Gag gifts used to be easy. You get your uncle an ashtray that looks like a bum at the nearest novelty shop. Case closed! Now, the massive explosion of online shopping in the past ten years has created a market place which caters to every niche imaginable.
There are gag gifts for phone addicts, for families, for bachelorette parties, for dog lovers, for actual dogs—there is no end to what you can find scouring the internet.
Now, more options doesn’t necessarily increase your odds of success. In fact, we tend to shy away from choices which necessitate we consider more options. It’s much easier to ignore the burden of overchoice entirely than to grapple with the many variables involved with settling on just one option.
With millions and millions of funny (or “funny”) gag gifts at your disposal, it can feel like information overload. Maybe you feel like you’re starting to lose sight of what’s actually funny. Never fear!
Here is the ultimate guide to finding the perfect gag gift, when sincerity just won’t do!
First, discern why you are intent on finding a gag gift. I know, I know—it seems silly. Who doesn’t love a good laugh? But really think. Am I looking for a gag gift because I know the recipient will really appreciate it, or am I just out of ideas when it comes to giving a sincere and unironic gift?
If it’s the latter, consider steering clear of gag gifts entirely. They’re not a good investment when you’re trying to cultivate a newer relationship, because there is no solid foundation of shared humor to pull from. On the other hand, if it isn’t a newer relationship, and you still buy a gag gift just for lack of a better idea, your loved one will likely laugh politely and set it aside, to be forgotten in a junk drawer or thrown in the rubbish as soon as you are out of the room. In that case, you are better off swallowing your pride and get the person something thoughtful, like a customized gift.
Better cheesy and thoughtful than original and thoughtless!
The best candidates for gag gifts are those you share inside jokes with. These are a gold mine for gag gifts, and they’re so easy to capitalize on that, if you have one with the recipient, you likely aren’t reading this guide. You wouldn’t need to! The gig would come naturally, borne of your shared joke.
The next best candidate is someone you know will always prefer humor over earnestness. Some people are just hardwired not to appreciate sincerity. They are ripe for appreciating the levity of a gag gift.
How to Narrow Your Options
You have to know a little something about the recipient before you invest in a gag gift. Gag gifts are not generic in the same way that a cutting board or a nice bottle of wine might be. By design, they’re tailored to individuals.
Take an incredibly academic friend that you have. She is invested in her research, always in the lab, etc. She likely has three diplomas on her wall already, and your friend group has ribbed her more than once about their prominent display in her living room. It would make sense to give this friend a fake diploma, skewering her well-earned but ostentatious self-righteousness about her accomplishments.
It would not make sense to give your phone addicted, Influencer-adjacent friend the same gift. A fake diploma might even come off mean-spirited to some, like those who haven’t finished college. Gag gifts must capitalize on the most prominent part of a person’s personality that they, too, have historically found humor in. For someone constantly attached to their phone, you might want to get them an obnoxiously loud phone tracking system or a phone leash.
The key is that they are in on the joke. You want to keep your jokes lighthearted, so that they can be enjoyed by the recipient and other onlookers alike. Don’t pull the meanest roast of your friend that you’ve ever heard and materialize it into gift format. You will make the recipient and any audience you may have feel very uncomfortable. That is the sign of a doomed gag gift!
If your friend is a worry-wart and she or he feels comfortable joking with you about it, you still want to ensure that your friend is comfortable making light of it in such a concrete way. Even if you’re not giving the gift in front of other people, there is something very concrete and permanent in a piece of wall art that says “You Need to Calm Down.” That could be very embarrassing! Instead, go a goofier route and find something like an inspirational coloring book to lift their spirits.
Remember, you don’t necessarily need to be making fun of someone with the perfect gag gift. The point is to have everyone forget their troubles for a moment and appreciate life and humor without taking themselves too seriously. Happy hunting!