The big fancy stars of the genre make prank phone calling seem easy - like a no-brainer or half-tease. But it's not. There are enough shitty unfunny people doing it to prove my point; check ebay for some of the "amateurs" selling their wares and you'll see what I mean. For every riotous Screamer, Bum Bar Bastard and Crank Yanker, there's an excruciatingly unfunny John Musacha, Telephone Head and Laugh Syndicate. But I never give up. You put out a prank phone call CD and make it cheap enough and I'll buy it. Ball Busters? Got 'em both. Brother Russell? Same deal. Longmont Potion Castle? Jerky Boys? Great Phone Calls? Three Men In A Tub? The Original Prankster (i.e. Jackie Starr)? STEVE ALLEN!? Got it, got it, got it, etc etc. I don't know what the hell attracts me to prank phone calls, but I keep coming back for more.
Part of it is the fun of listening to an unsuspecting recipient making a dumbass out of him/herself by not catching the joke, but more so than that I think it's just the fun of hearing clever people saying funny things. Some prankers create humor through entertaining characters of their own creation (ex. The Jerky Boys' ridiculously aggressive Frank Rizzo, Brother Russell's clueless elderly Christian Melba), others create humor from the angry reactions of their victims (e.g. Longmont Potion Castle invoking the wrath of his entire hometown by constantly threatening to beat everybody up, Bum Bar Bastards driving bar owner Red to such bizarre threats as "I'LL PUT THE Z-Z'S ON BOTH CHEEKS OF YOUR LIFE!") and still others create unlikely scenarios and manipulate the ignorance of the other party to heighten the comedy to unbelievable levels of absurdity (i.e. one of the Crank Yankers calling a phone sex operator as a favor for his "deaf friend" who is sitting next to him, The Original Prankster convincing a boneheaded McDonald's employee to drop not one but TWO telephones into a vat of scalding french fry grease). The two young men responsible for Just Farr A Laugh! hit on all of these elements from time to time, but if I had to sum up their "schtick" -- that which distinguishes them from their contemporaries -- I think I would sort it into three main categories: (a) making fun of third-rate semi-celebrities, (b) hilarious references to the worst of '70s, '80s and '90s pop culture, and (c) a 4'10, 250-lb black man named "Bleachy."
Just Farr A Laugh! first caught my attention by its prominent position in Mondo Kim's 'comedy' section, which I've long counted on to introduce me to the best of smart underground humor, from song-poems and outsider artists to idiot semi-savant radio dramatist Judson Fountain and the indescribably hilarious Dirty Fan Male CD. My interest was then solidified by the CD's inclusion in The Onion's list of Top Comedy Records of the Year. So I forked up the business cash advance, traded in the dough and laughed all the way to the money. Actually I didn't like it first time through. I think I was expecting something more out of the ordinary, and was disappointed to find that it was just a straightforward prank call CD. But second time through, I got the shit out of my ears and just laughed and laughed and laughed until tears ran up my face. Here, let me share some moments with you.
But first, who are Just Farr A Laugh!? Why, they are Andy Earles, one of Scharpling & Wurster's funny cohorts on The Best Show On WFMU and a freelance writer (check out his entries in Lost in the Grooves: Scram's Capricious Guide to the Music you Missed -- then check out MARK PRINDLE's entry in the very same book!!!), and they are also a hilarious young man named Jeffrey Jensen. Visit www.failedpilot.com to buy a copy and read Andy's blog!
Now that we're on paragraph five, let's talk about the actual CD. It features 33 tracks and drags on for 74 minutes. To be quite honest, it probably deserves a high 7 rather than 8 due to the guys' insistence on including not only the hilarious gags that worked, but the same exact gags in incarnations when they did not work. But screw that - any CD with 20+ sidesplitting crank calls deserves an 8 no matter what kind of filler shit is stuck in at the end. Here now, let me discuss the calls by category:
(a) These young men LOVE to make fun of third-rate celebrities -- not only because names like Jason Bonham and Morris Day are fun to toss out, but also because there's no threat that the person on the other end of the line will know what their real voices sound like! How else would a major recording studio honestly believe that Christopher Cross is a lisping egotist who says things like, "Did you see the movie Arthur? Did you cry? Well, without my music, that movie would have been SHIT!" Another favorite gimmick of the JFAL! guys is to call a club pretending to be a relative or personal assistant of a complete has-been like Gallagher or Howie Mandel, proudly announce that said semi-celebrity is planning to visit the club, and warn that they don't want any trouble with paparazzi and hordes of autograph-seeking fans. The person on the other line of course doesn't want to insult anybody by pointing out the obvious, and laughter ensues for all and one. Other great examples of type (a) calls include "Jazz Jermaine: Ru Paul's Personal Assistant," "Tim Butler, An Old Flatmate of David J.," "Danny Aiello," and "Isaac Hayes" (who calls a grocery store in tears because some kids in the parking lot said he looked like he 'just stepped off of Paul Simon's Graceland tour bus'). The one where he pretends to be the ex-bassist of Tora! Tora! is pretty classic too.
