If you’ve ever watched The Simpsons, you know that one of the show’s longest-running gags involves Bart and Lisa crank calling Moe’s Tavern. The joke is always the same: the kids (anonymously) ring the surly bartender and ask if they can speak to a fictitious patron with a secretly subversive name. Invariably, Moe asks around for “Hugh Jass” (or some variation) until he realizes that he’s been pranked. Bart and Lisa laugh hysterically as an enraged Moe threatens to hunt them down.

What most people don’t realize is that the bit is a direct homage to something that really happened in New Jersey in 1975. So in honor of TelTech’s home state – and the 40th anniversary of the events in question – we pay tribute to what may be the all-time finest example of prank calling: The Tube Bar Calls.

The premise was pretty simple. Two guys in their twenties placed several hundred calls to a bar in Jersey City called The Tube Bar, which was known for its surly proprietor, and recorded their interactions. That’s it. But what made the calls special was the disproportionate reaction of the bar owner, Louis “Red” Deutsch. Upon realizing that he had been taken in by pranksters looking for Stu Pitt (“stupid”) or Cole Kutz (“cold cuts”), Red would fly into a frothy rage that was far more entertaining than the prank calls. And because there was no call display in 1975, Red had no way of knowing who was calling him.

The calls petered out by 1976 – after more than 100 had been immortalized on tape - but through an underground network of friends sharing recordings they had attained cult status by the mid-1980’s. Simpson’s creator Matt Groening came across the Tube Bar tapes when he was still an indie cartoonist drawing Life In Hell, and when The Simpsons launched a few years later he seamlessly incorporated the prank into the show.

Today, of course, that kind of prank would be a lot more difficult thanks to technologies that allow calls to be traced. But in 1975 Red had no defense against the incessant harassment. And even though the basic premise of the prank was Stu Pitt-ly simple, it turned out to be mainstream comedy gold.