Between April Fools’ Day and ordinary gift-giving occasions like birthdays and school graduations, it’s all too often that Angelenos find themselves in need of a gag gift, and no good ideas as to where to get one. But while some might head out to their local mall and pick something inappropriate from Spencer’s Gifts, there’s also no shortage of L.A.-based businesses to support. Here’s our five favorite locations for buying gag gifts in L.A.
Originally a seasonal business, Halloween Town in Burbank has become a year-round destination for pranks and gag gifts in Los Angeles. Spanning three buildings along the same street in the Magnolia Park neighborhood, Halloween Town specializes in the spooky and the classic. Squirt pens, hand buzzers and other time-tested pranks share the space with scary halloween masks and more.
The best part of shopping at Halloween Town is the opportunity to plan more fun for later this year. Halloween Town’s dedicated costume store, located a few doors down from the flagship, stocks cosplay accessories and costumes for other holidays such as Easter or Christmas. And of course, there’s plenty of Halloween fun to be had at this store. Nerdy gift-giving ideas abound, and for fans of spooky celebration of all kinds, there’s no better place.
Zonko’s Joke Shop
Located at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios Hollywood, Zonko’s is a dream come true for fantasy fans – literally. The store is lifted directly from the pages of children’s series Harry Potter, and spares no expense in transporting shoppers to a world of wacky fun. In addition to in-universe gags like exploding bonbons, screaming yo-yos and extendable ears, the store also has a variety of more traditional toys.
One huge draw for visitors is the wealth of sweets sold at Zonko’s. Some of the more and physically impossible (or simply irresponsible) pranks from the Harry Potter novels are sold as candy, such as “U-No-Poo” constipating candy, which thankfully won’t make anyone sick. But one uniquely magical experience is faithfully reproduced. Plush Pygmy Puffs, adorable creatures that appear in the novel, can be “adopted” by shoppers at Zonko’s. There’s even a naming ceremony, in which the new parent picks a name which is announced over the in-store loudspeaker.
The Magic Apple
Whoopee cushions and other pranks are all good fun, but for intellectuals across Los Angeles, nothing excites like a good magic trick. L.A. is known for its magic scene, and Studio City’s The Magic Apple capitalizes on that legacy. In addition to goods like trick card decks, fake coins and magic kits, The Magic Apple also sells instructional DVDs and books, along with props and special effect soundtracks.
For the more experienced magician, The Magic Apple also provides illusion rentals and magic act consultations, courtesy of magician Tony Clark. These services are geared towards companies and artists, but average joes interested in trying their hand at occult entertainment can partake of in-house magic lessons. Classes are available for individuals or couples, and comes with tickets to The Magic Castle, L.A.’s premier magic club.
No list of joke shops in L.A. would be complete without Aahs. Billing itself as “the Ultimate Gift Stores,” Aahs has locations from Encino to Orange County. Every store carries a unique, hand-picked catalog of toys, gag gifts and novelties, many of which are only available here. Aahs also carries some costumes and Halloween goods, but anyone looking for a fully-fledged Halloween store might be more familiar with the company’s seasonal offering, Halloween Club.
When in doubt, puzzles are a safe bet for any gift-giving occasion, and no one does it better than Santa Monica’s Puzzle Zoo. Founded in 1993, Puzzle Zoo got its start on the Santa Monica Promenade, but locations can now be found throughout Southern California. Ranging from ordinary jigsaw sets to metal and wire contraptions meant to tease and entertain for hours, the selection of puzzles stretches into the hundreds, and is bolstered by other great gift ideas for all ages. Lego sets dominate much of the shelf space at Puzzle Zoo, while collectible Funko Pop! figures feature heavily on their social media channels.