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A prank call is a prank call. Except when it isn't.
Phone calls can often be quite tricky things. Because the person on the other end of the line can't see you, it is often necessary to explain who you are and in which situation you are right now. And because of the same reason, the person at the other end has to take your word for it.
But what if your situation is a truly bizzare one? What if it is very hard to convince other people, that Ninja Pirate Zombie Robots really exist, and that a group of them is in your house right now? Or what if you are a celebrity, and the message you want to deliver is: "I want you for my next album/movie/whatever!"?
Well, the persons called will simply refuse to believe you. They will think that you are just a prankster with a sick/unfunny sense of humour. They will either hang up without any further words, or will angrily snark at you, and then hang up.
Can result in an Oh Crap moment if the called persons notice their mistake afterwards, fearing that they may have insulted someone important, or that they screwed up the opportunity to accept an unique offer. Though if they are lucky, the caller will realize what went wrong and try again.
- In the first story arc of To Aru Majutsu no Index, Touma desperately calls a number of research facilities to try and get more info on Index's perfect memorization ability. He finally gets somebody on the line only to be yelled at for making a prank call about magic so late at night.
- There was once a Mickey Mouse comic wherein Mickey was terrorized by the villain via phone. At one point, when the phone rings again, Mickey has had enough, picks up the receiver, and angrily yells at the caller before the latter can say a word. Too bad it was Minnie calling this time...
- In The American President, Sydney (Annette Bening) gets a call just after talking to a male friend. The caller identifies himself as the president, and she tells him she doesn't believe him, then says some unflattering things about the president. Um... it's really the president.
Sydney Ellen Wade: "Hello?"
President Andrew Shepherd: "Yeah, hi, is this Sydney?"
Shepherd: "No, this is Andrew Shepherd."
Sydney: "Oh! It's Andrew Shepherd! Yeah, you're hilarious, Richard, you're just a regular riot!"
Shepherd: "No, this isn't Richard, this is Andrew Shepherd."
Sydney: "Oh! Well, I'm so glad you called, because I forgot to tell you today what a nice ass you have. I'm also impressed that you were able to get my phone number given the fact that I don't have a phone. Good night, Richard."
Shepherd: "Uh, this isn't Richard-" [Sydney hangs up]
Shepherd: "This used to be easier. "
This is directly followed by an Oh Crap moment.
- In Major League, Jake is sweating it out in the Mexican league when someone from the Cleveland Indians calls him to join their team this year. Jake doesn't believe the call is real.
Is that you, Tolbert?! This isn't very funny, you know. I'm hung over! My knees are killin' me and if you're going to pull this shit at least you could've said you were from the Yankees.
- In Air Force One, when the President calls the White House from a staffer's mobile phone, the White House operator naturally assumes it is a prank call...until the President tells her to trace the call and note it is a staffer's phone.
- In Eight Legged Freaks, Chris has this happening to him after he calls to report the town being overrun by the giant mutant spiders. Made all the more painful considering he had to fight past the spiders, climb on to the roof and ascend to the top of a radio tower in order to get a signal to make the call. Adding further insult to injury, at the end of the film the police finally arrive. They had not believed the reports of the spiders but believed Harlarn's theory that the assailants were extraterrestrial in nature.
- In Hot Fuzz, Angel thinks that a call from Peter Ian Staker (P.I.Staker, to explain why), is a prank call.
- In Ferris Buellers Day Off, Rooney gets a phone call from Sloane Peterson's father saying that her grandmother has died. Knowing that Sloane is Ferris Bueller's girlfriend, and that Ferris is skipping out on school, Rooney assumes that Ferris is pranking him. So he insults the "father", demanding that he bring the grandmother's body up to the school for confirmation. Then Ferris calls line two. Then, as Rooney stammers an apology to Sloane's father, a subversion occurs: we discover that it was Ferris' buddy Cameron who was making the phone call. So it's a prank call mistaken for Mistaken for Prank Call.
- In Modern Family, when Claire decides to bring back her and her husband's sexy roleplaying alter egos Clive and Juliana, she phones Phil as Juliana, and he tells her she has a wrong number and hangs up.
- That Mitchell and Webb Look has a sketch featuring a trio of billionaires who keep calling up random phone numbers, trying to give away their MASSIVE YACHTS. They can't understand why nobody wants them...
- In an episode of Only Fools and Horses, Del Boy is on a Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? style quiz show, while Mickey Pearce harasses Rodney with prank calls. When Del uses his "phone a friend" to call Rodney, he initially assumes it's Mickey, but then realises. Unfortunately, he gives the wrong answer. Later, Del gets a phone call from the producer saying the question was worded poorly, and he's won after all. Absolutely certain that this is Mickey, he says to give it all to charity.
