Whoopee cushions and wind-up teeth, squirty pens and stink bombs, itching powder and plastic dog poo. These classic gags are the must-have accessories for any April Fool’s Day antics.
Once, Britain’s joke shops were chock-full of naughty schoolboys on a Saturday morning, spending their pocket money on these cheap ‘n’ cheerful tricks to prank their pals with and annoy their parents. Nowadays, largely due to changing toy trends and the advent of online shopping, these specialist purveyors of the leg-pull are few and far between (with no joke shops left at all in London!).
But we’ve managed to track down four outstanding, old-school gag outlets on the network. Packed with practical jokes, silly pranks and childish tricks, each one is an absolute fool’s paradise.
42 Princes Street
As a boy, Mike Burt’s dream was to one day open his own joke shop. He’s been running ‘The Mad Hatter’ with his partner, Teresa, for over thirty years now. Somerset’s go-to gag store is an Aladdin’s cave of practical tricks, theatrical props and Halloween paraphernalia, all housed in a 17th-century building which Mike claims is haunted (although he could be joking, of course!).
Best selling jokes: Classic toilet humour – fake poo, stink bombs and whoopee cushions.
Getting there: take a GWR train to Yeovil Pen Mill station
9 Duke Street (with another, smaller outlet in the Castle Arcade)
There’s been a bespoke joke shop in the Welsh capital since 1963. The current incumbent, Jokeshop.com, has a large store online, but nothing beats visiting its museum-like premises in person. Opposite Cardiff Castle, the shop is popular with both teenage tourists and local leg-pullers alike.
Best selling joke: Fake squirty ketchup bottle.
Getting there: take a GWR train to Cardiff Central station
53 Park Road
Husband-and-wife team, Lawrence and Corinne Bagg, have been at the helm of Hampshire’s leading specialist joke shop for nearly forty years. The fun starts as soon as you open the door – providing you can find the right handle, that is (there are seven to choose from, but only one will get you in!).
Best selling jokes: Itching powder and blue-mouth sweets.
Getting there: take a GWR train to North Camp station (on the main line between Reading and Gatwick)
40 Stall Street
British toy shop chain, Hawkin, has been in the novelty gift business for nigh-on fifty years. They offer a smaller selection of jokes than the family-run independents, but boast several stores across the GWR network. The Bath branch is located on the city’s historic Stall Street, close to the famous abbey and Roman baths. There are also stores in Bristol, Cardiff, Taunton, Hereford, Basingstoke, Truro, Worcester and Worthing.
Best selling jokes: ‘Joke box’, containing five classics (snappy gum, hand buzzer, fake ice-cubes, squirty ring and whoopee cushion).
Getting there: take a GWR train to Bath Spa station