By Terrence McCoy
By Allie Conti
By Terrence McCoy
By Scott Fishman
By Deirdra Funcheon
By Allie Conti
By New Times Staff
By Ryan Pfeffer
He broadcasts from the converted garage of a four-bedroom house in Lauderhill that he shares with two roommates. Using a laptop for sound effects, a digital camera to broadcast video, and a cable broadband connection, he streams his shows to as many as 600 people an evening. Five to 20 people a night cram the house as spectators, on-air guests, and wisecrackers. His production background has included FM radio, cable television, and local theater, but he chose the Internet because, he says, it offers "more control of creative content." No bosses. No money men. No commercial interruption.
Although Blackout doesn't like to be pigeonholed, it is his outlandish cranks that have made him a popular figure on the Internet. In its 2003 edition, a popular Internet reference book called Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages featured his site in its humor and jokes section. Hahn's book says of Blackout's work, "These are, by far, the funniest such calls I ever heard. Every time I visit Blackout's Box, I end up laughing and laughing out loud." Then there are the e-mails from fans: "You are the funniest fucking crank caller in this world, bro!" and "You are a god you rule the world please more pranks you are the best I wet my pants eighteen times listening to this stuff all others pale in comparison" -- a nightmare of a run-on sentence, but the meaning is clear: Blackout's comedy leaves a strong impression.
While the Jerky Boys were turning the nation on to crank comedy with the release of their first CD, The Jerky Boys, in 1993, Blackout was developing his own style in Broward County. "I don't like to do like Jerky Boy-type things," he says. "I love to give the cue to make things go longer. I like to build, like, this long drama." Indeed, Blackout is adept at playing with his victims, adjusting his tone, and even switching characters to make the call believable.
The local talent's calls are longer and generally more sophisticated than those of the current crank market giant, Comedy Central's Crank Yankers, which features the smug humor of Adam Carolla and Jimmy Kimmel. In a recent Yankers call, for instance, a cranker phones a telemarketing service to inquire about a job. While talking to the hiring manager, he starts belching into the phone and denies that he's doing it. While the hiring manager looks around his office for the gassy employee, the Yanker complains that he doesn't want to work in such an unprofessional environment. Ba dum chh!
Compare this to Blackout's latest, in which he calls up the distributor for a dog-calming CD imitating Snoop Dogg. Over the sound of a bubbling bong, Snoop comes on to the operator, calling her "little Venus" and asking her "what the Doggy Ease CD can do to calm the Dogg down." As Snoop's advances become more extreme, the telephone saleswoman gets increasingly antsy about the phone call's being recorded for "quality assurance." When Snoop persists and asks her for her personal phone number, she hangs up. It's more than a simple prank; Blackout does an amusing Dogg impersonation while exposing the rigid conditions under which the operator works.
When Biganski was 8 years old, he saw himself in a home video his grandfather had made. Instantly obsessed, he dug the eight-millimeter camera out of the closet and made a short film about an evil toy car. He recruited neighborhood kids to run away screaming.
When it was finished, he popped popcorn and set up a projector. But when the film rolled, all the children saw was a black screen. It was then that Biganski's grandfather sat him down with reels of exposed film and explained that it needed to be developed.
This was a telling beginning to Biganski's trial-and-error career in acting and media production.
His foray into radio began seven years later on a stormy Thursday afternoon in 1991. Tucked away in the studio of Piper High School's WKPX-FM (88.5), he was oblivious to the fact that a thunderstorm had just moved in. So, when lightning struck the radio tower, blowing out equipment at the station and cutting power to the whole school, Biganski freaked. He describes the experience best in the bio on his website: "I distinctly remember the huge CRAAAACCCking sound and believing that I had pushed the wrong button and somehow blown everything all to hell, and that surely I was going to be expelled." His classmates ragged on him and started calling him Blackout. The name stuck.
WKPX was out of commission for a couple of months, Blackout recalls. That was when he started making crank calls to entertain his friends in radio class. When the station went back on the air, he played recordings of this material. In one of his most outlandish on-air cranks from this period (posted on Blackout.com), he called 411 with a snooty British accent and requested the telephone number for the "Rrrrrrrooksnitzien Society." In the call, he claimed not to know how many r's the word begins with and attempted to persuade the operators that if they rolled their tongues when they said it, they would be able to divine the quantity.