Crank Yankers (2002–2021)
Crank Yankers is an American television show produced by Adam Carolla, Jimmy Kimmel, and Daniel Kellison that features 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.
On February 11, 2019, Jimmy Kimmel announced on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that the show would be revived on Comedy Central for a fifth 20-episode season and mark the first project on Kimmel's new Kimmelot production imprint. The new season will include pranks on social media and other platforms. Kimmel's brother Jonathan Kimmel will serve as showrunner and executive producer. Season 5 premiered on September 25, 2019.
On March 5, 2020, Comedy Central announced Crank Yankers had been renewed for a 20-episode sixth season.
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. 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 puppet designs were drawn by artist Todd James before being 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 the 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 Ron Binion, Rick Lyon, BJ Guyer, Victor Yerrid, Paul McGinnis, Alice Dinnean-Vernon and Artie Esposito.
Originally, the show was titled Prank Puppets; it was renamed after Comedy Central lawyers deemed that it implied malice.
- Karl Malone (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel): Kimmel's impression of then-NBA star Karl Malone. He regularly refers to himself in the third-person. "Don't hang up on Karl Malone."
- Gladys Murphy (voiced by Wanda Sykes): A boisterous black woman who makes embarrassing announcements, generally of a scatological or sexual nature. Her many children do things like gluing her buttocks to the toilet and stealing money from a malfunctioning bank machine.
- Niles Standish (voiced by Tony Barbieri): The British Earl of Yankerville, 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!"). He has an assistant named Cavendish.
- Giles Standish (voiced by Tony Barbieri): Niles' deformed twin brother.
- Special Ed (voiced by Jim Florentine): Bobby Fletcher's mentally challenged younger cousin who constantly repeats himself, makes random comments and shouts his catchphrase "Yay!" until the other caller gets frustrated. He makes a cameo in one of Bobby's prank calls, "Let Me Put My Brother on the Phone". In two prank calls of his own (one to a movie theater and one to a video store), Ed reveals that his favorite film is Air Bud. In the video-store call, he works in several references to The Shining. Ed is not present in the 2019 revival due to the character being deemed too offensive for modern audiences (he also was pulled for his resembelance to SuperMarioLogan character Jeffy).
- Dick Birchum (voiced by Adam Carolla): A 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, a large 8-year-old son, and conjoined twin daughters. He lost part of his right leg in the war and 3 right-hand fingers in a carpentry accident. He frequently refers to his time in Vietnam and "smoking hash out of a human skull".
- Jimmy (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel): A Kimmel-based grown man who lives with his mother. He also has two young children who swear and play juvenile pranks.
- Bobby Fletcher (voiced by Jim Florentine): Ed's stoner underachieving older cousin. He is known to belch uncontrollably into the phone, which he uses to his advantage in order to annoy the victims of his prank calls.
- Elmer Higgins (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel): A crabby, elderly man (based on Kimmel's grandfather). He makes complaint calls and frequently goes off on unrelated, long-winded tangents about his younger days and various irrelevant subjects. He sometimes mentions his brother Charlie, as well as his gay grandson, Terrence Catheter.
- Helen Higgins (voiced by Susie Essman): Elmer's beautiful wife of over 60 years, she is an elderly woman who likes to proposition young men. Her son gave her a pet parrot who is well-versed in profanity. In a late-in-the-series sketch about Elmer wanting driving lessons, he mentions that she has died.
- Landalious "The Truth" Truefeld (voiced by David Alan Grier): A former football player who likes to rap.
- Spoonie Luv (voiced by 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 attempts to sell a video store tapes of himself masturbating.
- Hadassah Guberman (voiced by 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 and sanity seem highly questionable.
- Terrence Catheter (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel): Elmer Higgins' grandson is an effeminate redhead 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.
- Tony Deloge (voiced by Bob Einstein): A loud-mouthed, fast-paced politician who calls random people to pander for votes as "district selectman". He occasionally tries to use his political power to get things for free.
