CRANK(Y) CALLS consists of prank phone messages from Jonathan Winters to an answering machine.
Unknown Contributor Role: Jim Smith .
Crank call comedy generally involves telephonic interaction between the comedian or comedians and an unsuspecting person, but Jonathan Winters' album Crank(y) Calls is one-sided. Each of the 28 tracks is structured as an answering machine exchange; first, a voice (the same one each time) is heard answering as "Smith" (or "Jim Smith," or "J. Smith," or "J.B. Smith") and encouraging the caller to leave a message. Then, on comes Winters, improvising a message. In his sketch comedy, Winters usually takes on a character, sometimes with a funny voice or accent, but for the most part, he eschews that approach on this album, although he does at one point say he is Ross Perot, and at another that he is Dr. Death. On most of the tracks, however, he seems to just free associate for a minute or two, with some recurring phrases and subjects. Aging seems to be much on his mind, and he refers repeatedly to turning 69 years old, also bringing up "The Prince of Darkness," perhaps having in mind more the Grim Reaper. Holidays including Easter and the Fourth of July come up (he sings parody versions of "Here Comes Peter Cottontail" and "Easter Parade"). More than once, he says, "Pull the chain and flush your mind." As is often the case with Winters' humor, the interest comes in his odd turns of phrase and curious imagination, not in specific jokes. ~ William Ruhlmann