Abel, Alan

Alan Abel (b. 1930) is a prolific contemporary hoaxster who refers to himself as a "professional prankster". Abel is perhaps best known for his creation in the late 1950s of a fictive organization called the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals. SINA's expressed goal of clothing all animals for the sake of modesty afforded Abel a framework within which to put forward a critique of censorship. This initially light-hearted prank gained currency when it was picked up by the mass media and treated as a serious topic, making Abel an early media jammer. As media attention to SINA escalated, Abel hired actor Buck Henry to impersonate SINA president G. Clifford Prout. The project wasn't fully exposed as a prank for several years. The photo at right shows SINA volunteers "Bill Moran" and "Jeanne Spencer" picketing the White House.

Abel quickly grasped the potential for exploiting the media's fascination with pranks of this kind and has gone on to perpetrate two dozen similar stunts both silly and satirical. Despite being outed repeatedly as a prankster, Abel is consistently able to to hook the media into believing and covering his capers. His work is notable for the range of his creations, which encompass fictive organizations, impersonations of fictive personae, and such substantiating materials as publicity photos, events (e.g. picketing the White House during the SINA campaign), correspondence, radio and tv interviews, film, and musical recordings. Abel's tongue-in-cheek approach to hot topics makes him an important forerunner of next-generation media jammers such as the Yes Men.

Some highlights of Abel's career:

1964-68: Abel invents Yetta Bronstein, a Jewish woman living in the Bronx who wants to run for president. In interviews, Yetta is voiced by Abel's wife, Jeanne, who is an important collaborator on a number of Abel's projects.

1971: Abel creates the International Sex Bowl, an event in which couples compete for climaxes in front of a live audience. Noteworthy about this project is that the Sex Bowl was picketed by protestors from a group called Stamp Out Smut (SOS), which was itself another Abel creation.

1975-88: Abel creates Omar, founder of the equally fictive School for Beggars that teaches people how to panhandle professionally.

1978: Abel releases The Faking of a President, a mockumentary about former U.S. president Richard Nixon.

1980: Abel fakes his own death, successfully inserting an obituary in the New York Times.

1991: Abel creates the KKK Symphony Orchestra during the period when notorious white supremacist David Duke is running for governor of Louisiana, and sends recordings of the orchestra's music to radio stations.

Sources:
Alan Abel's website
Slate story on Alan Abel and SINA (Society for Indecency to Naked Animals)