The Trickster’s Journey
We offer topical classes individually, in combinations of your choosing, or together in one package we call the Trickster’s Journey—at the end of which a person emerges as a Certified Trickster and gets access to a network of like-minded mischief makers.
The Journey is the length of a standard college semester. The experience is made up of Three Whoops and a Holler: an induction (the first whoop); an 11-step online course (the second whoop, a combined 22 hours in the virtual classroom); participation in up to three real-world actions (the third whoop); and leadership of one action (the holler).
This process will teach every student all the tricks that academy founders The Yes Men have studied, implemented, and cataloged over the last thirty years, preparing each graduate to plan and implement mischievous and effective stunts for activist campaigns.
“Three Whoops and a Holler” is named in honor of the fallen trickster Cowboy Ed Keeylocko, who is somewhere out there making mischief in the spirit world.
The 11 Steps
Our 11 Step Program is offered as a sequence of weekly 2‑hour remote sessions for those who want to enroll in the full Trickster’s Journey. But we also offer each of the steps as 3‑hour, standalone sessions that can be experienced either in person or remotely. These sessions can also be used to help an organization brainstorm actions that help breathe new life into ongoing campaigns. (Costs are on a sliding scale, contact to inquire!)
If you want to create activist actions now, nothing helps more than knowing what came before. This session is a crash course on the history of the trickster’s trade—from thousands of years old poetic theatrical interventions that still are remembered today, to the theatrical multi-platform media spectacles of this moment. We will dive into the rich history of symbolic actions that have come to frame the memories of movements. Examples are chosen to illustrate tactics, and to demystify how they really worked to advance the movements they were designed for. For groups enrolling in Step 1, we tailor the class to the needs of the students.
Do you know where your campaign is headed? Do you know how to get there? This session will consist of a very effective story-based approach to setting goals, milestones, and points of intervention for your campaigns. Warning: there will be time travel! Using our “Fake New York Times” project as a point of departure, we will project ourselves into the future to create a pragmatic utopia—so that we can then reverse-engineer how we got there and thus map out some effective actions and tactics that helped. Some might call this developing a “theory of change” but while our methods are speculative, they are way too fun to call theory! This is our most popular workshop.
Brainstorming & Planning
How do you come up with all these mischievous ideas? This session will lead you through the methods that we have found effective for coming up with ideas for actions—and then poking holes in the ideas until you know which ones to try. This session is our second most popular workshop, because you not only receive guided help in figuring out how to come up with ideas but you also get the brain trust of the Trickster Academy staff on your campaign.
Need money? One can figure out free or cheap projects and they are often better than expensive ones, but if you need to or want to raise money for your actions this is something we know how to do! In this session we can give an overview of fundraising methods and practices, including crowdsourcing, selling stuff, grant writing, and appealing to private donors. Note that this session is primarily geared towards fundraising from North American sources.
You have an idea, now what? Media interventions, even simple ones, can have a lot of moving parts. This session teaches how to create a comprehensive recipe—lining up all the ingredients and the directions for cooking them up. This is a practical session that is really about producing and distributing a complex media spectacle, from inception to the storytelling at the end.
How is it that you infiltrate the halls of power so you can spring your tricky surprise? In this session we cover lots of tricks of the trade for becoming someone else—on the internet and in person. We’ll tell you the psychological tips and tricks we’ve studied over the years, with an eye towards having maximum impact for your campaigns.
Writing for Creative Actions
This session is all about how to write your story—and write the stories within your story! There are many different kinds of writing needed for creative activist practices, whether it is the terse prose of web copy, the poetics of tweeting, or the odd comedic gem embedded in a dry corporate press release. We teach a tricksters’ approach to the written word, and introduce the style sheets you need to know to pull off an action from beginning to end.
Design & Web Work
Online Tools for Action
If a tree falls in the forest and it’s not on the internet, did it happen at all? Whatever you are doing you need to show and tell over digital networks in their various forms. This session will be a broad overview of the online tools and identities you may need for getting actions together. We can also teach specific technical skills tailored to your needs—from the perspective of tricksters.
& Audio for Action
One thing you can never entirely control is how an action plays out. But what you can control is how you tell the story. And key to telling that story is having all the right footage. In this section, we’ll dive into the basics of shooting good stills, video, and audio. How do you communicate your messages in a single still image? How do you make an effective and professional video with just a few cell phones? This is a crash course on how you can show your actions to the public with a quick turnaround required for the news cycle.
Staging! Props, Costumes, Wigs & Facial Hair, etc.
There are many ways that creative activists have used costumes, props, and objects of all sorts. Some are found or easily acquired at thrift stores. Others are just things you find that are so cool or so strange or in such great quantities that you simply have to think up an action to use them—like Sal’s Orange Orangutan suit (with gold pants and hat) that we once used as part of the Bush Campaign (long story… take the course and we’ll tell you). Or maybe you want to have an outsized impact on a small budget by using inflatables. In this session, we’ll cover options for obscuring identity, dressing up, fabricating props, and staging actions.
& Legal Fun
“Is it dangerous?” They ask. People are usually surprised to find out how safe the trickster’s practice is, and how rare it is to be arrested when properly using the tactics the Yes Men have used. That does not mean that there is no risk, and that also does not mean that you won’t have to contend with the fear and paranoia of thinking that there is! This session is about the ins and outs, dos and don’ts of this kind of activism, both on an emotional level and on a legal one. Warning: we are not your lawyer! But we can teach you why you likely don’t need to consult one.
Dissemination / Media /
Launch Day! How can you ensure that you are ready to handle getting the word out about your action, staying on message in a media feeding frenzy, and staying on top of the story as it unfolds?