Panorama was the world’s longest-running current-affairs TV programme.
In 1957 it had a regular weekly audience of ten million.
That year Panorama ran a story on Switzerland’s spaghetti harvest.
It featured shots of the orchards where the spaghetti is grown.
There were close ups of the spaghetti hanging from the trees.
The workers carefully picking the strands and laying them in their baskets.
Then spreading them on the ground in rows to dry in the sun.
Even in black and white the spaghetti looked appetising.
There was just one flaw, spaghetti doesn’t grow on trees.
Spaghetti is made from flour and water.
So why did Panorama run the story?
The clue was in the date: April 1st.
It was just the BBC having a bit of fun on April Fools day.
But not everyone got the joke.
Lots of people phoned or wrote to the BBC to find out where they could get their own spaghetti bush and how to grow spaghetti.
They didn’t know spaghetti didn’t grow on trees.
This shocked the BBC executives.
They couldn’t believe that everyone didn’t know it was a joke.
In the restaurants the BBC executives ate in, spaghetti was commonplace.
But ordinary people didn’t eat in restaurants.
And the only time they saw spaghetti was in cans, made by Heinz and swimming in tomato sauce, like baked beans.
In fact spaghetti on toast was an alternative to beans on toast.
But of course the people that ran the BBC never saw Heinz spaghetti.
So to them the joke was obvious.
But that’s the thing about jokes.
You can’t just assume everyone knows exactly what you know and lives exactly the way you live.
Those of us who work in the media are incredibly spoilt.
We eat food from every corner of the planet whenever we want.
We can drink wine with every meal if we want.
We know about lots of things and assume everyone else does too.
But they don’t, not necessarily.
The fad for April fool jokes apparently began hundreds of years back.
According to the Julian calendar, the new year started in spring when the world began coming back to life.
This was usually around the vernal equinox, March 20th, so new year traditionally began on April 1st.
In 1582 Pope Gregory XIII changed to the Gregorian calendar, and new year started on January 1st.
Apparently it was lots of fun for educated townsfolk to wish country folk a happy new year on April 1st.
When the bumpkins answered ‘Happy New Year’ that meant they didn’t know about the new calendar.
They were uneducated and so ‘April fools’.
The old-fashioned country folk didn’t find it funny, but the modern, hip townsfolk did.
Nothing much has changed.
We still care about our own amusement before our audience’s.
As long as we or our peers like it, or it wins an award, that’s all that counts.
But remember, half the country doesn’t live like we live or know what we know.
But they buy the products we’re trying to sell.