Prank- “Tabletopping”

The prank of “tabletopping” involves “one person secretly getting down on their hands and knees, and flattening their back like a table behind another person who is standing up. Then, another person in front of the person who is standing pushes them and they trip over the person who is behind them.” The informant learned this item about two years ago in the 7th grade by seeing his friends or kids in general at school playing the prank on others. The item is usually performed during recess on a “grassy, soft area so the person doesn’t get hurt too badly” but it can also be performed inside. The informant would perform the item on anybody he knows. His opinion of the item is that “it hurts when it’s done to you, but it’s funny when it’s done to other people.”

The above prank described by the informant has both an inside group—the ones planning the prank and working together in order to execute it—and an outsider, or the person who is being “tabletopped.” There is, however, much flexibility in this dynamic since the insider can quite easily become an outsider—the person upon whom the prank is played—and vice versa. Accordingly, the informant expressed that he had both performed the prank on others as well as having the prank played on him. The prank can also be played on a relatively large number of people, which the informant describes as “anybody he knows,” as opposed to just one’s best friend or member of one’s clique.

Though I agree with the informant that watching somebody fall over can be “funny,” I believe there is another, perhaps more significant reason why the prank might be played besides merely for the sake of humor: it could also be a way of demonstrating one’s ability to control others (namely, their own ability to control their bodies or movements) and thus assert one’s agency. In this sense, the prank could be especially useful to a bully or any kid (or group of kids) wishing to pick on another, in which case, unlike I stated previously, there could be a very definite distinction between the identities of those who perpetrate the prank and those who are its targets.