Filed under: Phone Pranks, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Pranksters
Full disclosure: I, Emerson Dameron, am a proud contributor to various Chunklet projects. My dividends from Chunklet’s revenue-sharing plan can be counted on one middle finger. I consider many in the Chunklet braintrust, including Bob Schriner and Henry Owings, my friends.
Henry Owings launched Chunklet as a zine in the ’90s in Athens, Georgia, after becoming disillusioned with proper music journalism. It drew in a range of writers, musicians, music-industry laborers, and comedians who wanted to poke fun at the commercial punk- and indie-rock establishment. Since then, it has released a range of entertainment products, taken full advantage of the internet, and showcased the savvy of phone pranksters including Earles and Jensen, erstwhile affiliates of The Best Show on WFMU.
In one of Chunklet’s prouder moments, contributor Bob Schriner achieved some minor digital notoriety by screwing with a Wendy’s fry cook.
Many, including our publishers, have expressed some skepticism about what really went on with this call. We gave Schriner an opportunity to explain himself.
What is your opinion of / experience with Wendy’s or fast food in general?
My opinion of the fast food industry is pretty low. It is one of the big reasons Americans are overfed and under-nourished. My experience is very limited. I never worked a fast-food job. I did pull a three-month stint in the kitchen of a Showbiz Pizza, which is close enough.
How did you get the idea for the call?
Just as Stanley Milgram couldn’t believe the obedience demonstrated in Nazi Germany, I couldn’t believe the obedience demonstrated in his studies. His experiments were shocking and I wondered if the same degree of obedience would be exhibited in the lower extremities of corporations… with a comparable degree of shock, not literally of course.
How did the execution go on your end?
My best friend and frequent co-defendant Frank Tennant was out of the country for six months or so. This guy was the only person I’ve ever known who was on my level of fuckery. He went with me on Springer and was with me when we stole the Ronald McDonald. I’d sat in jail with this guy over pranks that more than tickled the boundaries of what is legal. He’s a guy I could always push the envelope with and no matter how crazy and fucked up things got I could always count on him to be ballsy and absolutely fearless. So when he came back I was thinking I wanted to have a prank call session where we asked people to do things that common sense should override and prevent them from doing.
I’d worked jobs where this kind of thing could have happened given the people I worked with. So on one hand you know that it’s possible that someone will do this kind of thing; you just don’t know if the given person you’re talking to will.
What went through your mind as the employee started to push back? Do you think he knew what was happening?
When the employee started to push back, he was refusing to put his arm into what was obviously some very hot oil. I knew that would happen. My intent was not to injure the kid. When you work in a corporation, you often have bosses who have these ideas about how things are done and they’re totally wrong. You know they’re wrong, but you also know they’re your boss so it’s difficult. I know that asking him to drop the phones in the fryer comparatively would be a relief. There is a little resistance there too, because everyone knows you shouldn’t deep fry your phone. Yet, you hear the kid laugh – I don’t know if it’s relief or if he just knew at that point that it was a prank call and decided to go along.
What’s up with the laughter in the background?
Oh that’s my friend Tre; he and some friends were over at the time. When you hear the phone frying for the first time and it’s live, I believe that’s pretty compelling. For people in the room at the time, they probably didn’t think this call was going to have the outcome it did, because it asks someone to do something that completely defies common sense.
What was the fallout from this call?
What’s your own background and what other stuff like this have you done?
As a boy I was always drawn to mischief and pranks. I worked jobs as a teen in places where I learned that the district manager of a corporation is a mighty thing that carries great fear. I still remember the name of the District Manager for ABCO Foods, the supermarket chain I worked at when I was 17 that no longer exists.
There are other prank calls like this one. I stole a Ronald McDonald statue and claimed to be part of a nationwide vegetarian terrorist syndicate which caused a huge national media circus. I was kicked off the Jerry Springer show a day before taping because my story was too absurd – I later went on two other ’90s talk shows. I sent my high school principal everything imaginable under the promise of being paid upon delivery. Things like tons of gravel, manure, giant football cake shaped cakes that congratulated him for his future as an NFL star. I think pranks often present themselves in the form of opportunities to apply the absurd and put something on or off its axis in the way that makes it “right.” I realize some might consider that my diagnosis as a sociopath.
This isn’t real, is it?
I get asked that from time to time as it seems like such an unrealistic scenario. I’m not out to convince the skeptics. What I will say is, the key to science is repeatability. If you don’t think it’s real, pick up a phone and dial a fast food restaurant on the night shift and see what happens.