The (Filthy) Real Prank Calls That Inspired Moe In 'The Simpsons'
It's no exaggeration to say that The Simpsons has influenced every writer you've ever read on this site (or any other comedy site). So this week, Cracked is taking a closer look at the town of Springfield and all of our favorite residents ...
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You know a show's been around for a long time when one of its most famous running gags is based around obsolete technology by now. We're talking, of course, about The Simpsons and the dying art of pranking strangers over the phone -- something that was much easier to pull off before robots trained a whole generation to never, ever answer an unknown number. Plus, if a kid called a bar asking to speak with "Al Coholic" today, they'd be like, "So call him? This number is for Door Dash stuff, sir."
Bart's phone pranks are like the dead Kenny gags in South Park: they became so iconic that, after a while, the show could only do them if there was some sort of twist, like when "Hugh Jazz" turns out to be a real person or when Bart weaponizes Moe's anger at the name "Amanda Hugginkiss" to humiliate a romantic rival.
Besides, come on ... "Mike Rotch"? "Seymour Butts"? What actual human being would fall for names like that? Well, we know of at least one person who could and did: his name was Louis "Red" Deutsch, a former boxer and New Jersey bar owner who frequently fell for prank calls from the real-life Bart Simpsons, John Elmo and Jim Davidson, also known as the Bar Bum Bastards. Not only did Red really call out for "Al Coholic" in a crowded bar ...
But Red did occasionally figure out what was going on, and that's when the magic happened. Remember when Moe falls for "Oliver Klozoff" and says "I'll cut your belly open" to the mysterious caller with the Nancy Cartwright voice? Add a bunch of F-bombs, and that's exactly what Red says when he's asked to call out for Stew Pitt (NOTE: don't play the videos below at work unless you actually work at a bar and they don't mind NSFW language).
These calls, originally recorded in the mid-'70s just for s**ts and giggles, circulated among sports teams and entertainment types over the next decade. They became so popular that they ended up being released on tape and CD by various labels, which spawned the entire prank call record industry. They were even used in a 30-minute film where the appropriately terrifying veteran actor Lawrence Tierney portrays Red via still images.
Meanwhile, the actual voices on those calls had no idea they were famous -- the Bar Bum Bastards only managed to release their own CDs in the '90s, and of course, they didn't get a cent from inspiring Bart and Moe (Matt Groening called the similar lines "a case of sociopathic synchronicity"). If you listen closely, you can hear Red's raspy voice cackling from the depths of hell as he patiently waits to finally meet them in person.
Top image: 20th Television