Prank Calls: The Last Resort Of The Comedically Challenged


Kellie Baker. Image via nydailynews.

If you have to resort to pranking unsuspecting victims to raise a laugh on your radio show, the chances are you don’t spend a great deal of time perusing the work of Robert K Merton, or more specifically his law of unintended consequence.

That’s ok though. A degree in Economics isn’t usually necessary for playing records and peppering the gaps in between with witty, crowd pleasing banter, although I must confess, I did take it for granted that at least a passing acquaintance with current affairs might be.

In case you missed it, two Australian radio DJ’s were recently told they would not face criminal charges over a prank call to a London hospital that resulted in a woman’s suicide. They’re fortunate. While they clearly never intended any harm toward Jacintha Saldanha, the humiliation she suffered when it was revealed that she answered the telephone call that resulted in private details about the Duchess of Cambridge’s illness being disclosed, was apparently enough to tip her over the edge.

Clearly DJ Mo, of Idaho’s WDJQ missed this report, otherwise we can be sure that he wouldn’t have poked fun at a 30-year-old woman with Downs Syndrome on air. If he’d seen it, he would have known that while he might find humour in mocking someone’s speech impediment while they’re quite clearly confused and trying to ring off, it’s actually not funny at all, and that person might be sufficiently upset to harm themselves, even if you didn’t mean it that way.

His grasp of news distribution in the modern era at least implies the level of ignorance required to make such an assumption. Did he really think that as long as Kellie Baker was unaware of what was happening to her, he would be safe from censure?

You don’t know who Mo is?  Ok, so I can laugh at you and you won’t know who to call to say you’re offended?  Ha Ha.  Very good.

Apparently so. If only he’d familiarised himself with Merton’s law of unintended consequence beforehand. Perhaps he can look it up while he’s suspended from work.

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