It’s been 20 years since The Jerky Boys last had a new record come out. And within the last 10 of those years, there’s been a new interest in the 90’s. All of a sudden, the nostalgia factor has taken over more and more, and people want to go back to that time. A time when passing around a bootlegged tape of funny prank phone calls was king.
It’s a question creator Johnny Brennan has been asked time and time again. “When are they coming back? When are they coming back?” Well, now you have your answer. Today, The Jerky Boys have a new album out on Comedy Dynamics. The album features all of your favorite characters including Sol Rosenberg, Frank Rizzo, and more. The great thing about the album is, while the situations they are in reflect our modern age, the Boys themselves remain as timeless and funny as ever.
We recently spoke with Johnny Brennan about the new album, what made him want to bring it back all these years later, his favorite moments from the new album, fans that have tried to prank call him back, how Sol Rosenberg became Mort Goldman, and just how thankful he is for all the fans.
I wanna start by saying how great it is to have a new Jerky Boys album. It’s bringing back all sorts of 90’a nostalgia.
I appreciate you saying that. And it’s funny. So far, I’ve been interviewed a lot. And they they all say the same thing you just said. And you have no idea. That makes me feel really, really awesome.
Well that’s great to hear. So run me through how this all came together. What made you want to bring it back now? Because it had been so long since you had last done it.
Yes. In the traditional way. I hadn’t done any new material in close to 25 years. Maybe 25, maybe even a little more. So the last albums that was put together, there was a lot of stuff that was there. And people kept asking me if I had any skits in the can. They’ve been asking me for that for years. And I said “I wish.” Because that would be really easy for me. I said “I don’t have anything in the can.” I never did really. And then people started asking me for these. “Johnny, do you have anything longer, like a little longer than two or three minutes?” And I said “Holy sh*t. You know, I do have a few that I never used because I thought they were too long.” And that’s when I put together The Jerky Case.
Now those are skits that were around for years. But this brand new record is like the traditional way I did it right before the bootleg. It’s like, you know,. I’m doing it primarily just for me. So on this new Jerky Boys release, I wanted it to feel a lot like what people felt like years ago, when they stumbled across The Jerky Boys bootleg. And they listened to it and they were just kind of shocked. Because it was something that you never heard. And it took a world by storm. And I just wanted people to feel that same sense that there’s nothing forced, there’s nothing contrived. It’s just flowing. I hope that people get that kind of vibe.
What I really love that you were able to do is you were able to take these characters and slightly contemporize certain elements, but all in all they feel like the same characters we’ve always known and have them still feel fresh.
Yeah. And it’s very very easy for me because my characters are much beloved and they’ve been loved for many decades. And when people hear Sol it’s just like a warm feeling they get. It just brings back great memories. For example, I’m doing Cameo now. The guys that do Cameo they kept on me and they’re like “Johnny, I’m telling you, this would be perfect for you and it’s great way, you know, to share your characters with your fan base.” And that’s the same feeling that they get. Because you heard Sol, you know, many, many moons ago and you hear him again today, he’s just in a different situation in a different time. And he fits perfectly.
And it doesn’t matter what skit you take. Like for example, if you take the new one, where he’s going up the stairs and he gets f*cking crushed in his stairclimber. And it’s just Sol in another situation. And it’s just bringing back memories of the situation that Sol was in before.
Exactly. And when you last did the characters, were you thinking “I’m never doing this again”? Or did you always have a sense that one day you’d circle back to these guys?
Well it’s always there with me. I always dick around and babble to myself and that’s kind of how it works with the characters sometimes. Actually, a lot of times new characters come out. And for me, they’re always there. They never go away. And, you know, I’ll come up with some sh*t in the house, and I’ll say something. And I’ll say “Oh man. That would be a classic situation to put the guys in.”
So they never go away for me. And keep in mind too, I’ve been working for almost 20 years on Family Guy since it started. So, you know, a lot of time is spent, you know, with with the whole Family Guy thing. But The Jerky Boys is something completely different. And when you look at the world today, I just felt that now would be the perfect time. You know, Jerky Boys makes people feel good. It makes people laugh. It gives them very nostalgic feelings. And what better time than to do that now?
And especially right now, when everyone is sort of looking to feel nostalgic to escape from what we’re going through.
Right. It’s the perfect time. You know what? I actually toyed with the idea of not not getting it out in 2020. You know? And then I said “No. Why? This is this is perfect timing.”
I agree. I think it’s a good escape. And this is something I’ve always wanted to know. Did caller ID make your job any harder?
