As answering machines became increasingly integrated into everyday life, some individuals sought to go beyond the standard outgoing message of “Hi, I’m not home, but leave a message and I’ll call you back.” These nonconformist answering machine users desired outgoing messages that better reflected their personalities. For those aiming for a detached coolness, a deadpan “You know what to do” was often sufficient. Those with a mischievous sense of humor commonly employed the timeless trick of answering with a simple “Hello?” followed by a deliberate pause, tricking incoming callers into thinking they were speaking to a live person before the “I’m not here” message resumed. Zing! Many others took it a step further by creating their own humorous skits or songs, much like George Costanza from Seinfeld.
But what about those who wanted to elevate their outgoing message game without putting in the creative effort themselves? In the mid-1980s, a range of pre-recorded cassettes featuring mildly funny bits, including songs in various music styles, became readily available to fill this market gap.
Among the selection, one cassette tape stood out from the rest: Crazy Calls. If you were an avid TV viewer in the mid to late ’80s, you probably recall the commercials for Crazy Calls—a 7-track cassette tape that sold for $14.95, plus $3 for postage and handling. To make a purchase, you could either call an 800 number with a credit card or, with a bit more patience, send a check or money order to a P.O. box in New York City.
The commercials seemed to air incessantly, resulting in snippets of the songs and gags on the tape etching themselves permanently into the memories of numerous TV enthusiasts of that era. Consequently, Crazy Calls has become a frequent reference in ’80s nostalgia within popular culture. It has been mentioned on shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy, and even the 1980s-themed sitcom The Goldbergs dedicated an entire episode titled “Crazy Calls” in 2016, paying homage to the cassette.
The creators of Crazy Calls, Mitch and Ira Yuspeh, are still active in the music industry. They offer recording services and more through their recording studio and production company based in New York City. They also maintain a website dedicated to Crazy Calls, proudly noting that the cassette sold over a million copies through its television campaign.