Best of Crank Yankers (The): Uncensored (TV)
R1 - America - Paramount Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: James Teitelbaum (7th January 2008).
The Show

This DVD contains a selection of shorts which aired on Comedy Central between 2002 and 2005. They feature a cast of puppets who are frequently seen in situations that would not be appropriate for, say, Jim Henson studios. There is blood, puke and genitalia on display. Most of the segments have to do with phony phone calls.
The phony phone call genre has a long history that began with Jerry Lewis of all people. Poke around online you'll be able to find recordings of his vintage hijinx. In the late 1970's, the famed Tube Bar recordings were made in New York, in which two guys endlessly harassed a bar owner named Red until he became homicidally annoyed. The Tube bar recordings are available on CD, and were clearly the influence for Bart and Lisa Simpson's calls to Moe's Tavern on "The Simpsons" (1989-Present). Some of "The Simpsons" gags -- and Moe's reactions -- are lifted directly from the Tube Bar CD. After the Tube Bar came The Jerky Boys, who brought this sort of mischief from recordings to the big screen, appearing in a movie in 1995.
So now we have "Crank Yankers" bringing the art and science of the crank call into the 21st century -- with puppets.
There isn't any contextual information on the DVD as to how these episodes were made, but it seems as though the voice actors made and recorded these crank calls, and then the puppet studios did the puppet performances after the fact. There are seven main crank callers Special Ed (Jim Florentine), Bobby Fletcher (Jim Florentine), Chip Douglas (Fred Armisen), Hadassah (Sarah Silverman), Niles Standish (Tony Barbieri), Spoonie Luv (Tracy Morgan) and Gladys (Wanda Sykes), each of whom have their own puppet. We also get to see the people on the receiving end of the calls, and their likely reactions. Some of the people get into it and play along, and others just sort of act clueless while the callers berate them. Of course some of the shorts are hilarious, and others fall flat, but there are some decent gags and some solid gross-outs too.
The sets are fun too, with a fair amount of detail that often adds to the humor.
"Crank Yankers" also features an array of guest stars (in puppet form, natch), including Jack Black, Stephen Colbert, Jeff Goldblum, Denis Leary, Ludacris and Dr. Drew Pinsky.
The DVD menus allow selecting of the episodes by number (there are 58 of them, divided into eight submenus) or by Cranker (Special Ed, Bobby Fletcher, Chip Douglas, Hadassah, Niles Standish, Spoonie Luv, or Gladys, who are divided between two menus). There is also a handy 'Play All' feature.


Video is presented in the standard 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. There is a fair amount of video crammed onto this disc (the total time for the shorts is 3:04:58), and the production was apparently shot on video (as is the norm for most television). Given these factors, the picture is cleaner than one might expect, looking a tad mushy at times, but nearly poor enough to complain about.


Audio is English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. Sound quality of the phone calls can vary, since most of the people on the receiving end of the cranks were on consumer-grade telephones, and weren't always making an effort to stay 'on mike', so to speak. Whoever did the audio clean-up of the original phone calls did a fine job, so the majority of the audio is intelligible and more or less evenly balanced with the crankers (who, presumably, were recorded using proper microphones). Overall, things sound fine.

Optional subtitles are included in English only.


The only extra feature on this disc are bonus trailers for:

- "Rick and Steve" which runs for 1 minute 20 seconds.
- "Christmas Time in South Park" which runs for 1 minute 28 seconds.


The Show: B+ Video: B+ Audio: B Extras: F Overall: C-


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