Human sugar bowl -- 1960s street prank

200611272023 In the 1960s two underemployed young men named Mal Sharpe and Jim Coyle from the San Francisco Bay Area decided to have some fun by walking the streets with a tape recorder hidden in a briefcase to conduct surreal prank interviews with people.

On a recent episode of the terrific podcast, The Sound of Young America, Mal Sharpe was invited as a guest to talk about the movie Borat. The podcast's host, Jesse Thorn, said Coyle and Sharpe were spiritual grandfathers to Sacha Baron Cohen. Thorn also played a segment of an early Coyle and Sharpe bit, called the human sugar bowl, in which the pranksters entered a San Francisco restaurant and asked the owner if he would "be opposed to the idea of using an area of your head, which is currently not used for such purposes, to use this as a storage place for sugar?" I loved the fact that the restaurant owner actually had a conversation with the two pranksters, telling them they were crazy for thinking the idea would be a viable business, and explaining to them why he thought it was a bad business idea. Today, most restaurant owners who were approached by a pair of deadly earnest men spouting such insanity would reach for a gun, a can of pepper spray, or a phone to call the cops.

Here's a sample of the bit. You can buy a four-disc set of Coyle and Sharpe's work at

Reader comment:

Sound of Young America host Jesse Thorn says:

I must reflect credit elsewhere... that was actually an episode of Public Radio International's Open Source on which Mal Sharpe and I were guests. The host is Christopher Lydon. They're CC licensed, so I put it down my podcast chute since I was out of town this past weekend.

That said, here's an hour show I did a few weeks ago with Mal.