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I was watching a prank, and I wonder what they call, or how you describe, the person in the prank who is not a bystander but pretends to be one. Is there a noun for this?

He is with the prank-makers and is assigned to purposely act as a bystander to fool other people.

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By the way, "prank-makers" could be "pranksters". –  Mr Lister Oct 28 '12 at 17:37
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up vote 12 down vote accepted

Possibilities include:

  • a secret accomplice
  • a secret confederate
  • a secret co-conspirator
  • a shill
  • a plant
  • a ringer

You could use hidden or unknown or some such in lieu of secret. The entries without secret already contain that element built right into them.

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+1 for the shotgun approach. You hit it with shill. As a side note, in grifter cant, the term for someone who brings in a mark to be cheated in a con game is called a roper. –  Robusto Oct 28 '12 at 16:31
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@Robusto Shill was my first thought. Thanks for Mr Roper — I didn’t know about him. ELU needs more cant. –  tchrist Oct 28 '12 at 18:00
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I'm wondering if decoy could be added to this list. –  J.R. Oct 28 '12 at 20:21
    
I'd say shill as well. –  Istvan Chung Oct 28 '12 at 21:17
    
A decoy implies that they are a co-conspirator, but isn't the question asking more for a general co-conspirator rather than one with a specific role in the conspiracy? –  DogEatDog Oct 29 '12 at 1:09
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The first word that comes to mind for me is

"a stooge [in the audience]" - any underling, assistant, or accomplice.

There are lots of alternatives. I've linked there to synonyms for shill, but I think that's more strongly associated with fake buyers (in an auction, for example), rather than accomplices in a prank. The best of the rest is probably plain and simple plant.

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