The snipe hunt, the art of sending a sucker to find something that doesn’t exist, is a grand and noble tradition. Jerks the world over from trades to the armed forces have sent apprentices and greenhorns searching for everything from striped paint to left handed screwdrivers.
In the Czech Republic, children are sent to the chemist to buy some “semosel”. Which, when said out loud, is Czech for “I Am A Donkey.” Boy Scouts often send new campers or “100 feet of shoreline”. And if Olive Oyl hadn’t been sent out for a “dimes worth of longitude” in 1922’s Thimble Theater, she never would have met Popeye.
Terms like “Skyhooks” and “Elbow Grease” and “Sniper” only exist because of these expeditions for imaginary products.
But what about the darker fool’s errand we’re sent on everyday? The perfect dress? A cure of cellulite? And what happens when you find something that isn’t supposed to exist at all? And what the hell is a snipe anyway?
On this week’s episode, Melbourne comedian Laura Davis discusses her 2008 paper Snipe Hunts: An Oral History of The Fool’s Errand and Nicholas forgets to check his microphone is working properly as they explore the darker side of the fool’s errand.
In his podcast Scamapalooza Nicholas attempts to separate facts from fraud as he explores the worlds of deception, illusion and swindles with the rogues gallery of writers, magicians, comedians and confidence artists that are his guests.
Nicholas J. Johnson is a Melbourne magician, author, entertainer and collector of scams.