The greatest prank phone calls in history

As far as anyone knows, the world's first prank call happened in 1884, just eight years after the telephone itself was invented. It took that long for some 19th-century scamp to realize, hey, wouldn't it be fun to really ruin someone's day with this thing? That's right, just eight years for an amazing invention to be turned against the undertakers of Providence, Rhode Island, summoning them to collect the bodies of men who were still very much alive and birthing a new American pastime in the process.

From The Jerky Boys to Baba Booey, from C-SPAN to Bart Simpson, this sophomoric skill set would spend the next century growing into an art form all its own. It didn't matter if you were at a seventh-grade sleepover or recording a best-selling album, if you had a landline and a lack of empathy, you knew your next laugh was just one phone call away. And sure, times have changed with the advent of caller ID and smartphones, but somehow the prank calls just keep humming along, terrorizing pizza shops and telemarketers, popular kids and polarizing political figures who really need to vet their calls better. These are some of the best to ever be recorded.

Stuttering John pranks the president

According to John Melendez, or Stuttering John as he's known to his fans, the team around President Trump should have known better than to put him on the phone with the Leader of the Free World. "I am shocked. … I mean we did this as a goof, I'm a comedian," he told CNN. "I just could not believe that it took us an hour and a half to get Jared Kushner and Donald Trump on the phone from Air Force One."

The incident, in which Melendez posed as United States Senator Bob Menendez, getting the president to discuss his policy of family separation at the border and his pick for the Supreme Court, made global headlines. How could Howard Stern's former sidekick prank the most powerful man in the world?

Melendez himself doesn't have the answer. As he described it to CNN, and most likely the Secret Service, he first called the White House as himself. When they shut him down, he called back with "the worst English accent in the history of English accents," posing as an assistant to the senator. He soon found himself patched through to Air Force One. According to some sources, it was Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, who overruled the White House staff and ordered the call put through. Whatever happened, you have to wonder if Trump just assumed the New Jersey Democrat ended all his calls by saying, "Baba Booey to you."

Adam Sandler pranks everybody

For a lot of us, prank calls were just a goof to kill the time. For a young Adam Sandler, they were a crash course in comedy, allowing him to craft the bits and voices that would help shape his career. If you watch this collection of calls, helmed by a young Judd Apatow, who was Sandler's roommate at the time, you can clearly see the origins of characters that would pop up on SNL, his movies and comedy albums for years to come.

In fact, the footage was so distinctly Sandler, it served as a launching point for Apatow's movie, Funny People, which was a dissection of the movie star Sandler had grown into over the succeeding 20 years. From the man who really wants you to know he has no legs to the woman who eats roast beef even though it makes her violently ill, these loudmouthed morons are pure, uncut Sandler. And with cameos from Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo, they're also something of a comedy vault for the alt comedy scene in the early '90s, transporting you back to a time when these household names were just friends killing a little time.

Baba Booey breaks in on the O.J. Simpson chase

If you were watching TV on June 17, 1994, (and just about everyone was), you were watching one thing, and it wasn't the NBA Finals, which were actually relegated to a box in the bottom corner of the screen. No, you were watching the infamous O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco car chase, which was viewed by over 95 million people. And, if you happened to be watching it on ABC, you got the added bonus of seeing what may be the most viewed prank call in human history.

As a somber Peter Jennings anchored the breaking news, studiously describing how one of America's greatest athletes had ended up threatening suicide from the back of an SUV, he was joined by someone claiming to be a neighbor of Simpson's, who said he could see inside the Bronco. With his bizarre, borderline racist accent and goofy demeanor, something was clearly up, but it took Mr. Higgins ending his confusing commentary with a "Baba Booey to y'all," for commentator Al Michaels to finally deem the call "totally farcical."

It would later come out that the caller was "Maury from Brooklyn," a Howard Stern superfan who was reportedly upset that the NBA was being preempted and decided to do something about it. And that, children, is the story of the "Baba Booey" heard 'round the world.

The Queen of England gets duped

It doesn't matter if you're Moe the Bartender or the Queen of freakin' England, anyone can be had by a prank call. And that's, in fact, just what happened, when Pierre Brassard, an impressionist and radio host from Montreal, posed as Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien and managed to get Queen Elizabeth on the line.

