Coyle & Sharpe, Legendary Early 60’s Street Pranksters

Coyle & Sharpe

In the early 1960’s the legendary team of Jim Coyle and Mal Sharpe, known as Coyle & Sharpe, would roam the streets of San Francisco playing pranks on people using a microphone hidden in a brief case.

Perhaps 40 years ahead of their time, Coyle and Sharpe defined what is now commonplace on radio and TV with shows such as Howard Stern, Da Ali G. Show, Cash Cab, and more. Coyle and Sharpe met in a boarding house in San Francisco in 1959. Coyle was a benign con man who had talked his way into 119 jobs by the age of 25. Sharpe had just graduated college and had drifted out to the West Coast to check out the Beatnik scene. The pair found they had a mutually sick sense of humor. To avoid real jobs, Coyle and Sharpe thought they could make a living pulling pranks or “Terrorizations,” as they then called them. In 1964, they were hired by KGO in San Francisco to do a nightly radio show called Coyle and Sharpe On The Loose. In 1964, they recorded two albums for Warner Bros., The Absurd Impostors and The Insane Minds of Coyle and Sharpe. They did a hidden camera television pilot, The Impostors, contained on this release. In 1967, Coyle left California to pursue a career in tunneling. He died in 1993 while burrowing under the City of Barcelona. Sharpe continued to work in media where he did hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews for radio and television. In the year 2000, The Whitney Museum hosted a centennial exhibit, The American Century. Coyle and Sharpe were featured in the Soundworks Exhibit.

Last year Mal released a Coyle & Sharpe box set: “These 2 Men Are Impostors”

Coyle & Sharpe

In March of this year Mal’s daughter Jennifer Sharp and Jesse Thorn of The Sound of Young America launched an excellent Coyle & Sharpe podcast, using audio from Mal’s archive including material that has not been heard since the 1960’s. Jesse also did a great interview with Mal back in August 2006 and Jennifer has a wonderful collection of Coyle & Sharpe photos and memorabilia that she has posted to Flickr.

Coyle & Sharpe

For more info on Coyle & Sharpe, check out their website.

photos via Jennifer Sharpe