Torturing The Telemarketers

tom mabe comedian prank caller
The federal government's do-not-call list has saved millions of Americans from pesky telemarketers, but Tom Mabe had to take it one step further.

The comedian and jingle-writer goes on the offensive on "A Wake-Up Call for Telemarketers," his new CD being released Tuesday. Last year, Mabe traveled to Washington, D.C., for a telemarketers convention and stayed at their hotel. He waited until the wee hours of the morning and started dialing.

Telemarketer: "Hello. Hello."

Mabe: "Hi, this is Tom Mabe. I'm calling on behalf of the Telemarketers With Insomnia Foundation. How are you doing this evening sir?"

Telemarketer: "Excuse me?"

Mabe: "This is Tom Mabe. I'm calling with the Telemarketers With Insomnia Foundation. We call you at this hour only so you can better understand what these poor telemarketers with insomnia go through."

Telemarketer: "You're an idiot."

Mabe: "Sir with your help, we can help some of these telemarketers get some rest."

Telemarketer: "You're an absolute idiot."

Mabe: "I don't appreciate you calling me an idiot."

Telemarketer: "Well I don't appreciate being called at this hour. You're an idiot."

Mabe manages to ask the increasingly agitated victim for his credit card number before the phone slams down.

While Mabe, 36, was commuting from his Louisville home to Nashville, Tenn., to write jingles and television theme songs, he said most of his inspiration struck at night, leaving him to sleep during the day.

When the phone rang, almost every call was from a telemarketer.

"They wouldn't take no for an answer," Mabe said. "I tried to be nice but nothing worked."

Eventually, Mabe started luring telemarketers into embarrassing and awkward situations with his quick tongue, which provided the material for his first two comedy CDs.

He revisits the gag on his new disc. Mabe asks one caller to wait a moment while he sees who is at the door. Listeners then hear Christmas carolers, followed by a series of shotgun blasts and murderous shrieks.

Mabe then asks the confused telemarketer, who was selling a service that pays your credit card bill if you are incapacitated, if the system works for people in prison.

"Telemarketers tell you that they are just doing their job, but some of them will rip you off," he said. Anyway, "telemarketers hate telemarketers."

Admittedly, the no-call list has cut into Mabe's act. But as telemarketing evolves - "When you call suicide hot lines, they'll try to sell you prearranged funeral packages," he predicts - so will Mabe.

"I'm going after (spam) e-mail next," he warns. "I have no idea how, but I'm going to get them."