“Do you have Prince Albert in a can?”
“Well can you let him out?”
Truth is, most people today don’t even know why that’s a prank call. Prince Albert was a brand of loose tobacco that could be sold in a tin or a can. Here’s what it looked like.
And of course, Prince Albert is also the name of a living member of the royal family. I didn’t say it was a good joke… most prank calls aren’t.
The art and science of the prank call
In order to make a successful prank call, you need two things. First of all you need a voice and demeanor that makes it sound like you’re an adult, not a kid. Second, you need to be able to force someone to say something that they wouldn’t really want to say. Sometimes this is a double entendre, sometimes a risqué sounding name. One more helpful bit of information, you want to call from a phone that doesn’t broadcast caller ID.
For example, here’s a montage of prank calls over the years that have appeared in The Simpsons.
Why am I going to such lengths to explain all this?
Because I just realized that the prank call is probably dead. It’s probably not something that kids do now. I personally was not a big prank caller, but the idea that no one makes prank calls anymore just occurred to me. And a little part of me died, I’m not gonna lie to you.
It’s not like the prank call was some sort of high art form. It’s not like I really missed them. But the idea that it’s just one more thing that I don’t share with today’s kids made me sad.
First of all of course today’s kids rarely make voice calls except to their older relatives. Add to that, most people don’t answer their phone unless they recognize the caller ID. So, the opportunity for the prank call just isn’t there.
I guess today’s kids will just have to come up with their own form of mischief, and then forty years later they can lament its loss as well. I guess that’s the circle of life.