The Jerky Story
On a frigid winter morning in 2013, Johnny Brennan stands in a midtown Manhattan office, shifting from side to side, ready to do something he hasn't done in nearly 20 years. It's something that once made him famous, something that made millions of people laugh. "I love pressure," he says, more than a hint of nervousness in his voice. He takes a sip from a bottle of water. "I love being under the gun." Brennan is here to make some calls; some very strange, very funny prank calls. The influence of the Jerky Boys' improvisational hilarity and genius conversational jujitsu kept going, penetrating deep into the culture, and shaping the approach of the likes of Bridesmaids director Paul Feig, rising-star comedienne Amy Schumer and Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane, all of whom were inspired by Brennan and Ahmed's decidedly nonironic style.
JohnnyBrennan - The man behind the calls that changed comedy and the creator of The Jerky Boys
But for a big chunk of his adult life, prank calling was Brennan's reason for being. Starting in the late Seventies, he would lie on the floor of his middle-class parents' living room in Queens, New York, holding the phone receiver close to a clunky tape recorder with the lights turned down low, and start dialing. "It's like meditation," he says about his old method. "If my eyes aren't distracted, I can see where [the call's] going to go." Even after getting a speakerphone – a mid-Eighties Christmas gift from his then-girlfriend, now-wife Allison – Brennan still made his calls on the floor, in the dark. In character, he'd talk circles around the pizza-parlor employees, construction-company foremen and other people unfortunate enough to answer their phone. It was a lot of "How do you say there, Bottlenose?"; "I need a lot of chickens"; "Bye bye, baby bitch."