Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark story "The Dead Man's Hand" focuses on a group of medical college students who decide to pull a prank on their apparently fearless colleague, by hanging up a severed hand in said colleague's room. They traumatizing her to the point her hair goes white. This is a Lighter and Softer version of the original campfire story where she goes insane and eats the arm.
    "The prank had worked, but nobody was laughing."
  • Worm: The bullying campaign against Taylor Hebert was mean-spirited from the get-go, but the incident where the three bullies- Sophia Hess, Emma Barnes, and Madison Clements- had taylor Taylor forcibly Stuffed into a Locker full of used tampons went so far as to cause Taylor to have a Traumatic Superpower Awakening, starting a chain of events that results in her becoming the ruler of the city's criminal underworld.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Walter Denton's pranks on Our Miss Brooks frequently go too far, and get him in serious trouble (or force Miss Brooks to try and shield Denton from the fallout):
    • In "Cure That Habit", Walter Denton forges Mr. Conklin's name to a postcard and sends it to the titular alcohol treatment organization. This leads to the school board head Mr. Stone thinking Mr. Conklin is a drunk. Mr. Conklin discovers that Denton perpetrated the prank at the end of the episode, terrifying Denton.
    • "Wild Goose" sees Walter trick Mr. Conklin into believing he won a free television from Sherry's Department Store. By the end of the episode, this leads to Mr. Conklin, Miss Brooks and Mr. Boynton, and Walter's pal Stretch Snodgrass "picking up" three "free" television sets and taking them to Mr. Conklin's house.
    • Walter Denton flees at the end of "Space, Who Needs It?" when Mr. Conklin discovers Denton had tampered with his telescope and tricked Conklin into thinking he discovered a new planet and that the Earth was being invaded by flying saucers.
    • Walter Denton forges a letter from Mr. Stone, the head of the Board of Education, in "Turnabout Day". The students act as teachers, the teachers act as students . . . and Walter Denton is in danger of being expelled should Mr. Stone or Mr. Conklin find out who was behind the preposterous scheme.
  • In the Colombian series Decisiones Extremas, at the end of "Mala jugada" (Bad Play), it turns out that Horacio's friends didn't actually rape him, but pulled a prank on him by pouring egg white into his boxers, ignorant of the consequences this would bring to them in the long run.
  • Even Stevens:
    • Enforced in the B-plot of "Thin Ice". Louis and Twitty take up prank phone calling, but it goes too far when they supposedly ruin the lives of their best friend, Tawny, and her family when they trick them into thinking they won $1 million. Tawny and her dad later reveal to the boys after they confess their prank they have caller ID, therefore, they knew it was them the whole time and they staged the ruse to teach them a lesson, and this prompts the boys to kick the habit afterwards.
    • Played straight in The Movie. What the Stevens family wants the prank TV show that secretly filmed them without their consent to believe; that Ren has gone batshit crazy and tries to kill Louis, causing the staff to try and stop the siblings all the while a rival prank show captures them making fools of themselves.
  • The Full House episode "Is It True About Stephanie?". The Escalating War of pranks between the pair reaches its climax when Stephanie blows up Gia's miserable report card and has it posted in the hallways of their campus. The last thing we see before the commercial break is Gia turning around to face Stephanie — in tears.
  • In the iCarly episode "I Get Pranky", Spencer says that back when he was in the ninth grade, he dumped 200 pounds of garlic powder on his classmates' heads in an attempt to make them smell weird; unfortunately, the garlic power results in severe eye irritation, forcing them to the emergency room, and he resolved never to prank again since then.
  • It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Deconstructed in "The Gang Hits the Slopes". Mac and Dee join former hard-partying skier Dave Drisko in a prank war against Frank and Dennis, but quickly realize ALL of Drisko's pranks go too far (including pulling girls' tops off and exposing himself to other girls in a shower), and that his 80s-style antics are just a front for seriously disturbing behavior. Drisko ultimately gets arrested as a sex offender.
  • Kenan & Kel:
    • In "The Graduates", Kenan tries to pull a prank on Principal Horn by filling her office with pudding, but this backfires as she shows up sooner than expected and accidentally gets sprayed. Principal Horn then bans Kenan from the graduation ceremony for it.
    • In "The April Fools", Kenan pulls a bunch of April Fools pranks on everyone, such as filling Marc's backpack with dog food, giving Chris a fake lottery ticket, impersonating Sharla to order 75 pizzas, etc. This gets everyone arrested.
