Gilligan: Operator, listen to me, listen to me! We're shipwrecked, you see, and we found this telephone line, and we tapped into it. And we're on a deserted island, and there's no telephone booth or even a phone!
: Why do I get all the nuts? (disconnects the line)
A Prank Call
is a prank call. Except when it isn't.
Phone calls can often be quite tricky things. Because the person on the other end of the line can't see you, it is often necessary to explain who you are and in which situation you are right now
. And because of the same reason, the person at the other end has to take your word for it
But what if your situation is a truly bizzare one? What if it is very hard to convince other people, that Ninja Pirate Zombie Robots
, and that a group of them is in your house right now
? Or what if you are a celebrity, and the message you want to deliver is: "I want you
for my next album/movie/whatever!"?
Well, the persons called will simply refuse to believe you
. They will think that you are just a prankster with a sick/unfunny sense of humour. They will either hang up without any further words, or will angrily snark at you, and then
Can result in an Oh Crap
moment if the called persons notice their mistake afterwards, fearing that they may have insulted someone important, or that they screwed up the opportunity to accept an unique offer. Though if they are lucky, the caller will realize what went wrong and try again.
Related to Cassandra Truth
; You Have to Believe Me
, Your Costume Needs Work
. May involve a person with an unfortunate Real Joke Name
- In the first story arc of A Certain Magical Index, Touma desperately calls a number of research facilities to try and get more info on Index's perfect memorization ability. He finally gets somebody on the line only to be yelled at for making a prank call about magic so late at night.
- There was once a Mickey Mouse comic wherein Mickey was terrorized by the villain via phone. At one point, when the phone rings again, Mickey has had enough, picks up the receiver, and angrily yells at the caller before the latter can say a word. Too bad it was Minnie calling this time...
- In The American President, Sydney (Annette Bening) gets a call just after talking to a male friend. The caller identifies himself as the president, and she tells him she doesn't believe him, then says some unflattering things about the president. Um... it's really the president.
Sydney Ellen Wade: Hello?
President Andrew Shepherd: Yeah, hi, is this Sydney?
Shepherd: No, this is Andrew Shepherd.
Sydney: Oh! It's Andrew Shepherd! Yeah, you're hilarious, Richard, you're just a regular riot!
Shepherd: No, this isn't Richard, this is Andrew Shepherd.
Sydney: Oh! Well, I'm so glad you called, because I forgot to tell you today what a nice ass you have. I'm also impressed that you were able to get my phone number given the fact that I don't have a phone. Good night, Richard.
Shepherd: Uh, this isn't Richard- [Sydney hangs up]
Shepherd: This used to be easier.
- This is directly followed by an Oh Crap moment.
- In Modern Family, when Claire decides to bring back her and her husband's sexy roleplaying alter egos Clive and Juliana, she phones Phil as Juliana, and he tells her she has a wrong number and hangs up.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look has a sketch featuring a trio of billionaires who keep calling up random phone numbers, trying to give away their MASSIVE YACHTS. They can't understand why nobody wants them...
- In an episode of Only Fools And Horses, Del Boy is on a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? style quiz show, while Mickey Pearce harasses Rodney with prank calls. When Del uses his "phone a friend" to call Rodney, he initially assumes it's Mickey, but then realises. Unfortunately, he gives the wrong answer. Later, Del gets a phone call from the producer saying the question was worded poorly, and he's won after all. Absolutely certain that this is Mickey, he says to give it all to charity.
- On All My Children, as Will tries to force himself on his wife Hayley, she barricades herself in the bedroom and frantically calls her ex-boyfriend Brian for help. Unfortunately, Brian's wife An-Li picks up. Already unconcerned, when Will picks up the extension sounding completely calm, An-Li is now certain that Hayley's actions are just some drunken attempt to get Brian back and hangs up.
- On Friends, Phoebe reaches Emily's mother's cell at the Ross/Emily wedding. When she explains she can't be there because "I'm pregnant with my brother's triplets" the mother asks "Am I on the radio?"
- On Gilligan's Island, a transoceanic telephone cable washes ashore onto the island. They tap into the cable and somehow manage to call a mainland US telephone operator. When they frantically yell things like "Help, we're stranded on a desert island!!" , the operator just bemusedly hangs up.