- Cammie Smith (voiced by Lisa Arch): A nymphomaniac, she is a somewhat conceited, condescending 23-year-old exotic dancer.
- Boomer and the Nudge (voiced by Jimmy Kimmel and Patton Oswalt): Two obnoxious morning-radio disc jockeys who call people to make "on-air dares".
- Junkyard Willie (voiced by the Touch-Tone Terrorists): An obstructionist in the form of a gravelly-voiced black man who is actually an import from the Touch-Tone Terrorists where he is a regular character. He appears in two sketches as a supervisor at YPS ("Yankerville Package Service").
- Jim Bob the Handicapped Hillbilly (voiced by the Touch-Tone Terrorists): A mentally challenged hillbilly who works with Junkyard Willie at YPS.
- Sav Macauley (voiced by Dane Cook): The overly enthusiastic host of a phone game show, "The Phone Zone", where he calls people and asks ridiculous random trivia questions for cash prizes and interjects his own sound effects.
- OCD Ken (voiced by Kevin Nealon): An accountant with obsessive-compulsive disorder who prefers cleanliness and even numbers. He often requests people to press the pound key as part of his disorder.
- Danny (voiced by 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 (voiced by 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 that day's edition.
- Katie (voiced by Katie Kimmel): Kimmel's then-12-year-old daughter made occasional appearances from 2003, initially with a few short lines but later making entire crank calls herself (notably pretending to be a drunken 9-year-old trying to order alcohol by phone).
- Kevin (voiced by Kevin Kimmel): Kimmel's then-10-year-old son made occasional appearances from 2003, including as Elmer Higgins' great-grandson.
- Foreign Guy (voiced by Dane Cook): A nameless immigrant who calls various places looking for assistance or to purchase something.
- Gene Winterbuck (voiced by Dane Cook): A paraplegic young man, who calls libraries requesting books with titles referring to disabilities in an offensive manner, such as "Johnny NoodleLegs".
- Lou Vilman (voiced by Kevin Nealon): An easily impressed guy who responds "Wow!" to everything.
- Dick Rogers (voiced by Seth MacFarlane): He will often call to complain about issues that would make someone from the 1940s uncomfortable, such as being hit on by men at a gay bar or getting a haircut from a female hairdresser. He also calls the YMCA for help with his alcohol problem.
- The Concierge (voiced by Tony Barbieri): A hotel concierge who calls guests informing them of issues with their room or the building and offering them little compensation, or otherwise inconveniencing their stay.
In 2011, there was a pilot for a traditionally-animated spinoff called Birchum featuring Dick Birchum as the main character. He was redesigned to look younger and had a mustache. The pilot was made for FOX, but was not picked up as a series.
The voices of the characters are provided by:
Chief artists working for the show include:
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||10||June 2, 2002||August 4, 2002|
|2||30||March 4, 2003||April 13, 2004|
|3||22||July 20, 2004||March 30, 2005|
