Prank the Tank: Inside Prank-O’s Journey to Making a Deal on ABC's ‘Shark Tank’

Whether you watch the show intently or just sometimes throw it on in the background so you can occasionally look up at the screen and say, “I had that idea once,” the long-running reality series Shark Tank from ABC has probably found its way on your TV at one point or another. This is the story of two entrepreneurs who subverted the show's famous format with their trademark comedy when they found themselves in the tank in 2018.

Ryan Walther and Arik Nordby are the creators of Prank-O, a satirical brand whose blog you’re reading right now. The company specializes in comedic gifts, most notably empty cardboard gift boxes featuring funny-as-they-are-fake products that you can use to prank (and subsequently crack up) your recipient with.

Prank-O Creators Arik Nordby (Left), Ryan Walther (Right)

While many entrepreneurs apply to be on Shark Tank, Prank-O was invited to be on the show completely unsolicited. “One of the producers had seen our prank gift box the Christmas before,” explains Arik. “And the year after they reached out and said, ‘I saw this at a party and wanted to know if you guys would be interested in doing this.’”

Prank-O made Shark Tank history before even stepping foot in the tank. “I actually said no the first time, and the guy called me a week later and said, ‘you’re the first person to ever say no to us for being on the show,’” laughs Ryan.

Arik was baffled as well. “I remember standing in my garage at night talking on the phone like, ‘what are you f**king kidding me?!’” he says. “I was kinda yelling but not yelling at this point, and Ryan’s like ‘yeah, you’re right, we gotta do this.’”

And so they embarked on their trip to Los Angeles for the taping, a trip that would forever change the trajectory of the company. “We practiced our lines walking down the sidewalks in LA,” says Ryan. “Our favorite place was this trippy Mexican restaurant that had a play going on in the middle of the room while we were eating.”

The day of the taping, Ryan and Arik were impressed by how professionally the show was run from the moment they arrived. As they awaited their turn, their nerves set in. “When they called 5,4,3,2…our hearts started racing,” says Arik. “We were told by the producer to walk out like we owned the place, and I said, ‘oh sh*t , alright, okay, I’ll do it,’ and I guess I listened a little too much because I ended up looking just mad.”

Ryan and Arik entered the tank, where they would proceed to make Shark Tank history a second time. “My one condition to being on the show was, we have to be able to prank the sharks,” says Ryan. “We wanted to write a script and come up with a prank because that would be on brand for Prank-O.”

Standing before the Sharks, Ryan and Arik presented themselves as a company named RynArik. Arik kicked things off with a heartfelt monologue about missing family dinners due to his hectic schedule as a freelance photographer. That’s when Ryan and Arik pulled out a prototype of the Snack Hat, a magnetic tray that allows your kids to eat snacks off your head as you give them a piggy back ride.

Ryan and Arik then doubled down on the bit with more boxes for more outlandish products. “I do remember my favorite moment was when Ryan brought all the prank gifts around to the Sharks,” says Arik. “They’re wrapped up, and I remember they’re all smiling and laughing holding them up and I was just looking at all five of them holding up these boxes, and I was like, ‘this is awesome,’ you know? That is really cool.”

With the Sharks in hysterics, Ryan and Arik pulled off their RynArik windbreakers to show off their Prank-O t-shirts underneath, and were off to the races. “I thought the reveal went really well, and they understood the concept right away,” says Arik.

But in true Shark fashion, the conversation quickly turned to how much money they were bringing in. “I wanted to talk about how I make these things and how we use friends and family for photos, and they're made on a workbench, and in photoshop, and where the inspiration comes from,” says Arik. “I wish I would have talked about how I make the boxes instead of just all of the financial stuff.”

Ryan began discussing his early experience working at The Onion, where the first iteration of the prank gift box was introduced. This caught the attention of one particular fan among the Sharks: Mark Cuban. “We knew he loved The Onion and that’s why we added it,” says Ryan. “And while the The Onion is a parody of the news, Prank-O is a parody of consumerism.”As Sharks started dropping out, Mark stayed interested throughout, and eventually made an offer that they accepted. “After the taping we were at a bar and we were both kind of quiet like, ‘holy sh*t, what did we just do?’ recalls Ryan. “It was intense.”

Prank-O’s biggest reward from being on the show came in the form of exposure…for years to come. “As far as explaining the brand, it’s a great six-minute infomercial that airs several times a year and during the holidays, which is wonderful for us,” says Arik.

Ryan agrees: “It makes for a hell of a commercial for Prank-O, I’ll tell you that much. The exposure of the show with how many people watch the show is a gift that keeps on giving.”

And with that, Ryan and Arik gave new meaning to the idea that laughter goes a long way. Want to watch their Shark Tank pitch? Check out Season 10, Episode 7 on Hulu or when it airs and visit to shop gift boxes, cards, mugs, puzzles, and more funny gifts year round.

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