(b) What's funnier than pop culture references? Until you've heard "Confusing Array Of Things To Sell," you may never know the answer. This - one of the funniest calls on the disc - involves Jensen as a slow-voiced yokel calling an antique furniture store in an attempt to sell such clearly non-antique furniture items as a used Teddy Ruxpin, a Refrigerator Perry Halloween mask, a Jackson Browne "Lawyers In Love" painters cap, a "Where's The Beef?" button, and a promotional Press Your Luck Whammy! stuffed toy ("I think you'd like that Whammy! guy -- he's cute!"). Other great examples of type (b) include a man who simply cannot understand the humor in "The Wizard Of Id," a fellow interested in getting tattoos of "Taz" and "The Taco Bell Dog" above each of his eyes, and the relentlessly laugh-out-loud "Just Farr A Laugh: The Yogurt Machine," in which a slow-voiced expert on the yogurt market spends several minutes warning an ice cream store owner that 'Go-Gurt' is going to be the next big thing, before concluding with a recommendation that the hapless owner read the autobiography of Jamie Farr ("Remember when he played that character 'Klinger' on M*A*S*H? Yeah, that fucked him up big-time."). The biggest joke of all, of course, is that the book isn't even called Just Farr A Laugh. Jeffrey was remembering it wrong -- the actual title is Just Farr Fun. It's actually available on Amazon for $2.25 if you'd like a copy.
(c) Bleachy gets old, but essentially he's a short fat excitable black man who for some reason assumes that anybody he calls will know who he is if he shouts "This is BLEACHY!" enough times. He IS cute and ridiculous, but there's probably a bit too much of him on here.
These three categories don't cover the ENTIRE album; I'm just trying to cordone off where their main interests and influences lie. There are plenty of other original and hilarious ideas on here, including a middle-aged woman who is a bit TOO excited about the chance to play bass in a young white boy blues band, a teenage girl who is a bit TOO excited about some dumbass indie rock band called "Soulcracker," and a new guy in town who is a bit TOO enthusiastic about the chance to visit a local bar called 'Attitudes' (I realize it doesn't work in writing, but if you don't laugh as hard as I do when the caller announces, "I'LL BRING DOWN MY ACOUSTIC!," then you're one of those people in life that just doesn't *get it* -- and I don't just mean the joke, I mean the WORLD).
One final word before I go: This is probably the only chance you'll ever have to purchase a CD with tracks entitled "'Bedroom ETA' - A Jermaine Stewart Cover Band," "KFC Mashed Potatoes And Gravy Flavored Dorito's," and "Honey, Tiger Woods Is On The Phone - Quit Fiddle-Fucking Around." So keep that in mind and buy wisely.
Also, I'm not sure if I mentioned this in another review, but either way it's worth repeating. When I was in college, I included the following couplet in one of my shitty "serious" songs and could have sworn that it was clever and witty: "You can be my Tom Bosley/I'll be your trash and we'll be glad/I could promise you nirvana/But don't expect more than a tad."
GET IT!??!??!?! TOM BOSLEY??? GLAD???? NIRVANA??? TAD???? ISN'T IT FUCKING HILARIFUCKFLE???!??!?! I'M A REGULAR "BECK"! (who sucks, incidentally)
So I put the thing in my CD drive on my computer, played it in winamp, and all the tracks were by an artist named "Penis McFuckwit and the Amazing Penetrators," with each track named with some vulgar sentence: "Penny Pearson Rode Me Like a Horse" and "I Piss On My Face, You Piss On My Butt, Then I Fuck A Donkey."
But it was the right CD.
And you were right. Their whole shtick is pop-culture references, but not in the way, say, that fascist twat Dennis Miller does it. These are funny. This CD also has some great liner notes, including a thoughtful attack on prank callers in general.
Anyway, here are some of my favorite calls:
Bedroom ETA - The fact that he can keep the guy on the phone is funny enough. When he sings Jermain Stewart's "We Don't Have to Take Our Clothes Off," my nose gushes a bloodied mass of milk. Plus, the way he annunciates "Quiet Storm Band," like everyone would know what it is, makes me giggle.
"I Should Hope So" - I wouldn't be surprised if Jason Bonham sounded like this.
Tim Butler, an Old Flatmate of David J.'s - "Do you know who I am... I PLAY BASS IN THE BLOODY PSYCHADELIC FURS!"
