Twisted Phone Lines
The Jerky Boys are really two New Yorkers—John Brennun, 31, and Kamal, 27, his one-name-only sidekick—who started making prank calk seven years ago and taping the results for their friends. Select Records got wind of the tapes and compiled them in an album. The Jerky BOYS, which came out in March. With sales approaching 200,000, it's now No. 99 on the Billboard album, chart.
Most of the album's 21 calls, laced with profanity and often very funny routines, feature Brennan responding to classified ads and then abusing whoever answers the phone. Kamal specializes in passing himself off as a hapless immigrant with an incomprehensible accent. "Hello, my name is Tarbash the Egyptian magician," he tells the manager of a nightclub. "What I do I eat hot coal. I stab customer in eye with saber."
The Jerky Boys are quick to defend themselves against the charge that their art is dangerously close to harassment. They never call the same person more than once, and they always call in response to an ad. "They made the ad public; they made themselves public," Brennan, a former construction worker, of his targets. "All we're doing is inquiring." Because the taping of a phone conversation by either party in a call is legal in the state of New York, Brennan and kamal, a onetime cook, aren't subject to invasion-of-privacy suits. Still, the record company has obtained releases from several of the Jerkys' victims.
With the popularity of this first album, the Jerky Boss, of course, plan to release another, in October. So don't call them. They'll call you.