The music starts playing, and an entire class breaks out in unison to a choreographed dance. In the middle of a meeting, an un-muted mic reveals a cartoonish sound of flatulence. A pencil is passed across a checkerboard of video screens — the host is confused, but smiling.
While there’s nothing funny about the pandemic’s effect on education and the workforce, Gen Zers have found a way to amuse themselves by pranking their classes on Zoom, and the results are one of 2020’s only redeeming qualities. You’ll want to brush up on the best Zoom pranks if you have a particularly patient teacher or boss — who also happens to have a great sense of humor. TikTok’s most successful Zoom pranks feature teachers laughing along with their class or a boss who is at least politely amused. Yet to surface are the Zoom prank fails — though they’re likely aplenty.
Carl Dawson, 19, has had multiple Zoom prank videos go viral on TikTok, thanks to his forgiving college English professor. Dawson says the key to a great prank is “about making everyone feel a part of it, as if they did something together — and it has to be a funny idea.”
If you’ve weighed the variables and decided that it’s not safe to play a prank in your digital workplace, you can live through the experience vicariously. Videos with the #zoomprank have 55 million views on TikTok, many of which have millions of likes each. Here are some hilarious but inoffensive Zoom pranks to try or check out. Just don’t forget to thank your teachers for their endless patience after.
The Dance Break
TikTok dances are the best inspiration for this prank, as any trending dance is going to have countless references that will be easy for your classmates or coworkers to look up. The “M to the B” dance is likely the most straightforward dance, as it’s just a combination of head turns and bobs and looks particularly comical in gallery view.
The Pass Off
This prank doesn’t require much footwork but involves everyone in the session getting on board. Offline, pick an item that you plan to “pass” from one side of the video grid to the other. This should be an object that everyone has, like a pencil, or a piece of paper, or a tissue. Decide who is going to start the chain by asking to borrow the item, and who is going to be the first to pass it. Then just have everyone else in the class be ready to “pass” the object across the screen. Since Zoom always puts your video in the top left corner of the screen, you may want to designate a person to coordinate the handoffs by making a list of how the Zoom appears to them.
The Power Outage
This prank is so good, the host of the session will have no idea they are being pranked. Arrange to have everyone change their names to “reconnecting…” and cut the camera feed. It will appear as if the entire class has gone offline, but you’ll still be able to hear the teacher’s reaction and watch them try to figure out what went wrong, which is potentially the funniest part.
The Faux Mute
Get everyone on the same page about pretending at a certain point in the session, that the host’s sound has gone out. Have multiple people say you can’t hear them, send messages in the chat saying the mic is on mute. Watch your teacher or boss become very frustrated with technology and then relieve them from the humiliation by letting them know it was a prank.
The Accidental Audio
This prank doesn’t involve everyone to plan together; it just takes the courage of one prankster to say something embarrassing, or play a sound bite, and pretend that they didn’t know their mic was on. Bathroom humor thrives in this format. Staged conversations with parents or roommates and playing funny songs in the background will also do the trick.
The Thematic Backdrop
This prank can be as harmless or bold as you want. Pick a theme with your classmates or co-workers and plan to sign online with the backdrops on the same day. These images can be as absurd or charming as you desire — The Queen, baby animals, outer space, a picture of your teacher, or even a meme.
The Actor’s Studio
Some Gen Z-ers are flexing their acting skills by playing out faux scenarios on camera, like being dragged off screen, or falling asleep, or sitting on the toilet. These bizarre, subtle pranks can be very funny when they are done seriously. But the key is calling cut before it goes on too long and concerns your host or makes anyone feel too uncomfortable.