During the Nineties, New York City’s prank-calling maestros the Jerky Boys rose to fame on the strength of their brash, quick-witted calls, which were collected on a series of highly influential, million-selling albums. Then the calls petered out. But in our dramatic and hilarious new in-depth profile, writer Steve Heisler tagged along with Jerky Boys’ mastermind Johnny Brennan as he made his first new gag calls in nearly 20 years, recorded exclusively for Rolling Stone and which can be heard for the first time in the multi-media feature.
“It was magical,” said Brennan about undertaking the pranks and returning to his classic characters of Frank Rizzo, Sol Rosenberg and Jack Tors. “It was like someone was guiding these pieces into place.”
As detailed in the story, even though Brennan had stopped pranking, the Jerky Boys’ influence kept growing, as the piece includes testimonial quotes from devoted Jerkys fans like Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, Bridesmaids director and Freaks & Geeks co-creator Paul Feig and rising comedienne Amy Schumer. “[The Jerky Boys] are perennially hilarious,” MacFarlane told Heisler. “[Their pranks are] not even really about shock value, you want to hear what they’re going to say next.”
The Jerky Boys’ calls were widely bootlegged, and found fans even among musicians like Jay Z, Radiohead and Mariah Carey, all of whom have nodded to the Jerky Boys in their work, and while the piracy meant that Brennan and his former partner Kamal Ahmed didn’t exactly rake it in during they heyday, it also helped the Jerkys find a fresh cohort of fans. “YouTube has been great exposure,” Brennan explained. “A whole new generation of people is discovering the Jerky Boys.”
That trend should continue with the new calls. Brennan made three, and the results are as hilarious as ever. “Everything culminated in this last piece of the puzzle,” he told Heisler about working up to the pranks, adding “it felt awesome.”
The people on the other end of the line may feel differently. Listen for yourself, and get ready to laugh.