Created By: CaveCat on April 20, 2013 Last Edited By: CaveCat on June 4, 2013
Troped

Prank Call

Character pranks another by making fun of them on the phone

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Trope
This trope is where a character decides to prank another by calling them on the telephone. These pranks are mostly just jokes and puns. The most popular joke used when prank calling someone is "Is your refrigerator running? You'd better catch it!" This has been made largely extinct in Real Life because of caller ID

In some countries, making what are termed "nuisance calls" is illegal and can lead to either criminal or civil prosecution.

Not to be confused with Phoney Call which is where a character pretends that they are talking on the phone when the phone is off.

Contrast Mistaken for Prank Call when the character receiving the call thinks that they're being pranked. Any subversions of this trope will go there.


Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books
  • In a Disney Comics story with Donald Duck, Donald is making prank phone calls with his favorite victim being a Mister Upjohn ("It's almost 11 o'clock. Are you Upjohn?"). When Donald tries to get a job "making phone calls for a living", he discovers that his boss will be the aforementioned Mister Upjohn, who recognises Donald's voice. He still gives Donald a job - taking calls in the complaints department.

Film
  • In Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jeannie calls 911 after she finds Dean Rooney snooping around her house. When the police arrive, Rooney is gone, so they assume Jeannie was prank calling and arrest her.

Fanfiction
  • There exists a Digimon Frontier fanfic on Fanfiction.net where Takuya and the others, celebrating their one-year anniversary of their victory over Lucemon, decide to pull some prank calls on hapless citizens.

Literature
  • The Babysitters Club:
    • In Poor Mallory, the club prank call both of the two girls who have been picking on Mallory over her father's redundancy. They each call one girl in turn, asking "Is Sissy there?" repeatedly, whilst Mary Anne calls the other girl enquiring about the pigs she ordered in a fake southern accent.
    • In the same series, Kristy's older brother Sam also loves to call the girls when their meetings are in session, especially in earlier books.

Live-Action TV
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob is the victim of a prank call made by a prankster at a party Buddy was hosting. The pranker got Rob to take his phone apart, put it in a paper bag, and throw it out the front door.
  • The Amanda Show had a short sketch of a girl prank calling someone called Mr Oldman.
  • Friends:
    • One episode reveals that Joey keeps calling his room mate Chandler to work, pretending that he's a female Stalker with a Crush. Ross is at first somewhat disturbed, but comes to enjoy the joke later. Poor Chandler sound genuinely freaked out.
    • When Dr. Wiener decides that he wants to kick out Rachel for keeping calling him at night because of very minor problems her baby might have, she calls him back seconds later and starts repeating his surname in a funny voice ("Wiiieeener"). She thinks he wouldn't know it's her.
  • Prank-calling various members of the public is the entire premise of Fonejacker.

Music
  • "Phoney Calls" by Weird Al, a parody of TLC's "Waterfalls".

Puppet Shows
  • Les Guignols de l'info: After the 2012 French presidential election, Jacques Chirac makes regular pranks against Nicolas Sarkozy (since the latter lost), pretending to be some other head of state or personality, and asking something ludicrous out of Sarkozy.

Stand-Up Comedy
  • This was the entire schtick of The Jerky Boys, who released recordings of their various prank calls, and even made a Movie.

Radio
  • Nephew Tommy on the Steve Harvey Morning Show makes prank calls for a living. A famous comedian, Thomas Miles' prank calls are one of the most popular segments in the show. He even sells collections of prank calls on CD.
  • Todd Pettingill of WPLJ's Scott & Todd does a "phone scam" segment where he prank calls people.

