One staple of the high street which seems to have fallen out of favour over the years is the joke shop. While not too different from toy stores, the joke shop stood apart in that it was focused entirely on trick items designed specifically to prank unwitting victims. Even back in the 80s, some complained such shops were tasteless and prompted kids to waste their pocket money, but it was all in good fun!
Listed below are a dozen of the best-loved joke shop classics that your class clown was guaranteed to break out as often as possible.
12. Stink Bombs
Stink Bombs weren’t called that for nothing. Those things were truly rancid; you could drop one of these in school and evacuate a classroom within seconds, so abominable was the stench.
They were such an effective way of disrupting absolutely everything – and a surefire first class ticket to detention.
11. Fun Snaps
Today, Fun Snaps may be marked ‘not to be sold to under-16s,’ but most joke shop owners couldn’t have cared less back in the good old days. Cue the persistent bang of these miniature firecrackers hitting the ground in schoolyards across the nation.
Despite the use of the word ‘fun’ in the name, it was pretty much guaranteed that at least one kid in the playground was liable to soil themselves any time one went off.
10. Wooly Willy
This wasn’t really a mischief-maker but great fun regardless. Thanks to the power of magnets, Wooly Willy allowed you to come up with all manner of bizarre hair and bear combinations on the central bald head.
Of course, when we weren’t having fun giving Willy more absurd looks, we were sniggering endlessly at his name.
9. Fake Dog Poo
There weren’t many joke shop staples as popular or notorious as the fake dog poo. Back in the days when dog owners were considerably less conscientious when it came to cleaning up after their pets, it was a whole lot easier to catch people out with these often alarmingly lifelike imitations.
While most kids found fake dog poo hilarious, teachers very rarely saw the funny side. Who knows how many barrels of the stuff got confiscated by schools back in the 80s.
8. Spud Gun
Who would have imagined the hours of fun that you could have by firing little bits of a potato at your sister? Of course, it was never quite so much fun when she grabbed the gun and started firing back!
Children’s toys based on weapons are always controversial, and perhaps with good reason: there was more potential to do actual harm with a spud gun than there is with Nerf and the like these days.
7. Silly String
Always a last-day-of-term favourite, once someone let rip with a can of silly string there was no way of getting out of there unmarked. The stuff got absolutely everywhere!
For once, most teachers didn’t get too grumpy about silly string, for as messy as it might have looked it didn’t really leave a mark and was easy to clean up.
6. Sticky Hands
Thanks to the elasticity of the cord, Sticky Hands had a surprising range on them! If you aimed it just right, you could slap your best mate in the eye from 10 feet away… and then try to play innocent when they went to see the nurse.
Sticky Hands were also really good for leaving sticky marks all over your Mum’s freshly cleaned windows. A favourite of parents and teachers alike, then!
5. Parachute Man
This is another one that belonged more in the toy than joke category, but it brought us endless smiles nonetheless. The idea was simple: find an elevated position, fling, and watch your little man safely float to the ground on his parachute.
Sometimes we attempted home made versions of parachute man by tying a polythene bag to a He-Man figure, which surprisingly enough didn’t prove so effective.
4. Flying Disc Gun
Another one that wasn’t so much about pranking as it was about playing, flying disc guns were nevertheless a mainstay at joke shops, and always a lot of fun. It was like a frisbee, but without having to use your hands quite so much.
Still, flying disc guns were still liable to annoy grown-ups, particularly when discs were ‘accidentally’ fired over a neighbour’s fence or into their tree.
Every kid in the 80s knew what it meant to pull a ‘moony’ – so what could be better than a joke shop toy that did just that? Squeeze the little rubber bladder at the end of a tube, and the motion prompted the little fella to drop his pants and bare his bottom.
As popular as these were with the kids, dads tended to like them too; plenty of Moonies men were given pride of place on the car dashboard.
2. Whoopee Cushion
What could possibly be funnier than breaking wind? Being able to frame someone else for doing so, of course! Whoopee Cushions have been a time-honoured favourite for generations, allowing you to surprise and embarrass friends and family by strategically placing this bag of wind in the right position.
Countless kids have also tried to sneak a Whoopee Cushion onto their teacher’s seat over the years – and many of those same kids have wound up writing lines because of it.
These gurning rubbery faces were quite addictive to play with. Flexifaces were basically tiny little finger puppets, made of a flexible material that enabled you to bend and stretch them into weird shapes.
As harmless as they might have been, Flexifaces were certain to gross out some more sensitive kids, not to mention humourless teachers!