Busting Balls (bust-ing bols) v. 1. Slang. To jerk somebody’s chain. 2. Making somebody go crazy. (see The Jerky Boys)
If you own or operate a business and you get a call from a neurotic cat named Sol Rosenberg, you are better off hanging up. Sol isn’t all the Jerky Boys have up their sleeves. Their characters range from the tough-guy Frank Rizzo, who will threaten to come over and choke your silly ass, to a gay man named Jack Tors who might inquire as to whether you have helium balloons just because he likes to ‘suck dat shit.’
The two characters behind the characters are John Brennan, or Johnny, and Kamal. The story goes that John once upon a time bought a speakerphone and made a few calls to buy a pickup truck. What happened after that was the irresistible force of busting people’s balls. He began playing his pranks for friends and family. Kamal, who was a friend of Johnny, began to get in on it.
Since the first prank, the Jerky Boys have released five albums. Their latest, Stop Staring At Me , might just be their funniest to date. I was lucky enough to catch up to them while they were in Chicago. The only problem was that we ended up doing a phone interview. I should have realized what I was getting myself into. But it was too late. The phone rang.
Kamal was ready to get down to business, or so it would seem, but Johnny began fucking with me from beginning. I have a good sense of humor, so I didn’t mind if the joke was on me.
“Hello?” rang one of the twos voices in a very feminine pitch.
“Can you hear me?” asked Kamal.
“Yeah” I replied. “Can you hear me?”
“I don’t hear you that well,” Kamal began tossing me around.
“Is it good now?” I continued.
“Yeah, I can hear you now. John is on the other line too,” Kamal noted.
I began, or attempted to begin, my interview. John sat hiding in the background repeating “hello?” in a voice that sounded like that phobic Sol Rosenberg. And he began to ask, “Is my father there?” I couldn’t help but laugh. I had a live version of the Jerky Boys, only now I was wondering if I would end up on their sixth album.
o are you guys excited about the new album?
Kamal: Yeah, very excited. This is the fifth one. It’s like more than four and less than six. What do you think of it?
I think it’s hilarious.
Kamal: Why don’t you like it?
I said it’s hilarious.
Kamal: Oh. I thought you said ‘to buy it you’d have to be delirious.’
Okay, Kamal was reaching on that joke attempt, but John kept cracking me up in the background. It was becoming impossible to react to the two of them taking me from both sides. I pushed on.
John: (in character, talking like an old New Yorker with a load in his mouth) Oh boy. Oh Christ. I don’t hear anybody on the line.
Kamal: So are you from Chicago?
Kamal: Really? I hung out with [former Buffalo Bills Quarterback] Jim Kelly.
Kamal: No, at the China Club in Manhattan.
Was he cool?
John began with a voice that sounded like a mix between a female hairdresser and a guy trying to act like a stereotypical hairdresser. “Hello?” he kept asking. I ignored it. I only had so long to talk. No matter how bad I wanted to laugh, I had to stay composed.
Kamal: He was great. He had big man handling hands.
So, okay, when did you guys first start making your calls?
Kamal: I’d say, shit, early ’70’s.
When you were kids?
Kamal: Well, actually John is in his forties and I’m in my early forties. He’s like in his late forties. So we’ve been doing this for a long time.
Were you doing it as kids and shit, just messing around?
Kamal: Please, you’ve got to watch the language man. I’m a heavy religious person here. [pauses] No, I’m just kidding. No, we never did it as kids. Around 1988 is when we started. We are really just in our thirties.
John: (as Jack Tors) I hearda dat shit and I lika dat shit. I laughed and shit.
So what does your family think about your careers?
Kamal: My father still doesn’t understand what it means. He’s a foreign type. He’s from Bangladesh, ya know? My mother sort of understands. She is from Trinidad. John’s family is from Ireland and they find it a little funny.
Have you ever tried any of your characters out on them?
Kamal: Actually, my family couldn’t give two fucks about this. They really don’t find it that funny.
Just as Kamal says that, John breaks out with a huge belly laugh that almost makes me lose my composure.
Kamal: My father is a scumbag.
John: He threw hot grease all over his dick.
Kamal: Yeah, my father used to throw hot Greeks all over my dick.
John: (in yet another voice that sounded like some cat from the Bronx who tells you to get the hell out of his way when you pull in front of him on the street) That guy threw hot grease on my balls.
Kamal: So what do you do up in Buffalo in the winter?
Not much to do really.
John finally breaks out of character and acts as himself. At least I think he was.
John: Ever eat at the Hilton?
John: And you are from Buffalo?
Well, I never had to stay at the Hilton in Buffalo.
Kamal started asking about our minor league baseball team and about the Sabres.
John: So how is Jim Kelly? Is he still the big man in town?
Kamal: Those football players are huge.
I know. I’ve seen them at a couple of parties.
Kamal began to talk about the Buffalo Bills running back Thurman Thomas and how unimpressed he was with his size compared to Johnny.
Kamal: He looked no different than Johnny over here. Don’t kid yourself, John is built like a brick shithouse. He is 5’7 and he is in his mid-twos and he is as solid as a rock. The guy has a [Hall Of Fame Baseball Player] Hack Wilson build and like [ex-Baseball player] Kirby Puckett. He’s built like a power lifter.
John: Do you think I’m fat?
I don’t have a picture.
John: [talking to his manager in the room] This guy, Harry, he saw my picture, right?
Kamal: It’s Charlie.
John: Oh, sorry Charlie. Listen. Charlie, you saw pictures of me, right?
They never sent any. They sent cartoon pictures.
Kamal: Did you see the new pictures where he has a cock?
John: You don’t think I’m a fat fuck, do you, Charlie?
Well, I don’t know. No.