|4||8||February 9, 2007||March 30, 2007|
|5||20||September 25, 2019||June 3, 2020|
Season 1 (2002)
|Title||Original air date|
|1||1||"Wu-Tang Clan"||June 2, 2002|
|2||2||"Denis Leary & Sarah Silverman"||June 9, 2002|
|3||3||"Jimmy Kimmel & Wanda Sykes"||June 16, 2002|
|4||4||"Tracy Morgan & Wanda Sykes"||June 23, 2002|
|5||5||"David Alan Grier & Dave Attell"||June 30, 2002|
|6||6||"Susie Essman & Jim Florentine"||July 7, 2002|
|7||7||"Sarah Silverman & Tracy Morgan"||July 14, 2002|
|8||8||"Kevin Nealon & Super Dave Osborne"||July 21, 2002|
|9||9||"Jimmy Kimmel & Adam Carolla"||July 28, 2002|
|10||10||"Dane Cook & Sarah Silverman"||August 4, 2002|
Season 2 (2003–04)
|Title||Original air date|
|11||1||"Jimmy Kimmel & Sarah Silverman"||March 4, 2003|
|12||2||"Wanda Sykes & Robert Schimmel"||March 11, 2003|
|13||3||"Snoop Dogg & Kevin Nealon"||March 18, 2003|
|14||4||"Jeff Garlin & Gilbert Gottfried"||March 25, 2003|
|15||5||"Fred Armisen & Kevin Nealon"||April 1, 2003|
|16||6||"Wanda Sykes & Bobcat Goldthwait"||April 8, 2003|
|17||7||"Adam Carolla & Jim Florentine"||April 15, 2003|
|18||8||"Adam Carolla & Dr. Drew Pinsky"||April 22, 2003|
|19||9||"Jimmy Kimmel & David Alan Grier"||April 29, 2003|
|20||10||"Fred Armisen & Sarah Silverman"||May 6, 2003|
|21||11||"Jimmy Kimmel & Fred Armisen"||September 16, 2003|
|22||12||"Wanda Sykes & Kevin Nealon"||September 23, 2003|
|23||13||"Adam Carolla & Kevin Kimmel"||September 30, 2003|
|24||14||"Jimmy Kimmel & Gilbert Gottfried"||October 7, 2003|
|25||15||"David Alan Grier & Super Dave Osborne"||October 14, 2003|
|26||16||"Robert Smigel & Wanda Sykes"||October 21, 2003|
|27||17||"David Alan Grier & Jeff Garlin"||October 28, 2003|
|28||18||"Jimmy Kimmel & Adam Carolla"||November 4, 2003|
|29||19||"Bob Odenkirk & Fred Armisen"||November 11, 2003|
|30||20||"Jim Florentine & Kathy Griffin"||November 18, 2003|
|31||21||"Sarah Silverman & David Alan Grier"||February 10, 2004|
|32||22||"Kevin Nealon & Wanda Sykes"||February 17, 2004|
|33||23||"Jamie Kennedy & David Alan Grier"||February 24, 2004|
|34||24||"Wanda Sykes & Kevin Nealon"||March 2, 2004|
|35||25||"Adam Carolla & David Alan Grier"||March 9, 2004|
|36||26||"Sarah Silverman & Jeff Goldblum"||March 16, 2004|
|37||27||"Seth Green & Jamie Kennedy"||March 23, 2004|
|38||28||"Wanda Sykes & Adam Carolla"||March 30, 2004|
|39||29||"Kevin Nealon & Sarah Silverman"||April 6, 2004|
|40||30||"Jimmy Kimmel & Fred Armisen"||April 13, 2004|
Season 3 (2004–05)
|Title||Original air date|
|41||1||"Ludacris & Drew Carey"||July 20, 2004|
|42||2||"Tracy Morgan & Adam Carolla"||July 27, 2004|
|43||3||"Andy Richter & Sarah Silverman"||August 3, 2004|
|44||4||"Jimmy Kimmel & Adam Carolla"||August 10, 2004|
|45||5||"Jimmy Kimmel & Kevin Nealon"||August 17, 2004|
|46||6||"Wanda Sykes & Kevin Nealon"||August 24, 2004|
|47||7||"Bob Odenkirk & Adam Carolla"||August 31, 2004|
|48||8||"Ludacris & Kevin Nealon"||September 7, 2004|
|49||9||"Eminem & Tracy Morgan"||September 14, 2004|
|50||10||"Jack & Sharon Osbourne"||September 21, 2004|
|51||11||"Holiday Special"||December 21, 2004|
