The Jerky Boys’ Johnny Brennan Is Back to Sell You a Piano
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast/Photos by Jerky BoysThe guy on the phone is trying to buy a piano. He’s a 55-year-old Staten Island man calling about an ad for a vintage grand. On the call, he’s energetic, gregarious, and prone to laughter–which is good, because the salesman, prank-caller Johnny Brennan of the Jerky Boys, has veered off-topic, away from thousand-dollar instruments and onto what he calls his “Terminal Groove” class: a hybrid of bikram and goat yoga, that involves stretching at 110-degree temperatures surrounded by hot goats in total silence. Raised voices or screaming, he explains, can cause the animals to collapse and go into cardiac arrest. “I’m an animal lover,” Brennan rasps. “But you know, everybody’s gotta make money. These goats gotta help out a little. They gotta pitch in.”It’s been almost seven years since Brennan made a prank call, but more like 25 years since he hit the phones in earnest. Back in the 1990s, Brennan and his partner, Kamal Ahmed, made a living doing what Bart Simpson did for free: calling up strangers in the New York area, posing as one of a small cast of characters–caustic pseudo-mobster Frank Rizzo, inept magician Tarbash, or in this case, hypochondriacal Sol Rosenberg–and gabbing until the stranger hung up, or they did, or both. For half a decade, the Jerky Boys went about as far as crank calls can get you. Howard Stern played their bootlegs; their first two albums went double platinum; they starred in a movie with Alan Arkin and Vincent Pastore. But in 2000, after some intra-Jerky Boy tension, Ahmed quit. Each one tried to go solo; nothing stuck. The piracy of the dot-com boom killed commercial prank calls. The joke was, more or less, over.Over, at least, until Black Friday, when Brennan dropped his first album of original prank calls since 1999. The self-titled record arrived after a minor resurgence of interest in the Jerky Boys’ work, born partly out of ’90s nostalgia, partly out of the ubiquity of YouTube. “The internet clobbered the record business 20-some-odd years ago,” Brennan said. “And now the internet is back again and in a good way, spreading everything that I've ever done.” Otherwise, little in the Jerky Boy universe seems to have changed. The technology is different–Brennan had to rig a Samsung Note so it recorded both sides of every call; and Ahmed, with whom Brennan hasn’t had contact in decades, never appears. But aside from a few new characters, the album plays like a time capsule–picking up with old personalities like they’d never left. “Once you get going, it just flows,” Brennan said. “I wasn't looking to compete with myself. I just wanted to let the characters flow.”Read more at The Daily Beast.