Over the 17-minute call, the Queen even promised Brassard she'd give a speech decrying Quebec's attempts to separate from Canada, saying "I will probably be able to do something for you. … No problem, no, I can do that."

Brassard was also able to slip in a series of subtle jokes at the monarch's expense, encouraging her to wear a hat for Halloween and asking if she was comfortable with her face on a series of vouchers from Canadian Tire. And if you think the shock jock learned his lesson from the ensuring outcry, you must have missed his call with the pope, in which he suggested to the pontiff he might consider affixing a propeller to his hat.

Dave Chappelle makes hotel reservations for Wu Tang

What happens when Wu Tang tries to make a hotel reservation at the quaintest, quietest, and most certainly whitest bed and breakfast this side of Newhart? Well, thanks to Dave Chappelle's guest spot on the Comedy Central prank show Crank Yankers, we have the answer.

Chapelle pretended to be Wu Tang's tour manager, attempting to track down some accommodations for his boys, and we're talking everybody. Method Man, RZA, the Jizza, Old Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, UGod, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, The Chef — the whole crew.

He encounters Reba May, a friendly proprietor who does her best to accommodate Chappelle's bizarre requests, even though she only has two rooms to house an enormous band she's never head of. Thankfully, her daughter teaches swing and might know some of their tunes. Being the pro that she is, Reba even offers up her husband's bed at one point, which he must have been thrilled about. All in all, poor Reba does her best with a bad situation, and Chapelle somehow makes this call hilarious and heartwarming at the same time.

The legendary 'Corporate Office' prank

It took 15 long years for this recording to makes it way online, first earning legendary status as an underground tape passed between touring musicians. Recorded in the late '90s by comedian Bob Schriner, the call has been described as "the greatest prank call of all time."

The concept is simple, if slow to unfold, but oh that ending is worth the wait. Schriner, posing as an executive from the "corporate office," calls a local Wendy's and informs them that there's been a series of complaints about their location. Apparently some of the fried food has been coming out undercooked. "You'd be amazed by how often someone would destroy company property when they thought it was their boss's boss on the phone," Schriner told BuzzFeed News. When the employee refuses to stick his arm in 330-degree oil to adjust the heating element, Schriner convinces him to submerge the phone into the oil because "I need to hear it."

The call has taken on a life of its own over the years, even released on vinyl at one point. What record collection is complete without the sultry sounds of a Wendy's employee throwing away his fast food career?

Elton John gets a call from 'Vladimir Putin'

When Elton John received an unexpected call from Russian President Vladimir Putin back in 2015, he professed astonishment, telling the world leader, "I'm extremely honored that he's calling me and that I'm speaking to him. It's a great privilege to be able to speak to one of the most influential people in the whole world." The only problem was, he'd been had. He was, in fact, on the line with Russian celebrity pranksters Alexei "Lexus" Stolyarov and Vladimir "Vovan" Krasnov, taking advantage of John's professed desire to talk about LGBT rights with the notorious Russian head of state.

The whole episode would cause a bit of confusion when John took to Instagram to thank the Russian leader for the phone call, one the Kremlin knew nothing about. In the end, John was magnanimous, saying, "If this unfortunate incident has helped push this vital issue back into the spotlight, then I am happy to be pranked on this occasion." The real Putin put in a call to a "Crocodile Rock" singer a couple weeks later.

The Tube Bar prank calls inspired Bart Simpson

As Jim Davidson recalled to Howard Stern, it took him nearly two decades to learn that a series of prank calls he'd made as a goof with his buddy John Elmo had become underground hits. The revelation came when he was watching MTV and someone mentioned they were a fan, blowing his mind. Imagine if some prank you'd pulled decades ago all of a sudden got props on basic cable. 

The story of the "Tube Bar Tapes" dates back to the mid-'70s, when Davidson and Elmo would call up a dive bar in Jersey City for kicks, frequently getting a crotchety old bartender named Louis "Red" Deutsch. The two would then ask to speak to one of the bar's patrons, with increasingly silly names like Frank N. Stein, Connie Lingus, and Seymour Butts. To say the tough-talking proprietor was pissed would be an understatement.

Sound familiar? If you're a fan of The Simpsons, you've probably heard this gag a time or two. In fact, Simpsons creator Matt Groening has acknowledged he was directly influenced by Davidson and Elmo and their unending quest to get Ben Dover on the phone.

