Do you ever stop to wonder just soon after the invention of the telephone did someone make the first prank call? Would be an interesting bit of historical trivia to retrieve if ever possible because, let’s face it, prank phone calls have probably been around longer than any human being on earth. Who doesn’t love a good prank phone call? Well, bartenders, if TV is anything to judge reality by. And, one supposes, a great many victims of prank calls aren’t too crazy about them. One group of people who seem to have no problem with prank phone calls is TV writers. Either they enjoy a good prank call as much as the next person or they are using their power as writers to get even for a tortured childhood.
When it comes to memorable prank phone calls, “The Simpsons” retires as undisputed king. I say retires because the era of prank phone calls may be at an end thanks to the widespread caller ID on cell phones. Thank goodness “The Simpsons” first started airing back when pretty much every home used a phone that could not be so easily traced. Had the show started just a decade later later, we wouldn’t have the endless variety of Bart Simpson’s prank calls to Moe the bartender. All the classics are there: Al Kaholic, Amanda Huggenkiss and Jacques Strap just to name a few.
The Dick Van Dyke Show
But don’t go thinking that prank phone calls begin at Bart Simpson’s house and ends at Moe’s Tavern. Far from it. In fact, an entire episode of “The Dick Van Dyke” is constructed around an extended sequence prank phone call to Rob from one of Buddy’s comedian friends. The phone fun begins at the party when Buddy’s friend goes from calling another of his friends to calling Rob at home. And thus begins “The Impractical Joke” with Rob thinking the phone company has called to report a problem with his phone. The prank spirals increasingly out of control from having Rob unscrew the handset to the final moment when Rob realizes he’s been had when the person allegedly from the phone company asks him to put stuff into a bag and swing it over his head in order to fix his broken phone. The second half of the episode is all about Buddy acting paranoid that Rob is going to try getting him back with a prank of his own. I won’t give away the ending, but the prank eventually played on Buddy is not nearly as funny as the prank call.
The Regular Show
This bit of insanely surreal absurdist humor takes the concept of the prank phone call off into a direction you could only expect if you had watched other episodes. If you’ve ever wanted to watch fifteen minutes of a prank call war in a TV episode, then “Prank Callers” from “The Regular Show” should be nirvana for you.
Pee Wee’s Playhouse
Leave it to the resident troublemaker Randy to talk Pee Wee into making a prank phone call that goes horribly awry. Well, horribly within the morality of “Pee Wee’s Playhouse.” Things go well enough when Randy pulls off the old chestnut about asking whether a person’s refrigerator is running. But when he talks Pee Wee into doing it, the woman on the other end of the prank phone call takes offense and says she is going to get her husband. Who turned out to be a cop! Only Pee Wee Herman could make a message show about the dangers of prank calling funny.