Written by Musgo Del Jefe
It must have sounded like such a great idea for a show. "We'll make some crank calls and re-enact them with puppets." It's certainly unique. It's a step above The Jerky Boys and slightly different than the similar guest comedians featured on Dr. Katz and not nearly as clever as the interviews of Creature Comforts animated as zoo animals. Crank Yankers started as a Comedy Central show and has moved to MTV2 in recent years. The set-up is simple and opens itself to many possibilities. A number of comedians make actual crank calls in the guise of a recurring character. The calls are re-enacted with additional props to add a visual element to the verbal comedy of the phone call. In theory, the visual element of the puppets should help flesh out any lack of comedy in the phone call. It does work but really only in small doses.
The Best Of Crank Yankers Uncensored is three hours and over 50 phone calls of the Comedy Central episodes of the show. The cast of characters has grown with each new season of the show. Each comedian portraying their different characters have a unique method of trying to keep the callers on the line as long as possible. The problem is that often the character is a one-joke character and the bits go on past the point that they continue to be funny.
Special Ed (Jim Florentine) relies on repetition of phrases and the occasional "Yaaaaay!" Ed is annoying from the very beginning of each call, often calling men "Miss" or women "Hey, Mister." It's his affection of being mentally retarded that usually gives the "mark" a little patience with him.
My favorite character is Gladys (Wanda Sykes). Her bit is that of an African-American women who is usually angry or needs help because of a unique situation that she is in. She's had a turd in the back of her car that she picked up after being towed or been glued to her toilet seat. These scenes play well because the situation is so absurd and played seriously that it's hard for the "mark" to tell if she's telling the truth or not. The more they don't believe her, the more indignant she becomes.
Boomer and The Nudge (Jimmy Kimmel and Patton Oswalt) are obnoxious morning DJs. Their calls to unsuspecting "marks" are just over the top enough to be believable. Their fast-talking banter is usually generic enough to convince the "mark" that they are from a real radio station. Trying to get a man to put his hands down a coworkers pants is funny but it goes on at least a minute too long.
Spoonie Luv (Tracy Morgan) is the least funny character included in this collection. Like some other Tracy Morgan characters, he's completely in his own world. The characters lewd suggestions such as what he wants to include on a note with some flowers he is sending is stereotypical and usually proves to make the call an obvious prank.
The best character for the actual prank call is Adam Carolla's Mr. Birchum. He's perfected this character on radio for years. Mr. Birchum always starts as a believable 62-year-old Vietnam veteran who's missing three fingers on one hand and part of a leg. For example, when he calls the "mark" about being abducted, he starts off very mild to gain the "mark's" trust. Once they believe him to be a serious caller, he turns the conversation to stranger and stranger topics until the "figure it out". The experience he's had with the character shows in the complete back-story that he can pull out at any time of the conversation.
The prank call is a dying art. Done well, it's an impressive offshoot of improvisational comedy. But it's still typically a one- or two-joke format. While the puppetry here is unique, it's not enough to save a bit that outstays its welcome. This Comedy Central release doesn't contain any extras. It doesn't really need them. Three hours of prank calls are really too many and you become numb to the jokes. There's a Tenacious D puppet video at the beginning of the disc. More non-prank call scenes may have made this disc more enjoyable. Experienced in small doses, this series reminds us that there are lots of talented improvisational comics around today, but this isn't the best format for their comedy.