Just some of the world’s greatest and most famous pranksters – but they all pale in comparison to British author, journalist and filmmaker Oobah Butler.
Over the past few years, Butler has made a name for himself by fooling people with a series of audacious stunts, featured in Vice, that are almost so unbelievable that once you hear about them you’d be left wondering how anyone fell for it (trust me, you would definitely fall for some of this stuff).
To give you a small example of Butler’s work, he recently wrote a piece for The Independent on how easy it is to deceive people online and to promote his new series Catfish UK, a spin-off of the popular US reality show.
However, rather than typing it out like most gullible journalists, he put all 170,000 words he had ever written on the internet into an AI and got the machine to do the job for him...cue every journalist in the UK looking up how to do exactly the same thing.
Butler will be presenting the new show on MTV along with Julie Adenuga and starts on 21st April and will specifically look at people who create online personas in order to fool others, something which Butler is familiar with.
Before all that, here is a little flavour of some of the many astonishing stunts that Butler has pulled off and entered him into the unofficial internet hall of fame.
We’ll start with perhaps his most famous stunt and audacious stunt. In 2017, Butler listed his shed in his garden in Dulwich, south London as an ‘appointment only restaurant’ on TripAdvisor to see if the system on said website could be fixed.
After getting his shed verified on the website, Butler set up a website and a fake menu and tasked his friends with writing fake reviews of the joint. Within no time The Shed had climbed the ranks on TripAdvisor and was now the top-rated restaurant in London, despite not existing at all.
Butler was inundated with calls from people wishing to eat there and PR agencies hoping to promote it. Eventually, Butler decided to open up the Shed for one night only and essentially served food from Iceland – the shop, not the country.
In 2018, Butler managed to successfully infiltrate Paris Fashion Week by posing as a designer called Giorgio Peviani, whose knock-off jeans can mostly be found on the markets of south London rather than the boutiques of Milan.
Somehow, Peviani becomes a hit at fashion week and is soon invited to exclusive after-parties and featured on blogs and influencers’ Instagram pages.
If you’ve ever seen the BBC quiz show Eggheads then you’ll be well aware of the concept. If not, then it’s best described as a bunch of friends trying to beat a bunch of smug quiz know-it-alls who are impossible to actually score a victory against. In an attempt to get into the Eggheads’ heads, Butler successfully managed to get on to the show with a team of people that didn’t really know each other to see if it would rattle their general knowledge, obsessed opponents.
The Love Actually and Paddington 2 actor is a national treasure and charms wherever he goes. Even bouncers of exclusive members-only clubs can’t say no to him.
As you might have noticed Butler likes to challenge people’s perceptions and for this stunt hired a Hugh Grant lookalike to see if he could get into some of London’s most private clubs. Butler even convinced a friend to act as a paparazzi in order to make the stunt just that little bit more believable.
Unsurprisingly, it worked.
Somebody came up the other night saying I 'pulled a stunt with their dad'. Few years ago I enlisted a Hugh Grant lo… https://t.co/UfKRTglZK7
Sending fake versions of himself to appear on TV and radio around the world
After his story about the fake shed went viral around the globe, Butler was invited to speak on news channels on just about every country on Earth. Rather than do all of these interviews, Butler sprang another outrageous prank and began holding auditions for people to pose as him in these various appearances.
Sooner than later the fake Butlers began appearing on television in India, Bulgaria, Australia and even BBC Radio 2 and 5. A fake Oobah even accepted an award for him and no one noticed.
His most recent series of stunts is finding lookalikes for other people, which was inspired out of him hiring fake versions of himself to appear on TV and Radio. People soon started using the app to hire actors to do things for them that they didn’t want to do.
In the two episodes released so far, Butler has sent a fake version of a man to his own high school reunion and an imposter to pose as a husband, who is petrified of heights, and go skydiving with his wife.
Oobah Butler co-hosts ‘Catfish UK’ with Julie Adenuga; the show launches at 9pm on 21 April on MTV