Anyway, if prank calls were more like this, I would probably be a fan of the genre. Jeff, I look forward to the next CD.
BLURB A GO-GURT!
That was my Nuge for the day. But seriously Prindle, of all people, BECK??! What the fart? He certainly beats the Beasties to hell, he does. And I'M supposed to hate him!!
Where can i get the follow up? Hurry!!!
I think I'm used to Jerky Boys or Crank Yankers in the sense of a prank call having to be this big grand thing with big laughs and crying from laughing so hard. Just Farr a Laugh is a bit more subtle, like the idea of the call itself is so funny, that even though the results don't make you die, it was all worth it.
I work for Wells Fargo, doing customer service for credit cards. I take about a hundred calls a day, talking to all different types of people. The reason why I love Just Farr a Laugh is because they have an impeccable sense of how lame people are. When people tell a really lame joke and then laugh for waaaaay too long after their own joke? Shit like that KILLS me, and these guys do that to perfection.
I think I will like this even better upon the second listen.
Matador knows good comedy when it sees it (ex. Liz Phair, Bettie Serveert) so of course they'd be the ones to not only re-release Just Farr A Laugh to a larger audience, but also allow Earles and Jensen to tack on a second disc of ALL-NEW calls of equal or greater hilarity!
But first, a great story:
So this one night a few months ago I'm at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn enjoying a Neil Hamburger comedy concert when who should I see but a guy with a mustache. Thinking quickly, I approached this mustached man and asked, "You look familiar. Are you one of the 'Just Farr A Laugh' guys?" And he responded, "I am! And you are.... you're Prindle!" And that was the moment I knew I was an award-winning Author and Critic.
This review doesn't need to be long as dick like the last one because many of its charms and strengths are identical to that one. Toe wit:
A) THIRD-RATE CELEBRITIES
- Ed Asner is angry because a local restaurant has positioned his framed picture on the wall next to one of the San Diego Chicken. Thankfully, he comes to his senses and agrees to continue visiting the restaurant -- under one condition: "The compromise I was going to make was just having my assistant call ahead and have you move the Chicken into the women's restroom."
- "Big Bad John" is a down-on-his-luck Big Bopper impersonator famed for his 1956 American Bandstand appearance with a band called "Boze-dy-boze-dy-Bop! Tiddy-bop," his film The Day The Music Died, Somebody Else Died... And That Other Man Was The Big Bopper, and his '70s love affair with Barry Manilow.
- Former MTV VJ Kurt Loder excitedly describes his upcoming celebrity game show Loder's Run: The Quickening
B) POP CULTURE REFERENCES
- Jensen's slow-voiced yokel again calls his favorite antique store with a confusing array of things to sell: "I got a Garfield Takes The Cake book from '83. I'll do 20 dollars on that. I got a copy of Glass Houses by Billy Joel on vinyl. That's VG condition, a few scuffs and ringwear on the cover. I'll do 30 on that." Upon being informed that the antique dealer is actually looking for turn-of-the-century antiques, he offers, "Well, I got a copy of Californication from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, that's from 2000."
- A black man calls a local video store to request a copy of Terms Of Endearment. His response upon being told that the store doesn't have a copy: "WRONG nigga to fuck with!" He then requests a copy of Cocoon: The Return starring Wilford Brimley. "Don't deny me Brimley!" he insists, "Step off my Brimley!" His response upon being told that the store doesn't have a copy: "WRONG nigga to fuck with!"
- The track "Need A Cooler Up There?" is nothing but a series of Road House references, including "I'm a whirlwind of destruction. I'd like to SEE your security tell me to put a shirt on!," "I'm a philosophy major; I studied the meaning of life and THAT shit," and of course "Who's the evil landowner around there?"
- A man going through a midlife crisis keeps trying to casually interject 'cool' phrases into conversation, resulting in strange outbursts like "SEGA!" and "GOT MILK? You know what I'm sayin'?"
C) BLEACHY, THE 4'10, 250-LB BLACK MAN
- Bleachy is injured on the job when his manager Bob Heathcote tells him to put his hand into the grease trap to retrieve the ring he dropped. (For those not "in the know," Bob Heathcote is the ridiculous-looking guy with a mustache who played bass for Suicidal Tendencies on their How Will I Laugh Tomorrow When I Can't Even Smile Today LP)
- Bleachy calls a department store on Super Bowl Sunday asking if he can come down and watch Murder, She Wrote because his TV is broken
They do some other great stuff too, but why go into detail when I can simply type a list of context-free quotes?
- "YOU'VE BEEN CRANKED BY THE CRANK DOGS!!!"
- "Your Jesus buddy's on the phone! Son of a bitch...."
