Listen now: Pandora’s new April Fools’ Prank Calls Mixtape
Hello, is Al there?
Yes, Al. Last name: Coholic.
Let me check. Phone call for Al. AlCoholic! Is there an Al Coholic here?
As long as there have been phones, there have been prank calls-the first documented prank call dates to 1884, eight years after Alexander Graham Bell placed the first person-to-person phone call. I myself dabbled in a bit of pranking, no doubt inspired by Bart Simpson’s endless telephonic torture of his father’s bartender, Moe (which was inspired by the Bum Bar Bastards’ legendary Tube Bar prank calls of the ‘70s). My preferred targets were the Jenny Craig hotline and boys in my class at school, but those details are between my slumber party pals and me.
Whether they make you laugh or groan, there’s no denying that prank calls have been a longtime staple of comedy culture – more unpredictable than standup or sketch comedy, incorporating elements of improv, prank calls have more in common with epic heckler takedowns (although it’s hard to tell at times who’s heckling who). In honor of April Fool’s day, I’ve created a Prank Calls mixtape, featuring the cream of the crank call crop from artists as varied as Jim Florentine, Guido Hatzis and Nephew Tommy.
Prank calls gained mainstream prominence during the ‘60s and ‘70s, when most people had telephones and no one could even conceive of such a thing as caller ID. Touring bands would swap cassette tape recordings of prank calls by groups like Longmont Potion Castle and of course The Jerky Boys, whose legendary cranks inspired album titles such as Radiohead’s Pablo Honey and Slowdive’s Souvlaki.
In addition to placing, recording and selling prank calls, some established stand-up comics often double-dip, performing their act in a live setting for crowds. Anti-comedy hero Neil Hamburger, radio master Phil Hendrie and the venerated Jonathan Winters have all taken part in the prank call cottage industry.
Talk radio often highlights prank calls. Howard Stern introduced The Jerky Boys to a wide audience and Morning shows Bob & Tom and Rick & Bubba inject variety with scripted and improvised prank calls. And if it’s true that you’re nobody until “Weird Al” Yankovic clowns you, both prank call artists and members of a certain ‘90s R&B trio could take pride in Yankovic’s cautionary ode to jokesters, “Phony Calls” (a parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls” from their album CrazySexyCool).
Even though the advent of widespread internet use initially stymied prank culture, inventive artists like Touch Tone Terrorists and Rickey Smiley have adapted to the new normal by turning tech tools on their heads. These advances include masking the origins of their calls, purchasing phone extensions that are just a number or two off from a real company’s customer service hotline, improving the overall audio quality and even livestreaming and discussing pranks in real time.
So this April Fool’s Day, if you’re not brave enough to make a prank call in the age of Skype and caller ID, learn from the masters – they’re well represented in Pandora’s April Fool’s Prank Calls Mixtape!