|52||12||"Drew Carey & Jeff Goldblum"||January 12, 2005|
|53||13||"Wanda Sykes & Sarah Silverman"||January 19, 2005|
|54||14||"Tracy Morgan & Jimmy Kimmel"||February 2, 2005|
|55||15||"Jason Schwartzman & David Alan Grier"||February 9, 2005|
|56||16||"Adam Carolla & David Alan Grier"||February 16, 2005|
|57||17||"Tracy Morgan & Jimmy Kimmel"||February 23, 2005|
|58||18||"Wanda Sykes & Kevin Nealon"||March 2, 2005|
|59||19||"Bob Odenkirk & Tracy Morgan"||March 9, 2005|
|60||20||"Dane Cook & Kevin Nealon"||March 16, 2005|
|61||21||"Best-of Special 1"||March 23, 2005|
|62||22||"Best-of Special 2"||March 30, 2005|
Season 4 (2007)
|Title||Original air date|
|63||1||"Lil Jon & Sarah Silverman"||February 9, 2007|
|64||2||"Jimmy Kimmel & Steve-O"||February 16, 2007|
|65||3||"Dane Cook & Chamillionaire"||February 23, 2007|
|66||4||"Good Charlotte & Lil Jon"||March 2, 2007|
|67||5||"Dave Chappelle & Seth Green"||March 9, 2007|
|68||6||"Andy Milonakis & Ryan Dunn"||March 16, 2007|
|69||7||"Adam Carolla & Dane Cook"||March 23, 2007|
|70||8||"Jimmy Kimmel & Nick Cannon"||March 30, 2007|
Season 5 (2019–20)
|Title||Original air date||U.S. viewers|
|71||1||"Tracy Morgan, Adam Carolla & Aubrey Plaza"||September 25, 2019||0.482|
|72||2||"Jimmy Kimmel, Kathy Griffin & Jeff Ross"||October 2, 2019||0.366|
|73||3||"Sarah Silverman, Abbi Jacobson & Will Forte"||October 9, 2019||0.380|
|74||4||"Jimmy Kimmel, Tracy Morgan & David Alan Grier"||October 16, 2019||0.409|
|75||5||"Sarah Silverman, Tiffany Haddish & Kevin Nealon"||October 30, 2019||0.364|
|76||6||"David Alan Grier, Will Forte & Chelsea Peretti"||November 6, 2019||0.397|
|77||7||"Tiffany Haddish, Roy Wood Jr. & Thomas Lennon"||November 13, 2019||0.358|
|78||8||"Wanda Sykes, Nick Kroll & Tracy Morgan"||November 27, 2019||0.305|
|79||9||"Adam Carolla, David Koechner & Natasha Leggero"||December 4, 2019||0.368|
|80||10||"Bobby Brown, Wanda Sykes & Kathy Griffin"||December 11, 2019||0.352|
|81||11||"Jimmy Kimmel, Sarah Silverman & Nikki Glaser"||April 1, 2020||0.269|
|82||12||"Aubrey Plaza, Ron Funches & Derek Waters"||April 8, 2020||0.327|
|83||13||"Tracy Morgan, Kevin Nealon & Adam Carolla"||April 15, 2020||0.321|
|84||14||"Chelsea Peretti, Derek Waters & Aubrey Plaza"||April 22, 2020||0.272|
|85||15||"Jeff Ross, Tracy Morgan & Roy Wood Jr."||April 29, 2020||0.173|
|86||16||"Wanda Sykes, David Alan Grier & Abbi Jacobson"||May 6, 2020||0.220|
|87||17||"Kevin Nealon, Jimmy Kimmel & Paul Scheer"||May 13, 2020||0.187|
|88||18||"Brian Posehn, Nick Kroll & David Alan Grier"||May 20, 2020||0.199|
|89||19||"Adam Carolla, Iliza Shlesinger & Demetri Martin"||May 27, 2020||0.236|
|90||20||"Nikki Glaser, Jimmy Kimmel & Tracy Morgan"||June 3, 2020||0.215|
|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 - Uncensored||December 4, 2007||N/A||Includes 58 favorite calls.|
There are currently no plans for a DVD release for seasons 3 & 4, aka the MTV2 season of Crank Yankers.
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 1 (2002)
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 2 (2002)
- The Best Uncensored Crank Calls, Volume 3 (2003)