Web Original

Western Animation
  • The Powerpuff Girls episode "Telephonies" dealt with the girls being prank called by the Gangreen Gang into fighting against Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, and Him, even when the three latter villains didn't commit any crimes at all.
  • The Simpsons:
    • Bart loves to call up Moe's and ask to speak to people with names like Al Coholic. Moe always asks his customers for that person, then realizes the pun when they start laughing. One time he used it to sic Moe on his babysitter's boyfriend. (He had a crush on the babysitter.)
    • Radio DJs Phil & Marty prank call a man by telling him his wife died in an accident.
    • Bart and Lisa mention in one episode that Homer occasionally calls to the radio to give fake accounts about car accidents.
  • In Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, Coco uses the "Is your refrigerator running?" call to distract Mr. Herriman. Herriman actually goes to catch the refrigerator, leaving the others free to throw a wild party. Turns out there was a refrigerator running - an imaginary friend that looked like a refrigerator.
  • Regular Show has the Prank Master, whom Mordecai and Rigby try to prank call back, and when they do, he uses a prank call to send them back in time!
  • Referenced in Dexter's Laboratory, where Mom notices the family refrigerator being pushed around by a cyborg turtle. She calls out "Honey, our refrigerator is running!", to which Dad upstairs answers cheerfully "And we've got Prince Albert in the can!" (At which point a literal prince emerges from the toilet.)
  • The Angry Beavers, "Up All Night": This is one of the things that Norbert and Daggett try to do to pass the night. Daggett ends up not only botching the joke completely, but also accidentally calls his own mother.
  • Ned's Newt: In the first episode Newton showcases his abilities by shapeshifting into a number of characters and performing various sketches. This includes him prank calling someone and using the "refrigerator" gag... only to learn that the refrigerator in question indeed wasn't running, at which point he shapeshifts into a refrigerator repairman.
  • In the third act of the Mr. Bogus episode "Bogus To The Rescue", Bogus receives a call from an unknown recipient that he needs a superhero right away. Not wanting to miss the opportunity to do a good deed, Bogus quickly rushes off to the rescue, only to run past Brattus, who was prank calling him from a nearby phone booth. Bogus backtracks before angrily confronting Brattus about it, even when Brattus tries to explain that he was just trying to cheer up Bogus.

Real Life
  • Prince Albert is a brand of tobacco sold in a metal can. It was named for the Real Life Prince Albert, who later became King Edward VII. A prankster would call a person or store and say "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" If the victim said "Yes", the prankster would say "Then you'd better let him out!"

Needs More Examples, Needs a Better Description, Seen It a Million Times
Community Feedback Replies: 21
  • April 20, 2013
    DunDun
    Exactly What It Says On The Tin would be a call that pranks. This is when characters prank call. Might also be better to say that most of these "pranks" are just jokes or puns. Some more serious "pranks" might be random texting or long-winded gags, which can--especially in the case of text messaging--cost the receiver.

    Also, your "not to be confused with" trope needs context.
  • April 20, 2013
    StarSword
    Western Animation:
    • The Simpsons: Bart loves to call up Moe's and ask to speak to people with names like Al Coholic. Moe always asks his customers for that person, then realizes the pun when they start laughing. One time he used it to sic Moe on his babysitter's boyfriend. (He had a crush on the babysitter.)
  • April 20, 2013
    randomsurfer
    Mistaken For Prank Call is when the callee thinks that they're being pranked.

    • The Dick Van Dyke Show: Rob is the victim of a prank call made by a prankster at a party Buddy was hosting. The pranker got Rob to take his phone apart, put it in a paper bag, and throw it out the front door.
    • This was the entire schtick of The Jerky Boys, who released recordings of their various prank calls, and even made a Movie.
  • April 22, 2013
    arbiter099
    made largely extinct in Real Life because of caller ID
  • April 23, 2013
    TonyG
    • In Fosters Home For Imaginary Friends, Coco uses the "Is your refrigerator running?" call to distract Mr. Herriman. Herriman actually goes to catch the refrigerator, leaving the others free to throw a wild party. Turns out there was a refrigerator running - an imaginary friend that looked like a refrigerator.
    • Regular Show has the Prank Master, whom Mordecai and Rigby try to prank call back, and when they do, he uses a prank call to send them back in time!
  • April 23, 2013
    LadyJuse
    Live Action TV:
    • The Amanda Show had a short sketch of a girl prank calling someone called Mr Oldman
  • April 24, 2013
    Arivne
    Another old one: Prince Albert is a brand of tobacco sold in a metal can. It was named for the Real Life Prince Albert, who later became King Edward VII.

    A prankster would call a person or store and say "Do you have Prince Albert in a can?" If the victim said "Yes", the prankster would say "Then you'd better let him out!"