- On All My Children, as Will tries to force himself on his wife Hayley, she barricades herself in the bedroom and frantically calls her ex-boyfriend Brian for help. Unfortunately, Brian's wife An-Li picks up. Already unconcerned, when Will picks up the extension sounding completely calm, An-Li is now certain that Hayley's actions are just the result of her being drunk and hangs up.
- On Friends, Phoebe reaches Emily's mother's cell at the Ross/Emily wedding. When she explains she can't be there because "I'm pregnant with my brother's triplets" the mother asks "Am I on the radio?"
- In one of the Hitch Hikers Guide to The Galaxy books, Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect end up upon Earth in the near past. Arthur suggests to warn their past selves about the impending destruction of the planet. Ford however doesn't consider this to be a very good idea. He proceeds to perform an improvised miniature sketch, in which he is Arthur calling himself. The past Arthur hangs up as soon as the future Arthur tells his name.
- The novel The Dorset Disaster has this-when people start making frantic phone calls that the nuclear reactor has exploded, the first couple are dismissed as pranks.
- The calls in Crank Yankers *are* pranks in Real Life, but apparently genuine in the puppets' universe.
- In the The Adventures of Dr. McNinja story Space Savers, Chuck Goodrich calls Doc's brother Sean "Dark Smoke Puncher" McNinja for help when Doc is attacked by a ghost manifesting as a cloud of dark smoke. Sean thinks they're making fun of his ninja name, and hangs up.
- Sequential Art had it several times.
- In The Simpsons, Moe Szyslak receives prank calls so often (mostly by Bart), that he sometimes mistakes genuine calls for pranks, such as when an important book author wants to invite him to a literary conference.
- Inverted in one episode when Bart makes a genuine prank call for a "Hugh Jazz" on a busy night -- only for a guy actually called Hugh Jazz to be present to take the call.
Bart: Look mister, I'll level with you. This was a prank call that sort of backfired and I'd like to bail out now.
Hugh Jazz: [Genially] Alright; well, better luck next time! [Hangs up] What a nice young man.
- In the episode where Homer has to go undercover with the FBI regarding Fat Tony's dealings, his "making bones" ceremony involves bringing Moe out for Fat Tony to exact revenge on because the latter mistook Fat Tony's requesting to speak with a Russian associate for a prank call. It's not completely Moe's fault, however, as aside from Moe being pranked call so often, the person Tony wanted to speak to also had the Unfortunate Name of "Yuri Nater" (as in , "Urinator").
- The Stinger for one episode of The Replacements had Principal Cuttler receive a phone call that he had just won a new car. However, he doesn't believe it, thinking that it's a prank call (earlier in the episode, he had been prank-called by Riley).
- People with Unfortunate Names, Punny Names, or with the same name as a celebrity, are Blessed with Suck regarding this here.
- For that matter, the celebrities themselves probably too.
- Various celebrities have been discussing examples of this on Late Night Talk Shows, having been called by X other celebrity to be in a film and thinking that it's one of their friends pranking them.
- Can of course also happen to you if the place you are calling from has a name with one of the above mentioned properties.
- One example was told in a news story regarding a town/neighborhood somewhere that was named South Park. It was considering changing its name after at least one genuine emergency call to 911 was ignored by the operator who thought that the call was a prank.
- Some of the seat-mounted phones in commercial airlines have a short lag between when the user speaks and when the call recipient hears the words. It's possible to hang up on a "prank caller" during that lag time (and annoy the person calling tremendously, those phone calls are expensive).
- Happened in the case of the Travis the chimp attack-the 911 operator initially, for the first few moments, thought the call was a prank.
- Also a known problem with trained service animals calling 911-nowdays, many databases have an alert that pops up saying there's a trained service animal at the location, but it can still happen. Ditto with the 'accidental 911 call, animal really in trouble' scenarios that pop up every now and then.
- Has also happened in cases where a child has called 911. Operators know that children often do play on the phone, and will sometimes mistake a real call for one of those.
- An attempt to correct a typo in the phone company's files regarding the spelling of this troper's name was mistaken as a prank call given that the result of the typo was a word that sounds a lot like urine (although spelled quite differently).
- Arnel Pineda, the current lead singer of Journey, initially believed he was being pranked when Neil Schon emailed him and invited him to audition after seeing his videos on Youtube.