About The Jerky Boys
The Jerky Boys
The Jerky Boys was a comic duo composed of two childhood friends from Queens, New York who made raunchy prank phone calls and recorded them. The routine was to make a prank call to unsuspecting victims, or in response to classified ads placed in local papers in New York. Each call features a character that was influenced by their family members. This act started with the young Johnny Brennan in 1989 when he started making prank calls and recorded them. Eventually, he teamed up with Kamal Ahmed, another prankster, and the duo was founded. The tandem went on for a decade until a conflict started to rip them apart. In time, the pair saw the departure of Ahmed who decided to call it quits and would later released a solo record in 2000. Undeterred, Brennan continued and became a solo act, using The Jerky Boys as his moniker before going on a hiatus after the 2001 release of The Jerky Tapes which was their last and final album. Laugh.com which is their current record label, said that the comic duo managed to sell more than 8 million copies since making their debut in 1993.
How it all started?
In the 70s, Brennan, a teenager from Queens began making his first prank calls and recorded them. Kamal, who is Johnny’s childhood friend, joined him somewhere between the late 80s to the early 90s. In their house in Queen’s New York, they started their vocal routine and other skit, making calls and recording them, and made a number of bootleg tapes, reproducing them and selling them to people and friends. New York-based radio personality, Howard Stern got a hand on one of their tapes and played them on air on his program, The Howard Stern Show, and the rest as they say is history.
In 1993, with their exposure that they had on Stern’s radio program, the two released their first album The Jerky Boys, and even topped the Billboard charts. At that time, the tandem did not have a name yet. When Johnny told his mother about this and their upcoming album, his mom suggested that they just call themselves “The Jerky Boys.” The album was a huge success that it went double platinum as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Their maiden album sold more than 500,000 copies, and their second album entitled: The Jerky Boys 2 made the same number just a couple of weeks after it was released. The two pranksters had to quit their day job (Brennan was working odd jobs at a construction site, spreading hot tar on apartment roofs in New York, while Ahmed was a bouncer) and even have to hire a manager, devoting 100% of their time in the business of annoying people.
The success that they had with their two albums, have ultimately caught the eye of Hollywood. In 1995, most of their fans saw their faces for the first time with the release of their own scripted movie, The Jerky Boys: The Movie. The film was produced by no other than Touchstone Pictures, and critics and filmgoers panned the movie universally. A critic from the New York Times had this to say about the duo’s first movie.
“As telephone guerrillas puncturing institutional defenses with their rude crank phone calls, the Jerky Boys have touched a nerve. The comic flailings of these self-described ‘lowlifes from Queens’ are comic cries of anger from a social stratum that looks ahead and sees only dead ends. Adopting funny voices and taping phone calls that make fools of their frequently snippy recipients is as efficient a way as any of momentarily leveling the social landscape.”
Undeterred, the two soldiered on and continued with what they do best, annoying people and released three more albums before the two went separate ways, with Ahmed trying to pursue his luck on filmmaking. In 1996, The Jerky Boys 3 was released followed by The Jerky Boys 4 in 1997. In 1999, Stop Staring at Me made the airwaves. Two years later, a collection of previously unheard calls, The Jerky Tapes was released but as a solo act.
Before the turn of the century, a tension between the two developed. Their relationship started to sour with Ahmed claiming that Johnny’s management allegedly kept advising him to be contended of being a sidekick. He added that the management even said that they tried to change him on several occasions. The last time that the two were together was during a record-store-signing session, just before Ahmed called it quits.
In 2000 the two appeared separately in the movie, Big Money Hustlas by Psychopathic Records. Ahmed and Brennan never shared even one scene on the movie as both were totally unable to get along with each other. Brennan acted a supporting role as a police chief while his erstwhile partner, Ahmed appeared in a cameo role as an audience member at a strip joint, Frank Kissel.
Ahmed eventually quit The Jerky Boys and released his solo album, Once a Jerk, Always a Jerk, in the same year.
Brennan who insists of owning the group’s name kept using The Jerky Boys, and in 2007, he even released Sol’s Rusty Trombone. Their website, www.thejerkeyboys.com, does not have the names Kamal, Ahmed or Kamal Ahmed on its “About” section. It does not specifically mention of his partner’s name especially when talking about the group’s history and recordings. On March 5, 2010, Brennan had two apps released The Jerky Boys Prank Caller and The Jerky Boys Pinball for the iPhone and iPod Touch platform. One year later, he started The jerky Boys Show with Johnny Brennan, a weekly podcast. Here he talked about the history of those prank calls, the characters and other skits. Here he also gave fans to speak to him directly. It ran for 17 episodes and abruptly ended November 2012. Brennan said that a subscription for new calls will be released every month, but this never materialized. He allegedly said that he has to discontinue his program as “there is no money in it.” In 2014, Brennan made a recorded prank calls for a Rolling Stone show.
