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Crank Yankers is an American television show produced by Adam Carolla, Jimmy Kimmel and Daniel Kellison that featured actual crank calls made by show regulars and celebrity guests, and re-enacted onscreen by puppets for a visual aid to show the viewer what is happening in the call. The show premiered in 2002 on Comedy Central and returned to MTV2 on February 9, 2007, running again until March 30, 2007. The show screened in Australia on SBS Television and The Comedy Channel between 2003 and 2008.
Behind the scenes
The performers are given a basic outline of a premise by the writers, and call telephone numbers from a list of selected targets (known as "marks"). Using the basic premises, the performers improvise most of their lines, playing off of the responses of their marks, with the intention to keep them on the phone as long as possible.
With the exception of a few outside sources (including previous material from Jim Florentine and the Touch-Tone Terrorists), all the calls are made from Nevada. The Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 makes it illegal in most states to record telephone calls without both parties' consent. Under Nevada law, only one of the parties has to give consent (i.e., the caller), so prank calls can be recorded without the consent of the prank victims. One result of this was the series' schedule of creating and airing new episodes was fairly sporadic due to most of the celebrities living in Los Angeles, having Los Angeles-based jobs, and so were only periodically able to go to Las Vegas to make calls. Adam Carolla, for example, took his radio program to Las Vegas once or twice a year, and while there would record new calls for the program.
The puppets are then constructed based on the various marks' voices, and, along with a series of stock characters (such as "Niles Standish", "Bobby Fletcher", and "Special Ed") based on the performers' character voices, the calls are re-enacted for the skits.
The main character puppets for first season were constructed by Bob Flanagan's company Den Design with additional puppets built by BJ Guyer, Carol Binion, Rick Lyon, Ron Binion, Jim Kroupa, and Artie Esposito. An in-house puppet shop was set up for the following seasons to accommodate the fast paced schedule of the show and the sheer volume of puppet characters required for each episode.
The puppets are puppeteered by Ronald Binion, Rick Lyon, BJ Guyer, Victor Yerrid, Paul McGinnis, Alice Dinean Vernon, and Artie Esposito. 
Originally the show was titled 'Prank Puppets' but was renamed after Comedy Central lawyers deemed that it implied malice.
- Karl Malone Jimmy Kimmel's impression of then NBA star Karl Malone
- Gladys Murphy (Wanda Sykes) – A boisterous black woman who makes embarrassing announcements, generally of a scatological or sexual nature. Her many children are very mischievous, going so far as to glue her buttocks to the toilet and stealing money from a malfunctioning bank machine.
- Niles Standish (Tony Barbieri) – A British Earl, he is a rich and eccentric middle-aged pervert with homosexual tendencies. He frequently calls various services and asks for their price, then orders them to "double it." (Once even confusing someone by telling them to "cut it in half, and double it!").
- Special Ed (Jim Florentine) – A "challenged" 16-year-old who constantly repeats himself, makes random comments and shouts "Yay!" (his catchphrase) until the other caller gets frustrated. He is also Bobby Fletcher's younger cousin, and even makes a cameo in one prank call by his older cousin, known as the "Let Me Put My Brother on the Phone" call. In two prank calls of his own (one to a movie theater and one to a video store), Ed reveals that his favorite movie is Air Bud. In the video store call, he works in several references to The Shining in addition to his usual bit.
- Dick Birchum (Adam Carolla) – A 62-year-old psychotic Vietnam War veteran, whose hobbies include carpentry, Shotokan karate, spying on women in their beds or bathrooms by drilling holes or a hidden camera and gun ownership. He has a 600-pound wife, conjoined twin daughters and is missing part of his right leg (which he lost in the war) and three fingers on his right hand (a carpentry accident). He frequently refers to his time spent in Vietnam and "smoking hash out of a human skull."
- Jimmy (Jimmy Kimmel) – A grown man who lives with his mother, who is after Jimmy Kimmel himself. He also has two young children (voiced by Kimmel's own kids) who make juvenile pranks and use foul language.
- Bobby Fletcher (Jim Florentine) – An under-achieving drug user who is Ed's older cousin. He is extremely rude and insulting, and is known for generating copious amounts of gas which he loudly burps into the phone.
- Elmer Higgins (Jimmy Kimmel) – A crabby, long-winded stereotype of an elderly man, often calling people to complain about things. He frequently goes off on unrelated and long-winded tangents about his younger days and various irrelevant subjects. He also frequently blames or relates the situations with his gay grandson. He is based on Kimmel's real-life grandfather; he and Helen have been married over 60 years.
