The Jerky Boys: A Pop Culture Phenomenon with Hudson Valley Ties
Hey, what's up there jerky! We're saluting the Jerky Boys for National Jerky Day.
According to National Day Calendar, June 12 is National Jerky Day, which celebrates beef jerky annually. But when I hear the word jerky, I think of the great Jerky Boys' phone pranksters. As a matter of fact, I'd like to honor Frank Rizzo on this National Jerky Day.
A Little About The Jerky Boys
The American comedy duo from Queens, New York City, had success as telephone prank callers responding to classified ads in local New York-based newspapers. Childhood friends Johnny Brennan and Kamal Ahmed formed the duo in 1989, using different, over-the-top character voices on unsuspecting recipients. Their debut album The Jerky Boys actually topped the Billboard charts and went platinum. The duo released several other albums and also had a movie from Touchstone Pictures, The Jerky Boys: The Movie released in 1995. Ahmed eventually quit the group and Johnny Brennan has since continued on as a solo act.
I've always been a big Jerky Boys fan since the beginning, I mean the very beginning. I can distinctively recall hangin' out in Lake Carmel, NY with my friend Joe Mason at a young kid by the name of Stephen Pileggi's house. Stephen had a bootleg cassette of the Jerky Boys that had been going around, with all the prank calls. Raw, unedited tape that was captured long before the signing of the comedy duo to a record deal and the initial release of the debut album.
We sat around for hours in Stephen's room laughing hysterically at what we were hearing. I had become such a fan that I would go on to thank the Jerky Boys, among other comedy heroes, in my high school senior yearbook profile.
What's Johnny Brennan up to these days?
After success with The Jerky Boys, Johnny Brennan would become known for his voice work in the Emmy-nominated animated series Family Guy as the voice of Mort Goldman. Brennan has lived in the Orange County, NY area most of his life. He moved to the Hudson Valley from the New York City area at age 5, when his parents bought a home in the Salisbury Mills. He's lived in Cornwall since 1993 and he keeps the Jerky Boys business going to this day. A new Jerky Boys album, the first in nearly 25 years, was released in 2020.
Jerky Boys Hudson Valley Roots
Many of the Jerky Boys' calls can be traced back to the Hudson Valley area. The auto mechanic character Frank Rizzo, "I worked on race cars for 18 years!" is an ode to Brennan's days going to the Orange County Fair Speedway in Middletown, NY for the races as a young kid. Frank Rizzo (the abrasive auto mechanic), Sol Rosenberg (the Jewish guy), and Jack Tors (the gay guy) were just some of the popular Jerky Boys characters. The famous Sol's Civil War Memorabilia call was actually a call from a doctor in the Hudson Valley that was interested in purchasing the items. The Middletown Motel and Taco Bell of Middletown also made it into popular bits. Alto Music in Wappingers Falls was an unsuspecting recipient of a phone call on the newest album.
"I never set out to offend anyone and have never apologized to anyone. That's not me. The Jerky Boys was all just self deprecating humor featuring a bunch of loveable characters." -Johnny Bennan, Jerky Boys and voice of Mort Goldman on Family Guy.
Could The Jerky Boys work in 2023?
With characters like the foul-mouthed auto mechanic Frank Rizzo, the Jewish character Sol Rosenberg, and the gay character of Jack Tors, we asked Johnny Brennan if the Jerky Boys would work in today's much different, "PC" climate. His reply, "It could for me. I never set out to offend anyone and have never apologized to anyone. That's not me. The Jerky Boys was all just self-deprecating humor featuring a bunch of loveable characters."
Check out a couple classic Jerky Boys calls below from Johnny Brennan as the Super Across the Way and as Frank Rizzo, the abrasive auto mechanic, calling about a job. *Warning: Video contains explicit language.