    Fully explained on The Other Wiki here.
  • April 26, 2013
    McKathlin
    Music
    • "Phoney Calls" by Weird Al, a parody of TLC's "Waterfalls".
  • April 27, 2013
    XFllo
    Live Action TV
    • Friends:
      • One episode reveals that Joey keeps calling his room mate Chandler to work, pretending that he's a female Stalker With A Crush. Ross is at first somewhat disturbed, but comes to enjoy the joke later. Poor Chandler sound genuinely freaked out.
      • When Dr. Wiener decides that he wants to kick out Rachel for keeping calling him at night because of very minor problems her baby might have, she calls him back seconds later and starts repeating his surname in a funny voice (Wiiieener, W-iiieee-ner). She thinks he wouldn't know it's her.
  • May 3, 2013
    HiddenFacedMatt
    While "callee" does show up in an online dictionary, I'd still recommend switching to "character receiving the call," as I'm not sure how many people are aware that "callee" is a word.
  • May 5, 2013
    Korodzik
    Live Action TV
    • Prank-calling various members of the public is the entire premise of Fonejacker.

    Western Animation

    • Referenced in Dexters Laboratory, where Mom notices the family refrigerator being pushed around by a cyborg turtle. She calls out "Honey, our refrigerator is running!", to which Dad upstairs answers cheerfully "And we've got Prince Albert in the can!" (At which point a literal prince emerges from the toilet.)
    • 'The Angry Beavers, "Up All Night": This is one of the things that Norbert and Daggett try to do to pass the night. Daggett ends up not only botching the joke completely, but also accidentally calls his own mother.
    • Neds Newt: In the first episode Newton showcases his abilities by shapeshifting into a number of characters and performing various sketches. This includes him prank calling someone and using the "refrigerator" gag... only to learn that the refrigerator in question indeed wasn't running, at which point he shapeshifts into a refrigerator repairman.
  • May 9, 2013
    Diask
  • May 9, 2013
    totorolover33
    Literature
    • In The Babysitters Club book Poor Mallory, the club prank call both of the two girls who have been picking on Mallory over her father's redundancy. They each call one girl in turn, asking "Is Sissy there?" repeatedly, whilst Mary Anne calls the other girl enquiring about the pigs she ordered in a fake southern accent.
      • In the same series, Kristy's older brother Sam also loves to call the girls when their meetings are in session, especially in earlier books.
  • May 11, 2013
    Marz1200
    Radio

    • Nephew Tommy on the Steve Harvey Morning Show makes prank calls for a living. A famous comedian, Thomas Miles' prank calls are one of the most popular segments in the show. He even sells collections of prank calls on CD.

    • Todd Pettingill of WPLJ's Scott & Todd does a "phone scam" segment where he prank calls people.
  • May 11, 2013
    Marz1200
    Web Original

    • One vlogbrothers video has Hank "positively prank call" people. He calls them up and tells them an optimistic fact about the world such as a statistic about decreasing violent crime. After one call resulted in more of a conversation than a prank, in subsequent calls he hung up immediately after saying his fact.
  • May 11, 2013
    randomsurfer
    On The Simpsons Radio D Js Phil & Marty prank call a man by telling him his wife died in an accident.
  • May 14, 2013
    Melkior
    Added to the description the warning that the law in some countries make prank calls illegal.
  • May 25, 2013
    MetaFour
    Film:
    • In Ferris Buellers Day Off, Jeannie calls 911 after she finds Dean Rooney snooping around her house. When the police arrive, Rooney is gone, so they assume Jeannie was prank calling and arrest her.
  • May 27, 2013
    StFan
    Puppet Shows
    • Les Guignols De L Info: After the 2012 French presidential election, Jacques Chirac makes regular pranks against Nicolas Sarkozy (since the latter lost), pretending to be some other head of state or personality, and asking something ludicrous out of Sarkozy.
  • May 30, 2013
    XFllo
    • Subverted in Hot Fuzz. Nicholas Angel, a cop who was ridiculed in a local newspaper, gets a call -- a swan is missing. It ran away from a swan castle. Nicholas stays at a hotel called "Swan" and his room is called "Castle". In addition, the caller introduces himself as P.I. Staker. Piss taker? Come on! Nicholas gets really angry. Gilligan Cut to him interviewing one Mr Staker whose swan really did run away.

    edit: I've just noticed there is a trope for that: Mistaken For Prank Call, so no need to list subversions here. Sorry about that
  • June 4, 2013
    Melkior
    Comic Books:
    • In a Disney Comics story with Donald Duck, Donald is making prank phone calls with his favorite victim being a Mister Upjohn ("It's almost 11 o'clock. Are you Upjohn?"). When Donald tries to get a job "making phone calls for a living", he discovers that his boss will be the aforementioned Mister Upjohn, who recognises Donald's voice. He still gives Donald a job - taking calls in the complaints department.
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=ohdir0ubn3dng2qrhie4u5sn&trope=PrankCall