- The castaways also once play out a low-tech version of this trope involving a lost homing pigeon. They send it back to the mainland over and over again with pleas for help and keep getting replies from the owner, who thinks he's found a new pen pal with a great sense of humor.
- Not exactly a call, but in The Stinger for an episode of Hannah Montana, Jackson and Robbie Ray have undergone a prank war on each other and hear the doorbell ring, but they're so paranoid they think it's another prank. It turns out it was a group of guys giving them a giant $10,000 check, who decide to go next door.
- Challenge Anneka routinely had Anneka Rice phoning up tradespeople to help out with that week's project, and being met by suitably star-struck responses. In one out-take, the recipient of the call steadfastly refused to believe that the call was genuine, leaving Anneka to make increasingly desperate pleas that she was the real Anneka Rice.
- In one of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy books, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect end up upon Earth in the near past. Arthur suggests to warn their past selves about the impending destruction of the planet. Ford however doesn't consider this to be a very good idea. He proceeds to perform an improvised miniature sketch, in which he is Arthur calling himself. The past Arthur hangs up as soon as the future Arthur tells his name.
- The novel The Dorset Disaster has this-when people start making frantic phone calls that the nuclear reactor has exploded, the first couple are dismissed as pranks.
- In the The Adventures of Dr. McNinja story Space Savers, Chuck Goodrich calls Doc's brother Sean "Dark Smoke Puncher" McNinja for help when Doc is attacked by a ghost manifesting as a cloud of dark smoke. Sean thinks they're making fun of his ninja name, and hangs up.
- Sequential Art had it several times.
- A variant in The Class Menagerie: When the gang is trapped in a dorm about to be overrun with ravenous tropical ants, the 911 operator mistakes it for a confused spring break drunk's call.
- In The Simpsons, Moe Szyslak receives prank calls so often (mostly by Bart), that he sometimes mistakes genuine calls for pranks, such as when an important book author wants to invite him to a literary conference.
- Inverted in one episode when Bart makes a genuine prank call for a "Hugh Jazz" on a busy night — only for a guy actually called Hugh Jazz to be present to take the call.
Bart: Look mister, I'll level with you. This was a prank call that sort of backfired and I'd like to bail out now.
Hugh Jazz: [Genially] Alright; well, better luck next time! [Hangs up] What a nice young man.
- In the episode where Homer has to go undercover with the FBI regarding Fat Tony's dealings, his "making bones" ceremony involves bringing Moe out for Fat Tony to exact revenge on because the latter mistook Fat Tony's requesting to speak with a Russian associate for a prank call. It's not completely Moe's fault, however, as aside from Moe being pranked call so often, the person Tony wanted to speak to also had the Unfortunate Name of "Yuri Nater".
- The Stinger for one episode of The Replacements had Principal Cuttler receive a phone call that he had just won a new car. However, he doesn't believe it, thinking that it's a prank call (earlier in the episode, he had been prank-called by Riley).
- People with Unfortunate Names, Punny Names, or with the same name as a celebrity, are Blessed with Suck regarding this here.
- For that matter, the celebrities themselves probably too.
- Various celebrities have been discussing examples of this on Late Night Talk Shows, having been called by X other celebrity to be in a film and thinking that it's one of their friends pranking them.
- Can of course also happen to you if the place you are calling from has a name with one of the above mentioned properties.
- One example was told in a news story regarding a town/neighborhood somewhere that was named South Park. It was considering changing its name after at least one genuine emergency call to 911 was ignored by the operator who thought that the call was a prank.
- Some of the seat-mounted phones in commercial airlines have a short lag between when the user speaks and when the call recipient hears the words. It's possible to hang up on a "prank caller" during that lag time (and annoy the person calling tremendously, those phone calls are expensive).
- Happened in the case of the Travis the chimp attack-the 911 operator initially, for the first few moments, thought the call was a prank.
- Also a known problem with trained service animals calling 911-nowdays, many databases have an alert that pops up saying there's a trained service animal at the location, but it can still happen. Ditto with the 'accidental 911 call, animal really in trouble' scenarios that pop up every now and then.
- Has also happened in cases where a child has called 911. Operators know that children often do play on the phone, and will sometimes mistake a real call for one of those.
- Arnel Pineda, the current lead singer of Journey, initially believed he was being pranked when Neil Schon emailed him and invited him to audition after seeing his videos on Youtube.
- Many Nobel Prize winners have said that this was their reaction to the call from Stockholm.