For the duration of their act, the tandem had these regular characters which they mimic to pick on unsuspecting victims.
- Frank Rizzo: Johnny Brennan is the voice behind this foul-mouthed blue-collar Italian-American New Yorker. Frank usually had bizarre complaints and requests, and frequently curses at potential employer when asking about a job. He also accused the Mickey Mouse character at Disney World for allegedly molesting his kids.
- Sol Rosenberg: A typical frail, insecure Jew from the Big Apple, Sol would often seek treatment for a range of health problems that are usually comical and hilarious. This includes genital warts to fear from his own shadow.
- Tarbash, the Egyptian Magician – voice by Kamal, Tarbash is a Middle Eastern man who has a collection of risky stage tricks such as self mutilation or being attacked by wild animals.
- Ali Kamal – Also voiced by Ahmed, Ali is a Middle Eastern cab driver who was victimized by a dentist, assaulted and molested. He seeks help from a lawyer who specializes in “Dental Malpractice.” Once in a while, he would seek help from a lawyer after being beaten brutally by a tenant after delivering pizza to a wrong house.
- Jack Tor S – Brennan is the voice behind this flamboyant homosexual person who would, most of the time, take part in strange and bizarre sexual activities and looks for assistance and supplies for this. Brennan also portrayed Jack Tor S as a musician, catwalk model, casting director and a dancer.
- Frank Kissel – This character is voiced by Kamal. Kissel is a WWII vet and ex-singer in a wheelchair. He would be heard complaining about his wife or sometimes arguing with her. In the Insane Clown Posse and Big Money Hustlas, Kamal appeared as Kissel in full old-man make-up.
- Jocko Johnson: Sounds and behave like Frank Rizzo, this character wants the house of his wife torn down while she is out of town. Jocko accuses his wife of infidelity and his act is his wife’s punishment.
- Curly G., Cradle Rock: Kamal impersonates a throwback rapper. This character wants to catch a break as a rap artist.
Aside from these regular characters, the two pranksters also have other characters which they use from time to time. This include Bog Ole Badass Bob The Cattle Rustler, Sammy Cox, Mike Derucki, Harry Getzov, Jake, Frank Kissel’s son and wife Anthony Kissel and Martha Kissel, Nikos, Pico, Paul Rizzo who is an offshoot of Brennan’s mistake of saying Paul instead of Frank. They also have Rosine, a flamboyant transgendered Puerto Rican, and the fake sports agent, Silverman. They even named one character Brett Weir, who is Brennan’s brother-in-law.
The Legacy Continues
The downfall of The Jerky Boys was inevitable as the rift between the two continue to widen until they split up in 2000. And as newer comedy shows surface, their demise was somewhat timely. Jackass started to dominate the screen and prank calls seems to have lost its novelty as more and more phones have caller IDs. However, the legacy of The Jerky Boys continue even after they have drifted apart. Director Paul Feig, Amy Schumer and Seth MacFarlane openly admitted that the two served as an inspiration to them. MacFarlane even hired Brennan to voice the Mort Goldman and Horace the bartender in the Family Guy show.
Trey Parker shouted “Hey! You can’t do that, Jerky!” at the near end of movie Cannibal! The Musical. George Michael also tried to imitate the two by placing his own prank calls. In his parody show, Comic Peter Kay included a version of the Free Nelson Mandela song by the two comedians. The Tandem was also referenced on two episodes of How I met your Mother, wherein the character mistakenly played a track instead of a classical music. Radiohead’s Pablo Honey is referenced to the two 90s star where they said “Pablo, honey? Please come to Florida!” to their unsuspecting victim. The Jerky Boys were also referenced in a TV series Fresh Off the Boat when one character offers the CD’s that belong to her ex-boyfriend. The Comedy Central TV also manifests how the tandem made an impact in the comedy business.
Today one can still access or see their work on social media like www.youtube.com or on their website www.TheJerkyBoysStore.com. Reunion may not happen anytime soon for this two pranksters. The two haven’t talked to each other since their split up.