By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – If you get on Jimmy Blaylock’s bad side this April Fools’ Day, don’t sweat it.
People on his good side don’t have it any better.
“Everybody who knows me knows I pull pranks,” the 51-year-old Tupelo native said. “I pull pranks on my relatives. I pull pranks on my friends. I think laughter is good for the heart and soul.”
Pranking is more than a pastime, it’s his profession. Blaylock opened Fun World on South Green Street 29 years ago.
“It was supposed to be a magic shop and prank shop, but it turned more into a gag shop,” he said. “Magic did not sell around here.”
He traces his passion to his boyhood. When his parents took him to California to visit Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm, Blaylock spent much of his time and all of his spending money in the magic and prank shops.
One of his purchases was an old-fashioned hand buzzer, the kind that cranks and hides neatly in someone’s hand.
“When I first got it, I took it to church. You know how you shake hands at church? They would be so startled. It was so fun,” he said. “My mom got on to me. She wouldn’t let me take my whoopee cushion to church, but she let me take the hand buzzer.”
There were probably times in her life when Blaylock’s mother wished she’d taken a harder line with the boy.
“We went to Grady’s 10-Cent Hamburgers. I’d bought a fake cockroach and stuck it in my mom’s hamburger,” he said. “It was so funny. I could’ve won $10,000 if we’d had video cameras back then. She started getting sick, physically ill, and I started laughing. She said, ‘Son, don’t ever do that again.’”
In high school, he learned how wrong a prank could go. He and some friends slipped a note into a buddy’s pocket, expecting him to find it and have a good laugh.
The note read something like, “Mom, I’m gay. I love you but I’m leaving home.”
The kid’s mother found the note, and she didn’t take it well.
“They actually called an ambulance for her,” he said. “That went really bad. I said I would never do anything like that again. Never.”
Everyone knows what they say about old habits. A few years later, Blaylock went to Memphis to buy stink bombs.
“I was working at Tecumseh,” he said. “I’d bust the stink bombs by the compressor, and the boss had people looking for dead rats. It made my day. If I had gotten caught, they would’ve fired me, but I loved it. I waited a few weeks and did it again.”
That’s about when Blaylock realized he needed another way to make a living. He came up with the idea for Fun World.
“I really needed to be my own boss,” he said.
Surely, legions of Blaylock’s potential employers just sighed with relief at that statement.
“I agree with that,” he said, laughing. “I agree with that 100 percent.”