Johnny Brennan had a deprived youth. He didn’t start making crank telephone calls until he was in his 20s.
In a classic case of overcompensation, however, Brennan has parlayed an acid tongue, a gift for voices and his natural New York sense of humor into a major entertainment force.
Brennan is a Jerky Boy, as he’ll happily admit. He and his fellow Jerky, Kamal Ahmed, made a tape of crank phone calls that was copied probably a million times and transported across the globe.
The Jerkys made zero money from the enterprise, but the record companies took notice of this underground hit and signed the lads to a recording contract.
Two platinum albums, a Grammy nomination, a little cartoon book, and all of a sudden the Jerky Boys are stars of a major motion picture, opening today at a theater probably within your area code.
Sitting in his suite at San Francisco’s Clift Hotel, Brennan looks every bit like what he is: a 33-year-old regular guy from Queens who finds himself sitting in a suite at the Clift Hotel drinking a beer and trying to figure out how all this happened.
For those not in the Jerky Universe, it’s a bit hard to describe their appeal. But here goes:
Brennan and Ahmed pick out some lucky stiff from the want ads, or the Yellow Pages or just about anywhere else, and give him a call.
If there is a job opening, for example, Brennan will take on a caustic personality and say he is coming down tomorrow, liver lips, and he’s bringing his tools. Because he’s the best and if you don’t think so he’ll wrap a ratchet around your head, swizzle chest. Toss in a wellplaced obscenity or two, the ability to keep a gag going without busting up, and there you have it.
It’s humor in the Don Rickles mold, with maybe a hint of Andrew Dice Clay minus the overt offensiveness. What makes it work, when it works - and it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, believe me - is that they’re dealing with real people on the other end of the line, and they’re just plain funny guys.
In the film, Brennan and Kamal play a couple of guys whose prank calls get them in trouble with a mobster, played by Alan Arkin.