Embarrassment, Humility & Best Friends: The Perfect Recipe for Success
Dec 22, 2016 04:00PM ● Published by Nicole Gould
Photo courtesy of Tru TV
Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn, and Sal Vulcano. Sound familiar? How about, Joe, “Murr,” “Q,” and Sal. These four guys are the stars of the popular and well-known TV series, Impractical Jokers, and the New York-based comedy group, The Tenderloins.
While most people would consider this a “prank show,” the show’s primary focus takes real friendship to a whole new level of embarrassment. Ultimately, it’s a show about friends. Friends who spend their time developing hilarious and uncomfortable situations for each other.
With a combination of hidden mics and cameras, the jokers dare one another to the highest level of embarrassment, pushing and poking fun at each other’s fears. Currently filming their sixth season of the TruTV reality series, the fun is about to get funnier.
Each one of the jokers has something that makes them cringe ... except Joe. Known as the shameless joker, heading into every challenge and punishment without hesitation, he admits he has a favorite of his own to put in the spotlight.
“Sal. Hands down. Because you can physically see Sal’s body react to embarrassment. His skin actually wrinkles. You see his skin crawl. It’s great. And I love when he breaks down and he can’t even get the words out.” – Joe Gatto
Don’t miss out on what could be the funniest night of your life! The jokers will be performing Wednesday, December 28th at The Theater at MGM National Harbor as part of their “Santiago Sent Us” Tour. The show is set to start at 7:30 p.m.
How has the show developed since the very beginning up until now? Is the network willing to let you do certain things they wouldn’t before?
There is definitely a trust built over time from season one to season six where they [Network] understand and appreciate us as comedians as we do with their brand. It’s a nice marriage at this point. There’s definitely some bumps you have to get over when you try to do something.
When you look at the first season, it was less family friendly. The network told us that we have a lot of families watching the show, so we needed to make it less crude. We tried to spin it a little bit that way. TruTv has been such an amazing partner in this thing. We never thought we would get to episode two let alone to season six.
Has there ever been something you really wanted to do, but the network refused to let you do it? What was it?
Yeah, we’ve had a couple things. We still have a couple ideas that we always pitch every season and they always say no to it. We have one we pitch where the loser gets cuffed to a bus [departing] to Tampa and we stream it live on the internet. Success also comes with a bigger budget. Season five premiered with us and a helicopter. I thought of that idea in season three. We just didn’t have enough gusto to it do.
How did it feel to finally see your devious plan of throwing Sal out of a Helicopter come to life after proposing it three years prior?
It was amazing. I’m so excited in those shots. Especially when we’re counting it down, I just can’t believe it, it looks like an action movie. It was all the stuff. It was kind of amazing what our crew was able to do. Amazing how in season one it was eight people, us being four of them. Now we’re up to 60 people working on the show all the time and it’s just a blessing to have such talented people. We’ll blurt something out and they’ll tell us, “Yeah, we’ll see what can happen.”
One thing I wanted to do, it was for the show as a punishment, we send someone to a wedding and when the preacher asked if anyone objects, we have the loser stand up, object to the wedding, go into this long-winded story about why he objects, realizes he’s at the wrong wedding and leaves. But we can’t take ourselves to ruin a bride’s day.
Out of the four of you, you’re always the one who seems to take every challenge without hesitation. Out of the other three guys, who do you enjoy embarrassing/torturing the most and why?
Sal. Hands down. Because you can physically see Sal’s body react to embarrassment. His skin actually wrinkles. You see his skin crawl. It’s great. And I love when he breaks down and he can’t even get the words out. In real life, we’ve been friends for a long time and this is the real thing. This is how we do things. I make an ass of myself to make them laugh. Sal would hate taking elevators with me because he knew when the doors closed that I would do something stupid.
It’s very true to form. It’s a show about friendship more than anything else I think. I also like when we blindside people. When something takes a turn and they don’t see it coming. When Sal did the barge and it took off and he didn’t see it coming miles away. My favorite way to get the guys is when they don’t see it coming.
When did you decide that it was time to take The Tenderloins and turn it into a reality TV show? Was Impractical Jokers always the style for the show you wanted to pitch or did you have other proposals as well?
This was our third. We had a couple of sketch comedy shows that went to pilot, but didn’t go to series. We thought what’s our version of a show where we could put our comedy on display. We said “Hey what if we come up with this format where we embarrass each other?” We are quote on quote marks on the show. We’re not doing anything to people. It’s not a typical prank show, we are the ones getting embarrassed. That’s the really fun thing about our show and that’s what we held on to. It’s really just friends being friends. People are always telling us they have friends like us. People can really relate to it on that level. I mean it’s just friends hanging out.
Growing up, where did you get inspiration from? Did you ever think that you’d be embarrassing not only yourself but your best friends for a living? Was there another career you had in mind before this developed?
