The 25 Best Prank Phone Calls of All Time
The prank telephone call was likely conceived within hours of the invention of the phone itself, perhaps with Mr. Watson ringing up Alexander Graham Bell to ask if his refrigerator was running. “Yeah? You’d better catch it before it gets away!” (Okay, the refrigerator itself wasn’t invented until about 40 years later, but you get the idea.) Since then, amateur comedians have used telephones to pull pranks on unwitting victims who refuse to simply hang up and walk away.
While technology has evolved since the days of Bell and Watson, the jokes have remained reliably hilarious. Before you pick up that call holding on line one, take a listen to 25 of the funniest prank phone calls of all time…
Well, let’s get the gold standard out of the way. Howard Stern superfan Captain Janks and crew made national news outlets like CSPAN their personal playgrounds, interrupting serious newscasts with witty bon mots like “Howard Stern’s penis!” and “Baba Booey.” While the calls themselves weren’t particularly clever, the disruption of overly serious journalistic efforts puts them in the Prank Hall of Fame.
A modern classic. The slowly unraveling woman on the receiving end of a barrage of calls about wrestling superstar John Cena makes this one undeniable. Some people just don’t have an appreciation of JOHN CENA AND THE WWE SUPERSLAM!
A satisfying subset of the prank call genre is the “Turn the Tables on the Telemarketer” scam. This one is especially brilliant, implicating the invasive digital satellite salesperson in a horrifying homicide case. Serves ‘em right.
Out of the Frying Pan and Into the Wendy’s Fryer
Another category of prank calls is the “Lowly Employee Will Do Anything Corporate Tells Them.” That includes dropping a telephone, mid-call, into a vat of hot grease. I guess that’s one way for Wendys to be “deliciously different.”
Even more disturbing than this professional shepherd’s desire to be outfitted like a swamp donkey is the alarming gurgle coming out of his throat. Is that the mating call of the swamp donkey? The dude at the outdoor gear shop would rather call the cops than find out.
McDonald’s Is Suing You
The deadliest game? Apparently, it’s McDonald’s Monopoly. You mess with the bull, and Willy Wonka will give you the horns.
Mom Reads Son’s Porn Search History
Basically every teenage boy’s worst nightmare come to life, all in the service of giving us the giggles. Oh well, his pain is our gain — and that’s what you get when you give in to the tingle in your noodle.
Wu-Tang Clan Bed and Breakfast
Crank Yankers brought in professionals to harass the unsuspecting, with comics like Sarah Silverman, Jimmy Kimmel and Tracy Morgan making life uncomfortable for anyone unfortunate enough to answer the phone. In this classic, Dave Chappelle tries to book a dozen rooms for Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Ghostface Killah and the rest of the Wu-Tang Clan. The sweet lady at the bed and breakfast never knew what hit her. (But she enjoys Christian rap!)
An ordinary prank call becomes a masterpiece when the prankee is legendary Jeopardy host Alex Trebek. He’ll take “A Crock of Shit” for $200, Stretchy.
If Elmo was a British urchin, this is what he’d sound like arranging a cab to the fair. Good thing the kid called Angel’s Taxis, a company all too happy to take toddlers anywhere they want to go.
Richard Christy Takes It to Eleven
Making prank calls is a fun hobby but not something you can really do for a living — unless you’re The Howard Stern Show’s Richard Christy. Christy’s body of work gives us a lot to choose from, but this beauty gets bonus points for its high degree of technical difficulty.
There are plenty of compilations of Bart Simpson’s funniest and cruelest prank calls to Moe’s Tavern, but this one wins for sheer stupidity and for butt smells and for Moe liking to kiss butts. Hey, wait a minute!
Jerry Lewis Is on the Line, Monsieur President
Hey lady! Ralph Garman, longtime podcast partner of director Kevin Smith, is a master of celebrity impressions. Here he tells the story of how a prank phone call to the Élysée Palace earned Garman a lawsuit from cantankerous funnyman Jerry Lewis.
Adam Sandler’s Funny People Intro
Judd Apatow filmed actual prank phone calls made by his doofus roommate Adam Sandler when the two were struggling unknowns in Los Angeles. Years later, he’d repurpose the amateur footage for the opening credits of Funny People. (Yeah, that’s Janeane Garofalo and Ben Stiller just chillin’.) The calls wouldn’t have sounded out of place on one of Sandler’s early comedy albums.
Scamming the Scammers
Scam callers trying to steal senior citizens’ credit card numbers get what they deserve in this reverse prank, with Troy Hunt pretending to be a willing victim in order to waste as much of the scammer’s time as humanly possible. You’re doing God’s work, Troy.
One reason the Tenants from Hell series of prank calls works so well is that it’s quasi-believable that idiot renters would pull some of this shit. In this winner, a renter calls to complain about the mold forming below the urinal he installed in his bedroom. If you told us this was based on a true story, we’d believe it.
Petco Robot Dogs
Here’s another entry in the “Lowly Employee Will Do Anything Corporate Tells Them” category, with Petco management calling to talk to one of the store’s robotic surveillance dogs. The employee never questions the request to repair and recalibrate the “mechanical” mutt.
A Whole Family of Shitheads
No prank victim goes from zero to 60 faster than the guy being told that his collect-calling sister has a bit of an attitude. When his wife joins in the profanity-laden screamfest, the call escalates to unholy levels of rage. Beautiful in its simplicity.
Don’t Open the Secret Door at Motel 6
What would a prank call from The Twilight Zone sound like? Maybe one that conjures up a portal to a secret world beneath the Motel 6, with no visible exit and a complete collection of Kenny Loggins CDs. Genuinely eerie and disconcerting!
Yard Sale Wars
Somehow our prankster convinces two not-really neighbors that being called a “dirty businessman” is akin to declaring war. Yet another example of one prank caller managing to provoke an entire family into furious threats of physical violence.
God Says We Should Have Girls
Robin Williams taught the lads in Dead Poet’s Society how to rage against the academic machine. What better way to do thumb your nose at authority than to have God Himself prank call the headmaster?
Sol Rosenberg’s Eyes Are Going Crazy
Somehow it took us this far down the list to get to the Jerky Boys. Of all the troublemakers on this list, the Jerky Boys are the only ones who rode prank-calling fame all the way to their own feature film, 1995’s The Jerky Boys: The Movie. You can see what Touchstone Pictures was thinking: Who wouldn’t want to watch 90 minutes of smart-asses talking on the phone?
It was inevitable that modern-day provocateurs would incorporate computer-generated devils into their deviant hellscapes. Anyone who’s ever had to work their way through a digital menu knows just how close this one hits to home.
Stern High School Reunion
One more time for the Stern gang, with maestro Richard Christy terrorizing the organizer of a 50-year high school reunion. The guy clearly doesn’t have SiriusXM as Christy drops the names of Principal Howard, secretary Robin Quivers, Artie Lange, Lisa G. the librarian and high school sweetie Fred Norris. But you’d think the old man would remember the time he killed that werewolf with the silver bullet.
Where Are My Keys Now?
Now that everyone carries a phone in their pockets, texting promises to lead the next wave of pranks. This one is eloquent in its simplicity — both the gag’s and the dad’s. There’s nothing better than sticking it to the old man.