Anatomy of a Trinity April Fool’s joke


On Monday, April 1, Coleen Grissom, current English professor and former dean of students, barged into current dean David Tuttle’s office and took over. After she replaced Tuttle’s beloved family photos with a picture of herself and author Margaret Atwood, Grissom began issuing a series of decrees. In just one day, the 8:30 p.m. student curfew was reinstated, the campus bar in Coates Student Center was resurrected, and the Cat Alliance was disbanded to make room for Grissom’s prized poodles.

The catch? This Trinity news update was an April Fool’s Day joke devised by the Office of Strategic Communications and Marketing.

April Fool’s jokes are nothing new to campus. As early as 1965, the Trinitonian announced that “The tables will again be turned April 1 when Trinity professors become waiters in the Student Union Coffee Shop.”

However, 2015’s “Fiesta Major” was the first prank to be conceived by Strategic Communications and Marketing. Associate vice president Michelle Bartonico and brand journalist Jeremy Gerlach thought of the idea.

On April 1, 2015, an announcement on the Trinity’s website declared that students could now major in Fiesta, a new interdisciplinary program focused on San Antonio’s annual Fiesta celebration. The curriculum included art courses in medal design and sash making, proficiency in balloon wrangling, and leadership training on how to deal with unruly crowds — but clicking a link to learn more would lead to information on Trinity’s standard educational curriculum.

“The year that we did the Fiesta major, there was a local news agency here in San Antonio that ran it as a real story. That [joke] was definitely our most successful and got national coverage … we were really able to connect to San Antonio’s history in a fun and unique way,” Gerlach said.

The jokes have continued in the past three years, including 2016’s announcement of a drone delivery service “Tiger Droppings” and 2017’s “Sky Rides Come to Trinity,” advertising airborne gondolas to transport students to class.

In the brainstorming process, the office was inspired by Grissom’s imminent retirement, along with the idea of a nostalgic prank to commemorate Trinity’s 150th anniversary.

“[We] wanted to get one last prank with Colleen involved because she’s been such a fun person to work with. We also wanted to involve Dean Tuttle because he’s always game for this kind of stuff, and he’s a very visible person on campus,” Gerlach said .

While the jokes are for fun, they also serve a strategic purpose for the department.

“We’re directing people to actual departments at Trinity, when they click a link to learn more about our jokes. With the Fiesta major joke, we promoted a lot of our coursework. When we did Tiger Droppings, we directed [clicks] to the entrepreneurship page, and we did the same thing with Tiger Rides and engineering and history,” said Taylor Stakes, video and multimedia manager.

This year, the team, which included Gerlach. Stakes and Anh-Viet Dinh, the office of strategic communications and marketing’s creative producer, raised awareness for the Coleen Grissom Endowed Scholarship, which honors Grissom’s 58-year career at Trinity.

“We came out and said, ‘Hey, this is an April Fool’s joke, but what’s not a joke is that Coleen’s retiring, and you can donate to her scholarship fund,'” Stakes said.

The video created for the prank, showing Grissom replacing Tuttle’s belongings in the dean’s office, was meant to be a fun teaser.

“Production value was not a high priority for the Tuttle-Grissom video, so it was able to be shot very quickly. I think Anh-Viet Dinh even edited it on his own time because he had so much fun with it,” wrote Tess Coody-Anders, vice president for Strategic Communications and Marketing, in an email interview. “The whole department [was] not involved in production for something so quick and simple, but everyone [was] brought in on the joke.”

Not all preliminary ideas made it into the video.

“We [originally] wrote a script that was kind of like The Office meets Curb Your Enthusiasm … We ended up just basically deciding to go just with music in the video, [and] I think it was actually funnier that they didn’t say anything,” Stakes said.

According to Stakes, the creation of the annual joke — which he expects to continue into future years at Trinity — is a worthwhile creative exercise for the office.

“This is a real chance for us to balance being funny and pushing the envelope … but also making sure that the voice that we’re telling the joke with is still authentically Trinity’s voice,” Stakes said. “We collaborate with everyone all the way to President Anderson before the [joke] goes out, and we make sure that everyone involved with the joke is happy with the punchline.”

Students with suggestions for the next April Fool’s joke can contact Gerlach at [email protected]. Information about the Coleen Grissom Endowed Scholarship can be found on Trinity’s website.