People always ask me that question. And you wouldn’t believe it. Many, many years ago, when caller ID came out, -and I believe it’s gotta be close to 25-30 years ago,- and people asked me that question back then. And it’s actually very funny. I got busted by caller ID over the years probably at least 5-6-7-8 times over the years. And it’s great, because I can see when the numbers are calling me back and they call right back.
I did one of my skits called Masturbation Box. So if you listen to the Masturbation Box skit, which is 25 or 27 years old, maybe even a little bit older. And it was funny. The guy is going “Get the caller ID! Get the caller ID!” And if you listen closely, it’s actually one of the first times I ever almost broke character. And he pissed me off. He sounded like such a little f*cking jackass. So I actually actually broke character as Sol and actually let a little Johnny Brennan spill out. And I’m like “Get the caller ID. Oh I’m so scared, you you stupid piece of sh*t.” And then I said to myself “Uh Oh. I better back it up and get back into Sol.” But I was never bothered by Caller ID. And when people souls call me back, say I was doing a Sol Rosenberg bit. People would call me back I go into a big old badass Sol. Like “Hello. Yeah. Who is this? Goddamn who are you looking for?” And then they would be like “Um… I had caller ID and this number just called me.” “Goddamn what are you talking about? I just walked in the door.” And it would be sh*t like that. And they would be like “Oh, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” I used to actually have a lot of fun with the caller ID.
I can imagine. And do you have people coming up to you over the years going “Hey. You used me on one of your albums”?
I would get that over the years like you wouldn’t believe it. I would do record signings back in the day where you have 5000, 10,000 people show up at… whatever the f*ck the record store was called back then. And you’re sitting at the table signing autographs for all these people. And I had one young guy come up to me go. “Hey, bro. Man did you call my sister last night?” And I looked at him and I was like, “Are you f*cking serious?” And I was, like kidding around with him. I said, “Dude. This is my job. You know, this is work. I don’t go around making prank phone calls to people for no reason.” And it’s actually very funny. I get lots of that. I get lots of people saying “I think you called me.” And you know, it’s just funny and you get a kick out of it.
And how often have you had people turning the tables and then trying to prank you?
I guess that happens. I don’t know. Anytime that or something like that starts to happen. I kind of just jump out. Because it’s not funny. And people can tell they’re acting and it’s contrived. And it just sounds goofy so I don’t go along with it. That’s why even when somebody tries to set me up. They say “Johnny. I got a great number. It’s gonna be a great target for your set.” So I’ll call but they didn’t tell me that they’re well aware that this person knows I’ll be calling. So once I call and I’m trying to pull it off, I can clearly see that they’ve been told it’ll be me calling. And then they try to play with me. They try to play along and as soon as I hear it, it sounds terrible. So I just jump out.
Right. It works best when they’re unsuspecting. And that’s sort of, what I always thought, was the success of The Jerky Boys and why it clicked.
Yeah. If you look at the fact that in the reality world, that was the whole thing that made people give out millions and millions of cassette tapes. Because they would hear The Jerky Boys. And they would go “Oh my God. I can’t believe what I’m hearing.” And they would make millions of tapes and they would give them out to their family and their friends. And the first thing they would say is “You gotta fucking hear this, man. And it’s all real. It’s f*cking real.” And the only thing in the reality world that was before me was Alan Funt with Candid Camera. You would probably say that was the first real reality [show], where it was like shock value. And then The Jerky Boys hit the scene. And the rest is history. But people would actually hand out the tapes. The New York Times said that it was the largest bootleg in history. So just think about that. And with all those bootlegs on the street, each Jerky Boys record still went onto being multi Platinum selling records. So it’s pretty astounding.
And the amount of success The Jerky Boys got to see over the years is pretty impressive. From those early bootleg tapes to going platinum to headlining your own movie.
Right. I always tell people, you know one minute I’m hanging off buildings 50 storeys above New York City. And I’m doing scaffold work and construction, and you name it, I’ve done it. Because a lot of people ask me “Hey Johnny, when you do these skits, how do you know so much about so many different things like painting and paint work and installation?“ And I say “Because I did it.” You know, I worked in all kinds of trades. I was doing all kinds of sh*t. And that’s why I can always bring little tidbits of everything I did into the tracks.
And so going back to the new album, tell me about some of the tracks. Are there some standout favorites that you have?