Kamal: Hey John, look outside. It’s snowing.
John continued questioning me about his girth while Kamal continued on about the snow and hailstorm that was taking place outside of the office. They were perfectly executing their Abbott and Costello routine on me. Ever hear ‘Who’s On First?’
Kamal: Well, it’s hotter than a heat house and when we were outside walking around a tornado formulated out of God’s will and it took a few people. And a few hotels flew up in the air. A fucking crane went through this guy’s cock. They called him ‘crane cock.’
John: It was wild. It is wild.
John asked the question that I concerned myself with that morning, “Hey Charlie, did you see the movie?” I knew I should have rented it the weekend before. I saw it a long time ago when it first came out, but by now it was an afterthought.
I was going to get it this weekend because I knew you’d ask, but I actually don’t remember it that well because I saw it at a party.
John: The movie is great. You also have to check out this other video called Don’t Hang Up, Tough Guy.
I saw your web site advertising it.
John: It’s a platinum selling video.
Kamal: What do you mean you saw it on the flight?
No. On your web site.
John: Yeah, on the web site.
I was playing battleship on it too.
John: Against who?
I played all three characters: Jack Tors, Sol, and Frank Rizzo. I only won once. I must suck at it.
John: Are you serious?
Kamal: We have battleship on there? I don’t even have a computer. Listen. I ‘m serious. I spent all my money on swampland in Florida and some pyramid scheme.
I had to rudely interrupt this chaos to get on with the interview, no matter how much fun I was having.
So what would you say the good elements to a prank call are?
John: To be honest (pauses and starts to sound serious), you’ve got to really think with your dick.
Kamal: Yeah, and a nice bottle of fucking rum. And that’s the truth.
John screams, “Oh shit!” Then he screams to Kamal, “Did you just see that lightning? It just struck the towers! I swear to God. It just hit that building, the Sears Tower or whatever the fuck they call that thing. Harry, I swear a lightning bolt just hit it. Holy shit.”
Kamal: Did you ever hear of the Hancock Building? Do you know how he got that name, Hancock? Because he always had his cock in his hand back during the revolutionary war days.
John: I got hit in the dick one time with a softball.
Did you have to go to the hospital?
John: It didn’t hurt because it was soft. I got kind of lucky.
I began to get the feeling I was going nowhere. I figured by now even if I had no story I’d still get some life experience out of this most bizarre phone interview. But I still threw the questions at them and prepared for more curveballs.
Do you ever screw up when you do calls?
Kamal: I’ll be honest. I laugh. He keeps a straight face. I don’t know how.
John: I don’t laugh. When I’m in character I don’t break down.
Kamal: (interrupts John and begins to talk super loud) On occasion you’ll hear him laugh, but only at the end of a call. If you ever hear anyone laughing during a call, it is always me. Sometimes I can’t hold it in. Sometimes I shit on myself.
John: You’ve got to get tape number three.
Kamal: Number three has a skit called “Stop That” and I laugh and the guy laughs, but we keep it in because everyone that would hear it would laugh at the fact that I laugh and the guy laughed.
John: It was actually quite contagious.
I read that you only use ninety percent of the calls you make. What happens with the other ten percent?
Kamal: Ninety percent? What is that?
John: In our bio? Ninety percent, what they mean with that is that we use everything we do. Some people, like djs have these people who make thousands of calls and they will pick the best. But with us we will sit around and make like twenty calls and use nineteen or eighteen of the calls.
So do you have to call the people back?
Kamal: Yeah. We have to call them back to get releases. We send this guy over to their place and he says, ‘We’ll get either your signature or your brains.’
John: Charlie, the kids go nuts for this shit.
What about caller ID?
Kamal: Well, we only call businesses. And businesses don’t have caller ID. That is something that people have to remember. We call businesses, not people’s homes.
Do people ever bitch at you when you call them back to get a release?
Kamal: Yeah, sometimes. But you have to look at it this way; it’s free advertisement for them. Charlie, are you on the ball with this? You are really irritating. [pauses] No, I’m just kidding.
John: Hey Charlie, we are coming to Buffalo to do morning tv.
John: Yeah. Why don’t you look us up when we get there? The Anchor Bar.
Yeah, the Anchor Bar is great. They claim to have created the Buffalo Wings. So who are your favorite characters to play?
John: I like Buffalo Bob. Ya know, Big Ole Bad Ass Bob, the cattle rustler. And I like the Indian character that I do. (begins to scream out some crazy sound effects) I love that shit.
What about the enhanced cd? Did you guys help in the creation of that?
John: (talking to his manager) He says there is an enhanced cd. Are you serious? (asks me) Charlie, are you kidding me?
I didn’t have the chance to see it since they didn’t send it to me. I guess it wasn’t on the advances, but that is what they tell me.
John: Charlie. Seriously. You’ve got to put on the internet there that people have got to check out Jerky Boys three. It’s a great album. We have ten new characters on three.
Kamal: A lot of critics are considering our new album the best one since we put out the White Album.
[laughing] Well, I’ll tell them. But I think the fifth album is funny as hell.
John: Tell them the fifth album rocks.
I know. I had to take an hour trip last weekend to a show and I took Stop Staring At Me and it kept me up for the drive home.
John: Cool. So you can say this album rocks, you can say that on the net, but seriously check out number three.
Do what the man says and check out number three; it’s certainly worth it. Although I never did get chicken wings or get to hang with the Jerky Boys, I won’t soon forget the lesson they gave me in keeping your composure. Never did they laugh while in character, but they didn’t laugh at my jokes either. Think I’ll keep my day job. And by the way, if you want to lose your ass at battleship, drop by the Jerky Boys official site at www.thejerkyboys.com
+ charlie craine