Thursday, March 13, 2014

From Primetime to Daytime: Crank Yankers (2002)

We've all gotten crank phone calls. However, most of them are of the stupid kind, where the caller doesn't say anything and hangs up, leaving you hanging.

Then, there are the out-and-out pranks that were made popular with Bart Simpson's regular stunts on The Simpsons, and taken to an extreme by the Jerky Boys, whose feature film venture turned out to be a ginormous flop. Small wonder, then, that the Jerky Boys haven't been heard from since.

In 2002, comedians Adam Carolla & Jimmy Kimmel (ex-The Man Show) and producer Daniel Kellison decided to try their luck. Kimmel had also been a celebrity football handicapper on Fox NFL Sunday before landing his current ABC talk show, and Crank Yankers turned out to be his swan song at Comedy Central.

In all, Crank Yankers lasted five years, with reruns and some new episodes gravitating to sister network MTV2 in 2007. Carolla & Kimmel got some of their friends, such as Dave Chappelle and Sarah Silverman, both of whom would land their own series at Comedy Central as a result, and Denis Leary, to contribute, with the skits acted out by puppets. Perhaps the most popular puppet character was Special Ed, who appeared to be disabled, but had so much fun playing phone pranks. The exclamation, "Yay!", became his signature catchphrase.

Here, Ed bugs a record store owner about a particular song.

Comic Jim Florentine was the one speaking for Ed. Today, he's one of the co-hosts of VH1 Classic's That Metal Show. In addition to its night berth, Crank Yankers was repeated on Saturday mornings, hence its inclusion here, and likely to attract college or high school students who didn't have time to even tape the show at night.

I look at it this way. Some radio DJ's played phone pranks as part of the show (i.e. Todd Pettengill), but the mateial was just lame. Visualize it on TV, and it was a whole new ballgame. Too bad no one's got the stones to convince Viacom to put the show back on the air in reruns.

Rating: B.

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