Richard Christy drives a woman insane

Richard Christy is a man of many talents. A heavy metal drummer, stand-up comedian, and sidekick for The Howard Stern Show, Christy has spent a life boldly going where others fear to tread. For instance, he once pooped his pants on air before giving Dr. Drew a hearty handshake.

But his crowning achievement may be this prank call, in which he tried to buy some junk from a kind, confused woman, and slowly drove her nuts. Did he want the dryer, the fur coat, or the basketball hoop? That is a question best left for the philosophers.

Using overlapping voices, Christy somehow managed to answer every question the woman asks with opposing reactions, at the same exact moment, increasingly befuddling this poor lady, before driving her downright batty. "It sounds like three people are talking on the phone at the same time!" Prank calls can be mean, and they can be hilarious. This one borders on a work of art.

Ralph Garman calls French president as Jerry Lewis

In March 2003, in the buildup to the Iraq War, comedian Ralph Garman got the idea to call up French president Jacques Chirac and tell him to, you know, not do it. Unfortunately, the French leader wasn't in the habit of taking calls from a guy most famous for doing impressions on The Kevin & Bean Show, so Garman decided to do it as France's favorite comedian, Jerry Lewis. And because the French are so predictable, it worked.

Garman soon found himself having a detailed, thoughtful conversation about the troublesome excuses for war, while maintaining his "HEY LADY" best Jerry Lewis impression. And he did it, so convincing the world leader that he got Lewis an invite to swing by the presidential office the next time he was in town.

Sure, Garman would get in huge trouble for the prank, getting sued by Jerry Lewis for damages. But, as Garman was quick to point out on his Hollywood Babble-On podcast, unless world leaders were constantly calling the star of The Nutty Professor for his war-waging advice, damages might be a bit of an overstatement. Still, Kevin and Bean did end up making a substantial contribution to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, which Lewis was famously a benefactor of, to make the whole thing disappear.

Pranker ties up scammer for 45 agonizing minutes

Sometimes you don't need to go out of your way and prank somebody, when you can just sit back and wait for the unsuspecting caller to ring you. There's a whole genre of videos online in which people prank telemarketers and scammers, keeping them on the phone, feeding them nonsense information, and just generally making their lives a living hell.

Troy Hunt, a Microsoft regional director from Australia, may have produced one of the best of these, not because of any overtly silly details or well-crafted characters, but just by slowing things down with sheer incompetence to the breaking point. What does a scammer do when he's got a live one willing to hand over his information but with the computer skills of an Amish grandmother?

Hunt somehow turns a conversation about whether he should type a dot or the word "dot" into a utter hilarity, like a "Who's On First" routine if the guy asking who's on first was also trying to steal your identity.

The legendary Longmont Potion Castle has some sod for Alex Trebeck

To call Longmont Potion Castle's 30-year run in the prank game "impressive" is to understate his bizarre accomplishments. What began as a lark in the suburbs of Denver in the mid-'80s has turned into an empire, beginning with the release of his first album in 1988. Eschewing the crass and confrontational style typical to the form, LPC embraced its inherent anarchy. Westword.com described his style as "absurdity as art form."

You have to wonder if Alex Trebek would agree. While LPC is most famous for his trippy effects and odd details, his series of call to Jeopardy host Alex Trebek are the stuff of legend. What started as a bit about delivering sod has turned into a bizarre relationship in which Trebek is an active participant. LPC even told Rolling Stone, "Sometimes when I'm talking to somebody I just add him to the call and see what happens. He enjoys explaining to people what's going on." What is "unlikely friendship" for $200, Alex?

A woman does not want anything to do with John Cena

Get READY for the WWE Super SLAM! Because after you listen to this prank call, you're never going to want to hear about it again! It's been called the greatest prank call of all time, and it's not hard to see why. Back in 2012, the good people at WNVZ's Z Morning Zoo executed a prank call with such ruthless glee, calling a local woman about John Cena's upcoming appearance on Super Slam over and over and over again, she was ready to take them on in a cage match of her own.

The twists, the turns, the sheer indignation this poor woman feels at being subjected to John Cena promo after John Cena promo, is the stuff of legend. John Cena has gone on to become a movie star, Today Show regular, and Saturday Night Live host, but it arguably all started with this bit, which would transform Cena into an online meme factory and an eventual comedy superstar.