The way it all came together. That’s what really, really put the icing on the cake. And getting an email from my original artist, Sean Taggart. If you look him up, he’s done comic books. He’s been my artist for since the early 80s. So you’re talking about a long time. He actually did my first t-shirts, before we even did Jerky Boys characters. So, I got an email from Sean. And it was a little difficult getting this together in such a small timeframe. And we went back and forth a bunch of times, and it just didn’t seem like it was clicking. And we weren’t clicking on this and that. And then I said “Look, I want this to be very positive, very uplifting. And, you know, with all the crap that’s going on, let’s make this a real positive thing. And I looked at, you know, Elon Musk and the space programs and the space force. All these things that are really cool. And I said “Why not Frank? Frank Rizzo’s perfect. Let’s get Frank up in space.” And I opened my email, and I see this cover that Sean did. To put it all together with all these new skits And that cover, I said “This is a Jerky Boys record. This is just killer.” And it all came together, man. I can’t tell you what a good feeling that was.
I can imagine. And just as nostalgic as this is making all of us, I’m sure it is double for you.
You know why? Because it ties it all in. That album cover just puts a stamp on it. That says “This is The Jerky Boys.” And it feels so much like the very first album cover. And it was very simple concept design. And it just it’s Frank Rizzo. It says it all. It’s just a great feeling. I can’t explain it.
And you mentioned Family Guy earlier. You sort of repurposed Sol for the role of Mort Goldman on Family Guy. And I want to know if you ever considered repurposing or rebranding any of the other characters during that 20 years you took off from The Jerky Boys?
It depends on the project. You know, it depends on the project. Right now I’m in talks with, with a water company, a very popular water company called Liquid Gas. And, you know, they’re also looking at all the characters. And it depends on who wants what. In the past, I’ve had tremendous, successful campaigns with Anheuser-Busch, Subway sandwiches, the Lee Jeans Company. You know, as a matter of fact, Lee Jeans came to me. And they wanted three new characters that were not Jerky Boys related. So I created these three new characters. And two out of the three won the Mercury Award for like the funniest commercials.
So the characters are very, very successful. Even when I create three brand new characters that aren’t even Jerky Boys, they’re very successful. Frank Rizzo won a Mercury award for the Budweiser spot. So it’s actually very good. The characters work well in any application.
Absolutely. And I’m actually ashamed to say it did take me an episode or two to realize that it was Sol Rosenberg as Mort a Goldman on Family Guy, by the way. But once I noticed it, I was so happy to hear it.
Right. And what I did with Mort Goldman is just a slight… because I didn’t want it to be identical, but I wanted it to be very clear that that was Sol Rosenberg or his cousin. So that’s what we call him. Whenever you hear Mort Goldman, he’s more amped up, and he seems much more like fast. So, you know he’s like, “Hey Lois!” “Hi Peter!” Much quicker. Whereas Sol Rosenberg is more like “Should I bring all my shoes and my glasses so I have them?” So you can clearly see the difference, but most people who are Jerky Boys fans, They’ll get it. They go “That’s gotta be Johnny.” So it’s really fascinating to make the characters. And every time I do Sol Rosenberg, people will know as I’ve been saying it for many, many years, but I’m literally mimicking my mom when I do that character.
And Frank is your dad, right?
Yes, Frank is my dad. Exactly. And Sol is my mom. Kissel is my uncle Vinny. So all the characters that I do are based on either family members or friends or people I’ve known growing up since the early 60s.
Right. And the last thing I wanna ask is, looking back, does it feel surreal still to you that these characters and The Jerky Boys has had the staying power that it has?
What I think is it’s testament to the characters themselves. And if you can, you can even liken it to a Looney Tunes, because that’s exactly what it is. It’s a franchise of all of these characters that people have loved so much over the years that they endure. Seth McFarlane, the creator of Family Guy, he told me a story. He says, “I’m on my way into work today. The guy in the car next to me is looking at me like I’m out of my f*cking mind. I’m bent over and I’m hysterical f*cking laughing. Johnny, I am telling you, this is still the funniest thing I ever heard in my life. Johnny, it’s f*cking timeless. It gets better. It gets better with time.”
Its amazing. And here I am now and we’re going out again after all these years. And it’s just it’s absolutely amazing. And my fan base is growing tremendously, because now I have all these younger ones that they grew up on Family Guy. And now they want to know all about The Jerky Boys. It’s a very cool thing, the way it worked out, timewise. But now, it’s just an amazing demographic.
Absolutely. Again, I love the new album. Thanks for taking the time to talk about it.
Thank you. I appreciate you giving me the time. And I always want to give a big shout out to The Jerky Boys fan. Because like without the fans, those diehards, and even the new fans, there would be no Jerky Boys.
Find out more information on where to find the new album The Jerky Boys here.