Coyle & Sharpe

Jim Coyle and Mal 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 and decided to if the to see if they could avoid real jobs and see if they could make a living pulling Pranks or “Terrorizations,” as they then called them.

Using one of the first miniature tape recorders, The Mohawk, which they hid in a brief case, they roamed the streets of San Francisco capturing their bizarre encounters with unsuspecting citizens. After surviving for two years on peanut butter sandwiches, they released an LP on Warner Brothers Records and then were hired by KGO radio to do a nightly show.

Most of the audio in the podcast, and in their CD box set “These Two Men Are Imposters,” was recorded during this period. In 1964 they went to Hollywood to hit the jackpot. They did a television pilot , THE IMPOSTORS, which didn’t sell. Perhaps 40 years ahead of their time, they were never hired again and their partnership ended.

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 and ultimately moved back to San Francisco where he did hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews for radio and television. Despite their brief partnership, Coyle and Sharpe continued to flourish in the underground media thanks to the dedication of Mal’s daughter Jennifer Sharpe who, along with Henry Rollins, produced a CD of their material in 1995. It is reissued in their box set.

In the year 2000, The Whitney Museum hosted a centennial exhibit THE AMERICAN CENTURY. Coyle and Sharpe were featured in the Soundworks Exhibit.