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Prank Call
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!" Punny Names are also popular, especially when calling a person who then has to ask for the punny-named person, leading to awkwardness such as "I'm looking for Amanda Huggenkiss." 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.


Anime & 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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 is 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.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Stevie tries to do this, using the refrigerator pun. Because he has to take deep breaths between every couple of words, he's recognized before he can finish.

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.

Recorded and 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.
  • Australian musician and alternative comedian Gregg Turkington also recorded an album of prank calls entitled Great Phone Calls which included the first appearance of his hilariously unfunny stand-up comedian character Neil Hamburger.

  • 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.
  • This was also the M.O. for "Roy D. Mercer", a character created by Brent Douglas and Phil Stone for their morning show on KMOD-FM in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Douglas would affect a stereotypical Southern voice and prank call various people for perceived wrongs, usually threatening that they compensate him or receive an "ass-whoopin'." Between 1997 and 2013, over a dozen Roy D. Mercer albums were released. The two ended their show in 2012, just a few months before Stone died.
  • Dead Ringers would have a segment where an incredibly accurate impressionist would ring up various services in character as the Fourth Doctor as played by Tom Baker. Notably this included calling random numbers to ask What Year Is This?, to explore how the trope would work in real life. He also called former Doctors Peter Davison (who played along politely but a bit sarcastically), Sylvester McCoy (who seemed convinced he was talking to the real Tom Baker despite his incredibly odd behaviour, asking him several times if he was drunk) and Tom Baker himself (who, after a bit of confusion, settled straight into character, completely upstaged the fake with improvised comebacks, and managed to get him Corpsing).

Video Games
  • In the Strong Bad's Cool Game for Attractive People episode Homestar Ruiner, Strong Bad can use Homestar's cell phone to prank call several characters, including Homsar and himself.
  • In Maniac Mansion, the player can call villainess Nurse Edna in order to distract her when entering her room. She naturally mistakes this for a poor quality prank call, commenting that there's "no heavy breathing."
  • On The Sims sims would randomly receive these.

Web Original
  • 5 Second Films gives us an appropriately titled "Prank Call" and "The Last Prank Call Ever".
  • 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.
  • Strong Bad of Homestar Runner repeatedly prank calls Marzipan on her answering machine in, what else, Marzipan's Answering Machine.
  • Inverted by Tom Mabe who pranks telemarketers that call him.
  • Tales from the Pit has Nicol Bolas, Prank Caller, with such gems as "Is your refrigerator running? Of course not. I had it disabled." and "Can you please see if there is a Michael Rotch there? He goes by Mike. [pause] Well, I've reanimated his corpse and sent him to kill you, so be on the lookout. And yes, I have disabled your caller ID! Bwah ha ha ha ha!"

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.
    • In another episode a bunch of Bloos make a prank call asking for Prince Albert in a can. A Prince Albert imaginary friend in a can bounces around afterwards.
  • 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!"
  • On the internet, the term "prank call" appears to mean people trolling 1-800 numbers on Skype. It's a given, since 1-800 numbers don't use up Skype credits.

Phoney CallPhone TropesThe Radio Dies First
Powder GagPractical JokePrank Date
Practical JokeComedy TropesPrank Date

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