Few shows compare to the comedic juggernaut that is the TruTV series Impractical Jokers. As the show’s opening notice conveys, each episode showcases epic “scenes of graphic stupidity as four lifelong friends compete to embarrass each other.” For anyone who has seen the series, you know its tongue-in-cheek warning signifies roughly 30 minutes of nonstop laughter.
In 2010, four friends from Staten Island started filming what would soon become one of the funniest reality shows on television. Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, Brian “Q” Quinn, and James “Murr” Murray became the faces of the Impractical Jokers, a beloved improv group, the Tenderloins, turned distinguished television series. But what goes on behind the scenes of such a show? Honestly, it’s much of what you’d expect: Laughter, creative thinking, more laughter, great friendships, and tons of more laughter.
The Impractical Jokers is native to the New York Metropolitan area, so they film episodes throughout New York City as well as areas in New Jersey. In some segments, you can catch the Jokers at Garden State hotspots, including malls, sports shops and even down the Jersey Shore. While the show doesn’t stray far from New York, it has found its way aboard a cruise ship, on the islands of Hawaii and in the Big Easy. But some of the funniest scenes were filmed right in our backyard.
Using the aromatic backdrop of the Fragrance Garden at New York’s Brooklyn Botanic Garden, each Joker took turns posing as “educated” botanists for a full day this past summer. (This might sound familiar to anyone who caught the recently-aired episode 22 of season six.) A midday rain shower wasn’t enough to disturb a hilarious challenge brought to you by Murr’s flower abuse, Joe’s wet sponge offerings, Q’s painting session and Sal’s almost Obama sighting.
One of the beauties of the show is how even the entire crew gets into the fun, as all crack up – some even falling to the floor in laughter – while fluidly maintaining their duties. For them, the days begin very early and end late, but they enjoy each second of every Joker’s challenge.
Love What You Do
Sal, Joe, Q and Murr all certainly feel the same. The Jokers agreed that it’s a dream to be able to do this every day, to enjoy a career in which they are constantly laughing—usually at the expense of their best friends. But who doesn’t enjoy that?
Regardless, that’s exactly what Impractical Jokers revolves around: Friendship.
“When we came up with the show,” Murr tells those behind the scenes during the partial taping of episode 22, “we wanted to come up with an idea that actually put our friendship on display, what we actually do together – like the natural, organic chemistry we have – and what we have been doing together our entire lives from high school.”
Joe adds: “We’ll meet grandmothers, mothers and daughters who all watch the show and all have a different favorite. So people really respond to the friendship.”
While the show shares similar elements to programs enjoyed years ago, like Candid Camera and Punk’d, it is still vastly different from other reality series.
“I think, really, what it comes down to is the best part of our show is that we are our own mark,” Joe says. “So we are messing with each other, and we’re not making anyone feel bad. So I think that part of it is different and unique to us. And I definitely love the fact that we make each other uncomfortable on a daily basis.”
While the main draw of the show is the hilarity that ensues as the guys attempt to make each other immeasurably uncomfortable, Sal explained that there is a bit more to the show’s dynamic.
“In our show, we’re trying to compete,” Sal states, referencing the nature of the program in which, at the end of each episode, there is an ultimate loser who gets “punished.”
Punishments entail sure misery for the loser, and while each punishment is despised by the loser, the Jokers do have their least favorites. For example, one of Sal’s came when the Jokers filmed in New Orleans in 2015, and he was forced to dress up as a bog monster and spend the day in a swamp.
“I’m afraid of parasites and germs and alligators and all that,” Sal explains. “I was in the swamp for the better part of a day, and I actually, at one point, splashed water into my mouth.”
The Worst Punishment
For Murr, his least favorite lasted much longer.
“The worst punishment for me was last season, they shaved off my eyebrows and my hair, and they made me go to the Department of Motor Vehicles and take a new driver’s license photo,” he says. “It took three months for my eyebrows to grow back.”
Through all the tears of pure laughter over the past seven years, Impractical Jokers continues to grow in popularity, even gaining celebrity fans, like Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey, and Bruno Mars. A popular question for the Jokers is, “Doesn’t everyone know you by now?” Well, with millions of people visiting, living and working in the tri-state area on any given day, it isn’t too difficult for the Jokers to remain unrecognized.
In addition to their broadcasted show, these four longtime friends perform in front of sold out crowds across the globe. Just like their TruTV program, you can’t miss their live performances either.
“People always say, ‘What’s the live show?’” Q explains. “It’s the spirit of the (television) show. It’s the four of us hanging out, making fun of Murray a lot, sharing home videos, talking.”
The genuineness and honest, natural humor these guys possess isn’t lost during either their live shows or the series. As Sal describes: “We play ourselves on the show.”
No matter how you view the Impractical Jokers, either live in person or on TV, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience.
You can catch them on TruTV on Thursday nights. For their touring schedule, visit thetenderloins.com/tour.
Hero (Top) Feature Image: © Impractical Jokers / TruTV
Additional Images (in Order) Courtesy:
Patrick Lombardi / Best of NJ
The Tenderloins / Website