- "I'm about 5'1, I wear a full-body wet suit with Doc Marten half-sandals, and I have dreadlocks that I pull back in a Scrunchie."
- "I'm The Party Doctor! My slogan is 'Malpractice Makes Perfect'!"
- "Then they used shoe polish to write 'BUTTFUCK' on my car!"
- "Maybe we can sculpt some Snausages!"
- "Is this a certifiable pussy magnet?"
- "It's true World Music. We have an Eskimo on drums, and a Samoan who plays bass, and the guitar player is an alcoholic air traffic controller."
Even if you've already bought the first disc, you owe it to the IRS to buy this re-release with its 25 brand new selections of comedy telephone gold. It comes equipped with a giant book of liner notes, artwork and photos -- and only like a fifth of the new calls suck, so that's pretty good.
Released in a limited edition of 300, the LP-only Just Farr The Record is openly billed as outtakes from Just Farr A Laugh! As such, you'd better be a REEEEEALLY big Bleachy fan if you're planning to give up 22 Recession-era dollars for it. You see, a musical outtake is a song that -- though perhaps unloved by its creator -- may appeal to the melodic tastes of a certain minority. A prank outtake, on the other hand, is simply a phone call. And though there are eight or so instant classics among these 26 selections, the majority are about as hilarious as picking up your phone, dialing a wrong number, and asking for "Bill Tits."
Actually, that is kinda funny. Heh heh. "Bill Tits."
Most of JFAR comprises less interesting variations of Just Farr A Laugh! concepts and failed prank calls that deliver no entertainment value at all. Examples of the former include yet another mother getting a tattoo removed, yet another conceited celebrity warning a local restaurant that he's on his way, and at least three more calls from the lovable but wearing WAY thin Bleachy, a 31-year old, 4'10, 250-lb. black man. Examples of the latter include a man who wants to eat nachos at a strip club (HEEEEEEEEE!!!! CAN YOU JUST IMAGINE!??), a man who first tries to rent a hotel room just so he can enjoy the Continental Breakfast, then calls back stating that he is a Secret Shopper for the hotel (*SPITS MILK OUT NOSE, THEN SPITS OUT NOSE*), a guy who gets the wrong tape in his rented VHS box (*masturbates into hand; each sperm breaks out into hysterical laughter*), a track called "Helmets Are For Pussies" in which the only joke is when the pranker uses the phrase "Helmets Are For Pussies" (*funny bone extracts self from body, builds tiny car from scratch and zooms around the room*), and a guy who thinks that a store called "The Shower Coach" is in fact a person who coaches people on how to wash themselves (*bag of potato chips explodes, possibly due to laughter*). Yes it's true. Laughter is the doctor's best medicine.
Some of the calls are good though. Okay, I'll talk to you later.
Wait, that reminds me. In one of the record's best tracks, the dude calls an Italian restaurant pretending to be Garfield the cat. This cut's exclusion from Just Farr A Laugh! is unconscionable -- it is mindbogglingly tearscreamingly hilarious, with references to lasagna, Odie, Jon Arbuckle, Arlene, Dr. Liz Wilson and "coughing up a hairball" piling up one on top of the other until you want to reach through the stereo into the past through the telephone wires and shake the recipient's tiny brain loose from its oversized head and scream, "WHAT THE HELL IS THE MATTER WITH YOU!?"
Other highlights include:
- A father's complaint to the store that sold his son a pack of cigarettes: "I mean, he's only ten! He's got a lot of facial hair..."
- A prospective diner's response to a hotel's breakfast menu: "Never had bacon from Canada! Is it different?"
- A man's query to a smoke machine rental outlet: "Could you provide an animal in sunglasses and a party hat?"
- The following exchange between a store employee and a man seeking first aid for his wife, who has been poisoned by a pimento loaf purchased at the store:
EMPLOYEE: "I'm not a doctor. I don't know what to tell you."
MAN: "You got a magazine rack? Maybe you got some health magazines in there."
EMPLOYEE: "I don't think so. It's mostly women's magazines and stuff like that."
MAN: "Well, maybe check a women's magazine! After all, she is a woman!"
EMPLOYEE: "I wouldn't know where to look."
MAN: "Look under 'Pimento'!"
Yes, America is comedy's finest medical distributor and today's the day to refill your prescription of guffaws with Thanks Farr The Memories!, the top new humor LP by the Elmo & Patsy of the Now Generation -- "Elmo" Earles & "Patsy" Jensen, that is!
Also, fuck you if you're that guy who drew a dick on our co-op's new wallpaper. We paid a lot of money for that wallpaper and now there's a dick all over it.
For more prank phone calls, dial your work number and ask if you have Prince Albert shoved up your ass! (Or click here, possibly, as well)