- Helen Higgins (Susie Essman) – Elmer's wife, she is an elderly Jewish woman who likes to proposition young men. She also has a pet parrot her son gave to her, who is well-versed in curse words. She would die later in the series, mentioned in a sketch where Elmer wants to take driving lessons.
- Landalious "The Truth" Truefeld (David Alan Grier) – A former football player who likes to rap.
- Spoonie Luv (Tracy Morgan) – A smooth-talking, African American hip hop-type character who makes lewd and suggestive comments. He often refers to himself as "Spoonie Luv from Up Above." In one particularly noteworthy prank call, he calls up a video store and attempts to sell videos of himself masturbating.
- Hadassah Guberman (Sarah Silverman) – A Jewish female college student who works various part-time jobs, including conducting surveys for O magazine. She frequently asks intrusive questions and makes veiled passive-aggressive insults. Her sexuality, as well as her sanity, seem questionable at times.
- Terrence Catheter (Jimmy Kimmel) – An effeminate, red-headed man who acts as spokesperson for various celebrities, such as Tom Cruise, Bill Cosby, Jared Fogle, J.K. Rowling, Mr. T, and the Olsen twins. He calls various places of business to book appearances and asks them to comply with the celebrities' ridiculous demands. Terrence is Elmer's grandson.
- Tony Deloge (Bob Einstein) – A loud-mouthed, fast-paced politician who calls people at random to pander for votes as "district selectman." He also occasionally tries to use his political power to get things for free.
- Cammie Smith (Lisa Kushell) – An oversexed, conceited and condescending 22-year-old exotic dancer.
- Boomer and the Nudge (Jimmy Kimmel and Patton Oswalt) – Two obnoxious morning radio disc jockeys who call people to make "on-air dares."
- Junkyard Willie (Touch-Tone Terrorists) – An obstructionist in the form of a gravely-voiced black man who is actually an import from the Touch-Tone Terrorists where he is a regular character. He appears in two sketches where he is a supervisor at YPS ("Yankerville Package Service").
- Sav Macauley (Dane Cook) – He is the overly enthusiastic host of a phone game show called "The Phone Zone" where he calls people and asks ridiculous random trivia questions for cash prizes and interjects his own sound effects.
- OCD Ken (Kevin Nealon) – An accountant with obsessive-compulsive disorder who prefers cleanliness and even numbers. He often requests people to press the pound key as a part of his disorder.
- Danny (David Alan Grier) – A man who repeatedly gets nervous or disgusted causing him to vomit over the phone. The vomit is depicted as an Exorcist-like liquid shooting out of the puppet's throat.
- Chip Douglas (Fred Armisen) – A Mexican immigrant who is perpetually building a house with minimal supplies and poor command of the English language. He makes two prank calls to newspaper offices, one to attempt to sell cartoons and the other (a prank call in Spanish) to inform a Spanish-language newspaper that he has not received his paper that day.
- Katie (Katie Kimmel) – Jimmy Kimmel's daughter made occasional appearances from 2003, initially with only a few short lines but later making entire crank calls herself (notably pretending to be drunken 9-year-old trying to order alcohol over the phone).
- Kevin (Kevin Kimmel) – Jimmy Kimmel's son made occasional appearances from 2003, including as Elmer Higgins' grandson.
- Foreign Guy (Dane Cook) – A nameless immigrant who calls various places looking for assistance or to purchase something. To confuse the person he calls, he frequently switches between speaking in extremely broken English in a very hard to comprehend accent to speaking the language fluently, without any accent. The switch is demonstrated visually by having the puppet move between the two halves of a room across a clear dividing line.
- Gene Winterbuck (Dane Cook) – A young man who uses a wheelchair and calls libraries requesting books with titles referring to disabilities, such as "Johnny NoodleLegs".
Chief artists working for the show include:
- Xavier Corby
- Chris Davis
- Todd Hulin
- Shane Klein
- David Kolodny-Nagy
- Dutch Merrick
- Kristie Moore
- Brook Shafer
- Jason Tyne
- Mark Walbaum
|DVD Name||Release Date||Ep #||Additional Information|
|Season 1 Uncensored||September 28, 2004||10||"Dial 'T' for Torment: Mini-Documentary, Two Unaired Calls.|
|Season 2 Volume 1 Uncensored||April 26, 2005||15||Unaired Calls.|
|Season 2 Volume 2 Uncensored||November 29, 2005||15||4 exclusive audio calls from Fred Armisen, Eminem, Jim Florentine, and Jimmy Kimmel.|
|The Best of Crank Yankers||December 4, 2007||N/A||Includes 60 favorite calls.|
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 1 (2002)
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 2 (2002)
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 3 (2003)