  • The Office (UK): In the pilot episode, David Brent makes a prank out of pretending to fire Dawn the secretary and gets defensive when she bursts into tears. The scene cements him as a thoughtless Pointy-Haired Boss with a hugely inflated opinion of his own sense of humour.
  • Parks and Recreation: Ben was planning one of these in response to Donna, April, and Andy pranking him. First, fake criminals would pretend to shoot him, complete with blood packets. Second, they would kidnap Donna, April, and Andy and put them in van. Finally, the criminals would pretend to drive them into a river to let them drown. Even Andy, who had encouraged Ben to pull a prank in the first place, is quite disturbed by it. Ben has a nervous breakdown and confesses before it starts.
  • Pretty Little Liars has the darkest example. Alison gets the other girls to basically firebomb Jenna and Toby's house, resulting in Jenna losing her sight.
  • Psych: In "Tuesday the 17th", Jason pulls a prank on Shaun where he makes him think he's living in a Slasher Movie by "killing off" the campers based on the legend of a fisherman's death in the small town. Everybody Lives (they just hide). However, the prank incenses one camper, who is actually the son of the dead fisherman, and as soon as Jason reveals his prank, the son starts killing off those involved anyway.
  • The Suite Life of Zack & Cody: In one episode, Zack's pranks become so unbearable for Cody and the rest of their friends at the Tipton that the others decide to get him back. They set up an elaborate "haunted apartment" scheme, which ends with each person being kidnapped by the ghost, one-by-one. Zack is so scared he runs out of the apartment screaming, and he calls out Cody and the others for going so far.
  • iCarly: Somewhat of a subversion, in that a young Spencer genuinely felt horrible and swore off pranking after he dumped garlic powder onto his classmates, getting them sent to the ER to have their eyes flushed (he thought it would just make them smell funny). Unfortunately, helping Carly prank her friends causes him to relapse.
  • Veronica Mars:
    • In "Weapons of Class Destruction", the would-be high school terrorist was motivated because of horrible bullying he suffered, including being held down while a snake crawled on his face.
    • In "Hot Dogs", Veronica accuses the other students of doing this when they upset Mandy by calling her about her kidnapped dog.
    • Jackie crosses this in "Blast from the Past" in Wallace's mind when she tips off a psychic about Lilly in order to embarrass Veronica (who is there to figure out who scammed Jackie).
    • Veronica's rape happened because Madison gave her "a trip to the dentist" (spat in her cup and gave it to her) after thinking she saw her flirting with Madison's boyfriend Dick. Mean-spirited, sure, but she didn't intend it to lead to Veronica being unable to remember having consensual sex with Duncan and being incapacitated when Cassidy raped her.
  • Shining Time Station: In "The Joke's On Schemer", on March 31st, the kids dread Schemer's April Fool's Day pranks, so they decide to prank him by tearing a page off the calendar to make him think it really is April Fool's Day. At first, the kids find it funny when Schemer's pranks confuse innocent bystanders, but then Schemer starts mistaking serious things for pranks, one of which is J.B. King trying to get him to renew the lease on his arcade. When Schemer gets himself in trouble with J.B. King, they realize that they went too far and that Schemer might end up losing his lease unless they tell him the truth.

    Web Comics 
  • Sequential Art: In one early strip, Kat reminisces about all the fun she had in college, and asks Art if his experience was the same. We then see a flashback to Art and Pip burying what appears to be a body in the woods, with Art awkwardly says he did "pretty much" the same stuff as Kat did. It would take years before the comic revealed what actually happened; during an attempted prank against the fashion design students at their school, Art and Pip discovered that the main Alpha Bitch of the class was an objectophile in love with her own mannequin (the kind that's just a torso at that) and decided to steal it, taking photos of it as if the mannequin was on a world tour, and sending them back. Unfortunately, one photo, where they'd added a set of giant boobs to the mannequin, ended up enraging the feminist students and set off a series of protests that spiraled into city-wide riots that lasted for weeks! Art and Pip ended up burying the mannequin in the woods just to hide the evidence that they were responsible for the chaos.

    Web Video 


Video Example(s):


Overshaken Duff Can

As part of an April Fool's prank on Homer, Bart shakes up a beer can so it'll spray in his face. Unfortunately, due to overshaking it with a paint mixer, it ends up exploding.

How well does it match the trope?

4.98 (41 votes)

Example of:

Main / SodaCanShakeup

Media sources: