New Jersey Stage
New Jersey Stage on social media

This article is from our magazine. To view it in its original format, click here

Art Of The Prank

By Gary Wien

originally published: 01/21/2017

Art Of The Prank

One of the most intriguing films at the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2017 is Art of the Prank, a documentary about Joey Skaggs that was directed by Andrea Marini.  Skaggs is both an artist and a professional prankster.  As this documentary follows his escapades, it offers a simultaneously funny and very alarming look at the propaganda and disinformation fed to the unsuspecting public every day by the mainstream media.  Skaggs’ work is as relevant today--if not more so--as it was when he launched his artistic hoaxes 50 years ago. Audiences are inspired to question the very core of their beliefs.

Marini studied film and television production at Cinecittá in Rome.  From 2012 to 2015, he produced, directed, shot, and edited Art of the Prank - his first feature film.  Marini’s film gives us a unique view into the mind of a very unconventional artist. He recalls how the project got started.

“It was in early 2012, I was living in Rome and working with a producer who’s now a producer on Art of the Prank,” said Marini. “He had attended a lecture by Joey and that same night they went out for a tour of the Eternal City. A short while later he said to me, ‘There might be a possibility to make a film about this media prankster, what do you think?’ He showed me a beautiful ABC 20/20 piece about Joey. I was awed! A couple of months later we went to New York and started shooting the film.”

The film has been playing at film festivals since late 2015.  In that time, the term “fake news” has taken on a life of its own.  Essentially Skaggs made fake news into its own art form.

“This is a very interesting and timely moment for this film,” said Marini. “What is going on with the media right now is almost overwhelming. Yet, Joey would say it has always been this way. The film shows that everything can be manipulated in one way or another, and this is what he wants us to understand in a visceral way.  We all feel very vulnerable when it comes to fake news simply because it’s so hard to get to the truth. What’s important is who is saying what, for what reason, and what are they trying to achieve?”

The article continues after this ad


Art of the Prank is an emotional and often humorous journey that follows the evolution of an artist who quickly learned he could reach far more people through satire than with his paintings.  The film shows how the goal of his work is not just creating the “gotcha” moment, but the revelation that comes with the “aha” moment.  The realization that you can’t believe everything you see, read, and hear in the media.

The documentary was filmed in New York, London, Hawaii, Los Angeles, and Kentucky.  Skaggs provided unprecedented access to the artist and his personal archive.  This leads to an incredible peer behind the curtain, interweaving a currently unfolding hoax (which is revealed in the movie) with a look behind the scenes at some of his classic performance pieces.

Art Of The Prank“How can you not be inspired to make a documentary on a great character with a cause like his?” asks Marini.  “It seemed to me to be a story that anyone can relate to, and as a filmmaker that is what you try to achieve. Most of the time you are forced to narrow your target down, but Art of the Prank has all the ingredients to reach a large audience with a very important message, and also make them laugh!”

The film dives into some of Skaggs’ most memorable pranks like the Celebrity Sperm Bank and Cathouse for Dogs, but Marini’s personal favorite is not included in the film.  He says his favorite is Bad Guys Talent Management Agency and it wasn’t included in the documentary because Marini believes it deserves a film of its own.  He describes the agency:

The story is sensational and very layered. In addition to Joey, the other main character is his old friend Verne Williams (who is no longer with us). Verne wanted to be an actor. But, New York is over populated with actors. One day Verne goes to his friend Joey, who is more like a magician to him that an artist, and asks him to come up with something. “You gotta help me. I wanna be an actor,” he says.

Joey is not an agent or a producer, but something lights up in his imagination. Verne looks like a tough guy, not really like a model, and he has no acting skills. So, Joey comes up with a concept for an unusual and provocative, actually revolutionary, agency, Bad Guys Talent Management Agency!

Verne is his first client, but, the idea skyrockets in the media and, to deal with the demand, Joey soon gathers lots of friends--tough, mean looking people--takes some pictures, makes some FBI Wanted posters (instead of headshots) and suddenly, the agency exists!

Long story short, Verne got several jobs as an actor, other aspiring actors got parts, and Joey stood right on the edge of that fine line between fiction and reality.

When Marini is asked how he thinks Skaggs will be remembered he says, “As the messenger of truth and as an honorable man who devoted his life to art that is meant to shine a light on a very dark corner of our society… And as a very funny guy!”

Art of the Prank will be screened at the New Jersey Film Festival Spring 2017 on Sunday, January 29.  The evening begins at 7:00pm with a screening of Cavities (a 25-minute film) by Michael Chan about a troubled 16-year-old reconnecting with his mother after he returns home unexpectedly. Art of the Prank will then be screened with an introduction and Q&A with Joey Skaggs.

For more by this author, click here

Monmouth Arts Presents Sneak Peek Screening of “Never Look Away”
(RED BANK, NJ) -- See the movie before New York or Los Angeles! Monmouth Arts will provide another installation of its “Film Sneak Peek” series with Never Look Away, an epic tale of art and history spanning three turbulent decades of 20th-century Germany, on November 29 at Bow Tie Cinemas in Red Bank at 7:00pm. 
"The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music" Documentary To Be Screened In Long Branch
(LONG BRANCH, NJ) -- From the 1970s to today the Brighton Bar has been a live music venue and a staple of the New Jersey music scene.  On Wednesday, November 28th at 7:00pm, a free showing of The Brighton Bar - Home Of Original Music  - a documentary about the venue will be screened at The NJ Rep West End Arts Center.
Westfield IFF and James Ward Mansion Host Pop-Up Gin Joint with Movies at the Mansion
(WESTFIELD, NJ) -- Big Dreams & Silver Screens, the organization responsible for the Westfield International Film Festival, is happy to announce their end-of-year celebration and fundraiser, “Of All the Gin Joints” on December 6 at the James Ward Mansion. The evening is a Casablanca-inspired party that will feature a pop-up gin bar, light bites by Feast Catering, live music by Tony Mowatt, and a screening of Casablanca.  Westfield native, Francesca Rizzo will also be screening a complementary independent noir short film, Sullivan’s Last Call – “a sexy little film about celibacy.”
2018 International Film Festival Brings 4 Award Winning Foreign Films To Vineland
(VINELAND, NJ) -- Enjoy four highly-acclaimed award-winning recent foreign films representing diverse cultures at the 2018 International Film Festival, starting Monday, November 26, at the Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, NJ. The four films—A Fantastic Woman, The Interpreter, 1945, and Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me—will introduce the theatergoer to the universality of themes that are common to Jewish and other international themes. They are representative of the finest of today’s international cinematographic art.
NJSO presents Star Wars: A New Hope in concert on Thanksgiving weekend
(NEWARK, NJ) --The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra presents screenings of the complete film Star Wars: A New Hope with Oscar-winning composer John Williams’ musical scores performed live on Thanksgiving weekend, November 23–25. Performances take place in Red Bank, Newark, and New Brunswick.

REVIEW: "First Man"
The image that most defines the 20th century is that of a man standing on the surface of the moon. The man is astronaut Neil Armstrong, but we can’t see his face as he’s wearing a helmet, the glass of which reflects our collective achievement back at us. When he took a small step, we all took a giant leap with him, and Armstrong instantly became more than a mere man, a symbol. With First Man, director Damien Chazelle takes us inside the famous helmet, stripping away the symbol to tell the story of Armstrong the man.
REVIEW: "Halloween"
In 2013, John Carpenter’s Halloween received a 35th anniversary blu-ray release. The accompanying booklet credited the following line of dialogue to Jamie Lee Curtis’s babysitting heroine Laurie Strode: “Was it the boogeyman?” Of course, that’s a misquote. In the scene in question, Laurie admits to herself that “It WAS the boogeyman,” to which Donald Pleasence’s Doctor Loomis solemnly replies, “As a matter of fact, it was.”
REVIEW: "Cold War"
Back in 2006, German cinema scored something of a breakout global hit with Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s The Lives of Others, which followed the travails of a group of disgruntled, pro-western artists in communist era East Germany. At the time I couldn’t help viewing the protagonists of Von Donnersmarck’s drama as the sort of people who would be just as discontented with their lot if they found themselves living in the capitalist west. The grass is always greener on the other side.
Baba Babee Skazala
Among the many intriguing films being screened at New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018, one title immediately caught our eye — Baba Babee Skazala: Grandmother Told Grandmother.  
NJ Film Fest Preview: October 2018
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- The New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 runs from September 14 to October 26 on the Rutgers University Campus in New Brunswick, NJ. Showcasing new international films, American independent features, animation, experimental and short subjects, and cutting-edge documentaries, the New Jersey Film Festival Fall 2018 will feature over 30 film screenings.  

Event calendar
Monday, Nov 12, 2018


DAVID SANCIOUS & WILL CALHOUN @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

WHEN BROADWAY GOES DARK, VAN DYK GOES LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

Bickford Benefit All-Stars @ Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum, Morristown - 7:30pm

In Dreams: Roy Orbison in Concert – The Hologram Tour @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 7:30pm

MUDDFEST 2019 @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 7:00pm


Elf The Musical @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm

Auditions: Cinderella or the Story of Bigfoot @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 6:30pm


Free Solo @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 7:00pm


View all events


For more on our awards, click here

New Jersey Stage © 2018 by Wine Time Media, LLC | PO Box 140, Spring Lake, NJ 07762 (732) 280-7625 |

Images used on this site have been sent to us from publicists, artists, and PR firms.
If there is a problem with the rights to any image, please contact us and we will look into the matter.