Best Of Crank Yankers
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Best Of Crank Yankers

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The Comedy Central cable network had its humble beginnings back in 1989. Then the programming was mostly less than recent comedy flicks and half hour shows featuring cleansed versions of HBO comedy specials. Then they started with some original programming. The change was slow at first with series like Bill Maher’s ‘Politically Incorrect’ but the proverbial die was cast. Soon series like ‘South Park’ started to appear and the family friendly network was becoming more cutting-edge. This was most apparent with their programming in the later hours of prime time and their over night shows. Now they even have completely uncensored comedy special presented after 1AM. One of the strangest most bizarre series the network has ever carried was ‘Crank Yankers’ It featured real prank phone calls where the people on both sides were played by puppets. Now these are not the kind of puppets we remember from our youth. They are disgusting, rude and generally socially unacceptable. In other words funny, at least funny by the standards of the typical eight year old boy. Since that wicked little boy lurks in the core of most of us the series was met with some degree of success. You may not speak about the most recent episode in public where anybody can hear you but while kicking back with some friends you could admit to this as a guilty pleasure.

Like its brother series ‘South Park’ this one does it’s very best to insult every conceivable group possible, no matter what race, religion or sexual orientation. Comedy Central, along with parent company Paramount has been releasing DVD season sets but now there is the ‘Best of’ compilation. Like the other DVD releases this one is uncensored. Every dirty word is left un-bleeped. Obviously this is not something for the whole family. Wait until the kids are over at Grandma’s before you pop this one into the player. The idea for the series came from the twisted and demented minds of Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel from the equally raunchy ‘Man Show’. Consider that series had alcohol openly served to the host, guests and audience there is a better than average chance that copious quantities of libation were instrumental to the creation of ‘Crank Yankers’. Basically this is a series that recreates the teen sleepover favorite of making crank calls to strangers. This was, of course, before the technological advances like Star-69 and caller ID. A puerile comedy duo, the Jerky Boys, made crank calling into an art form. This was part of the motivation for most places to outlaw the practice. One location remains safe for the budding caller, Las Vegas, Nevada. The cast and crew of the series had to move there to make sure they didn’t wind up with a ton of fines and some possible jail time. There you do not need the permission of both parties to record a phone call. The calls are made and recorded. Apparently some effort was made to obtain the permission of the hapless victims. The calls are obviously made without the recipient’s knowledge. The bits are infantile and inane but as noted funny to that preteen in all of us. The calls are not scripted. The callers improvise based on the response of the victims.

The series is set in the fictional town of ‘Yankerville’. It seemingly is populated by the most obscene group of puppets imaginable. They sort of look like Jin Hanson’s famous Muppets but there are the ones that were banished from Sesame Street probably for lewd and obscene behavior. There is a regular group of revolving characters that make the calls. Each one seems to target a particular group of people. One of the ones that many people find the most upsetting is ‘Special Ed’, voiced by Jim Florentine. This persona is one of a mentally impaired teenager who tends to repeat things and shout ‘Yaaaahh’. He also is always seen with a protective helmet on his head. In one bit he calls a travel agency to book a trip to Hawaii. The poor travel agent tries his best to help but since Ed can’t form a coherent sentence it is impossible. Another regular is Gladys Murphy (Wanda Sykes). She is an African-American woman with too many unruly children. She also has one of the dirtiest mouths of any of the Yankers. Most of her off hand comments tends to be scatological or sexual in nature. She can make a simple call to a towing service into something juvenile. In one case she complains about excrement in her backseat. She threatens to come over there and take a dump in their shops. The men in the shop do have a good laugh at her call though. Spoonie Luv (Tracy Morgan) is a black man with little other than sex on his mind. He can make any call seem like it is coming from a sex chat phone line. Another one of the most disturbing characters is Niles Standish (Tony Barbieri). This persona is one of an English earl with a large perverted streak and definite homoerotic tendencies. Hadassah Guberman (Sarah Silverman) is a college student who conducts surveys supposedly for ‘O’ magazine. Her questions go as far beyond the line of good taste as possible. In contrast to the brash Hadassah is Lisa (Lisa Kushell) who brings being an air-headed teenaged girl to an art form. She can exasperate any help line person in the world with her inane stupidity. There is even a married couple set of Yankers. Elmer Higgins (Jimmy Kimmel) is a 92 year old World War II vet with the annoying predisposition of going off to unrelated side conversations. His wife, Helen Higgins (Susie Essman) is of the same age with a liking for making lewd comments to young men. The public’s willingness to do things for celebrities is vital to the bits featuring Terrence Catheter (Jimmy Kimmel). His is a feminine man who calls on behalf of stars ranging from Tom Cruise to the Olsen twins. Without a doubt the grossest character is Danny (David Alan Grier) who emits incredible streams of vomit when he gets excited. The quantity spewed could fill a bath tub.

The 58 bits are short but the entire disc contains some three hours of them. Even for a true fan this may be a bit too much at a single setting. One way that you can maximize the enjoyment is to set your DVD player to random chapter selection and watch a number of them. This would be perfect for an after dinner, adult dinner that is, viewing. Paramount has chosen a representative bunch of bits here. Just make sure any friends you invite over to watch are extremely open minded. Paramount does provide a wide range of bits in this DVD. The term ‘Best of’ is relative here, ‘Grossest’ might have been a better adjective. If you were a fan of the series this is the DVD for you.

Posted 11/22/07

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