I gave up on caring what people think at like 12 years old. I told myself if I can make people laugh and embarrass myself, then I felt good. From that point on I wasn’t embarrassed to have fun … it didn’t come about what other people thought it came about what my friends thought. They say I don’t have the shame gene. I don’t necessarily care as long as my friends are laughing.
No, this is literally the dream job. It’s a great day at work when we all fall down crying. It’s unbelievable how much fun were still having. I mean our crew is like family at this point. We’re surrounded by people who enjoy doing it. It’s so beyond work now and when we go on tour and perform live shows, it’s basically taking road trips with my best friends. We go see a movie or go shopping after a show.
This is like my fourth career. Season one we all had day jobs. Q worked for the FDNY, Sal was a bar and music venue owner, Murr was a professional temp, and I worked at a baby store called Giggle, selling high end baby clothes and furniture. Season 1 during the pilot we would have our day jobs and then go work on the show. I can never imagine anything like this. No one can. This is a dream come true. You pinch yourself and the best part is your doing it with your best friends. It just takes it to the next level of enjoyment because your experiencing it with your friends.
Now that you’re currently filming season six of the show, do you think you’ve become more recognizable on the streets. How are you able to pull off your pranks without people realizing who you are?
Filming season six, New York City is an ally in that because there are so many people that come through here. People don’t expect to see us in the environment we’re in. Say we’re in a burger joint, your looking at the menu not necessary the guy, no one is on high alert. At the end, we’ll ask if they know of the show ... and they don’t realize it and they get caught so off guard.
There was a recent episode where Sal and Q were working in a pawn store and a guy came in. This was a team challenge so Mur and I told them to start sniffing his tattoos. The guy goes “Omg you remind me of that show Impractical Jokers,” and Sal asked him if it was good and he goes “You’ve never seen it?” He then starts explaining the show to Sal and Q looks it up, and shows them a picture of the four of us. Murr and I walked out and his mind was literally blown.
We have a security team. We don’t do anything where someone recognizes us. The level of embarrassment has to be real. We’ll have Production Assistants on the side. If someone tries to take a photo or something, they’ll pull them to the side. It’s funny because we recognize people recognizing us because they’re immediately on camera. Their face lights up and we know that they know us. It’s hard to pull one over on us. We’ll abandon ship on people.
If and how do you reveal after the fact that a stunt is really just that to your unsuspecting victims?
They have to, the production assistant knows we’re on to the next joke. They explain the show what it’s all about, show them the history in NYC and Tru TV. Then they sign away their life to us. Like I said, people are ok with it because there just confused. We’re not messing with people to get them upset. They just thought that guy was insane.
Out of all five seasons, what has been the most memorable prank you’ve been a part of?
I really, really enjoyed when we pretended Sal violated the law and we had to give him a disposition. We were filming and the goal was to steal someone’s nose. Sal climbed on a statue in downtown Manhattan to steal his nose. A real letter was sent to the production company saying that we trespassed. The company was able to get it dismissed, but we didn’t let Sal know. So, we made him go to this meeting with a pretend actress, who showed raw footage of him climbing the statue and not caring. They told him he had a potential fine of a hundred thousand dollars and a possible 30 days in jail. We had fake cops put on this whole thing. He was flipping out and we turned around and told him over last nine months we had been messing with him.
Also, I like some of the easy stuff. Murr is afraid of heights, so we pretend to have a skydiving class and push him out of a plane. That’s definitely iconic. I think one of the most fun things to do is when you get punished. It’s weird because you’re mad about it, but at the same time you’re so proud of your friends for coming up with something so next level. It was great when I was Captain Fat Bell on top of that ram. That we were able to film that. I’m flying over the river next to the bridge.
Is there anything in particular that you’ll never do?
I’m not going to tell you because the boys are going to read this interview.
Is there a memorable stunt that has backfired badly?
I wish there was a story, but there isn’t one there, nothing really gets upset. Nothing went wrong. That makes a good anecdote. We’re always like there’s got to be something we’re not remembering.
What was the connection between you and Travis Pastrana/Nitro Circus? How did that collaboration come about? Do you receive more requests for collaborations now versus when you started?
It came through an idea we had with the network about doing a year end charity event kind of thing where we compete for charity. We thought what if we did a crazy obstacle course. You think those words, crazy and obstacle course, and Travis Pastrana’s group comes to mind. We got on the phone and told them what we wanted to and that it would be fun to have this big event with a crazy course. We did some training with them and it was a lot of fun. When it’s organic it works. We get a lot of people that ask us to work with them but it has to make sense for the show. Sometimes it won’t make sense right away, but then we’ll work with them. People want to be part of the fun. That’s always very nice to hear. We do have a good time.
What can we expect next from Impractical Jokers?
Hopefully a movie. We would love to do a movie. Wheels are turning on that. Also, we’re always trying to think of more fun things to do to each other. Really good ones coming down the pike, so I’m definitely excited.