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By: Allison Ebner


If you haven't seen the show for yourself (yet), you've likely still heard mumblings about Impractical Jokers, a comedy show featuring four real-life best friends from Staten Island - Sal Vulcano, James "Murr" Murray, Brian "Q" Quinn and Joe Gatto - who dare one another to do the most outrageous things they can think up. It's an undeniably funny show (and if you'd like to hear my continued ravings on the series, check out my full review here) that is already becoming a favorite to many.

And as if December 15th wasn't exciting enough, seeing as it was the premiere day for Impractical Jokers, the day got even better when I began the morning speaking with Sal and James, two of the Jokers. With a call that began with Sal warning, "I'm even funnier in the 9:00 hour," it was definitely going to be a good day and a good chat.

So if you're looking to learn more about the best friends, the show, the lengths people will go to in order to defend their eggrolls (you'll understand once you read through this interview) or just to find out what sort of crazy things these guys come up with off the top of their heads, read below to be entertained and informed by two of the funniest people who are now, thankfully and finally, on TV!

Impractical Jokers airs Thursdays at 10 PM on truTV.
Learn more about the show at their official site.


How are you guys feeling right now [on premiere day], having everything come together as it has for the show?

James: It's - it's incredible. We came up with the idea for the TV show in my living room, uh, almost two years ago, right Sal?

Sal: Seems like it, yeah.

James: Yeah, a year and a half, two years ago. And we've been filming the first season of the show over the past year, 'cause it's 16 episodes, so it takes us a while to film. And it's just been an incredible, incredible journey, but also I can't believe that today is finally... we get to see it launched on TV - it's just amazing.

Sal: Seems a bit surreal, right? The day has finally come? It's like Christmas times ten.

James: It really is.

Part of what makes the show so enjoyable and magnetic is that you can tell you're really friends. Since high school, right?

Sal: Yup, we all met freshman year of high school and been best friends ever since.

So, you know, what's your origin story? Was it comedy gold from the get go?

Sal: I'll be the first to say, it's taken James many, many, many, many years and we're still working on him till this day. [laughs]

James: I'll be the second to say, it's taken me many, many, many years.

No, you know, I remember since high school, the only goal in our lives was to make each other laugh. I mean, that's been the goal since day one in freshman year religion class... screw with each other, make each other laugh, you know. And then after college, we started doing comedy together because we just wanted to keep making each other laugh. So we've been working on it a long, long time, but it finally all just came together.

Sal: Actually, James, in high school I don't think you were really known as any type of class clown. I mean, I think Joe and I were really known as class clowns and you were more known for your... I mean, academics, right? [laughs] James was the salutatorian of our graduating high school class, so James failed because he came in second.

James: But, I only failed once, as opposed to Sal who failed 342 times. [laughs] Yeah, I guess Joe and Sal were more of the class clowns, but Brian and I did comedy - improv - in high school -

Sal: Wait, wait, wait, wait. You guys did musicals.

James: We did musicals.

Sal: Which was a comedy to me.

James: Q and I were the stars in West Side Story... and Bye Bye Birdie... [laughs] Those tapes will never see the light of day by the way.

Sal: I've been sitting on those tapes, buddy. I got a surprise for ya.

James: Wait, how do you have those - why do you have those tapes?

Sal: This has been a plan for 20 years. [laughs]

You've been doing dares like these for years, so do they still seem outrageous to you? You know, things like Joe's nose-ing, is it just as funny for you guys as the first time he did it?

James: Yeah. [laughs] I mean, it's funny because all the things that we normally do, which is, you know, screw with each other and dare each other to do these crazy things in public, it's just amplified now. It's higher stakes.

There's a million people watching, we know there are cameras on us and it's in bigger settings too. So, Joe dropping his nose on people in Costco or Q freezing while giving the customer his money back in White Castle... it's just bigger and bigger and more terrifying to do.

It's still funny. I mean Joe's been nose-ing people for 20 years. But we've always done it secretly, so like we'll be riding on the subway together and he'll start dropping his nose on passengers on the subway without them realizing it [laughs]

Sal: Yeah, to this point, the way we do it, no one really ever knew that they were getting nosed. Now it's kind of having its own unveiling. [laughs] It's very funny.

James: [laughs] Joe's nose is having its day.

So do guys have your own trademark moves or signature styles, too?

James & Sal: Uh, I think...

Sal: You take it.

James: No, you go ahead.

Sal: No, Murray, you take it, Murray.

James: I think we all have our particular things that we do. [laughs] Joe is really good with - Joe makes us laugh by doing outrageous physical things. He moves funny. His body is funny to look at.

Sal: That's actually pretty accurate, yeah. [laughs]

James: Let's see, Sal's trademark - Sal is the most sensitive out of the four of us to public embarrassment and I think you can tell that in the show. He's embarrassed and mortified so easily [laughs] and he wears that embarrassment on his face much more so than any of us do, so for me what I love most - his signature quality is when he cringes and you can tell he's pained by what he has to do.

Q's signature, I guess, is that Q doesn't give a damn about anything, you know? [laughs] His move is: what's the path of least resistance? You know, how can I get through this challenge as quickly and easily as possible, even if I have to cheat or fake or - or no matter what I have to do, I just want out of this. So he'll go out and just say and do anything. He doesn't care.

And I don't know, Sal, how would you describe what my signature MO is?

Sal: You did such a good job on those three descriptions. I'd say James, a combination of - you have a moral compass that drops in and out...

James: [laughs]

Sal: You know, most of the time, James, I feel like you can do things because you don't really see an issue with what we're doing. [laughs] I also think that you have the oddest personality of us, so...

James: [laughs]

Sal: I think your approach to a lot of the stuff we do is usually a little different, too.

James: Yeah, I think I'm a thinker. You know, I think through strategy and things. And, yes, I agree, I do lack what other people call morals or ethics. [laughs] But it flares up at odd points. I don't know why certain things trigger my morality, but they do. [laughs]

Just from the pilot, we can see that there could be certain weak spots for each of you based on what you were and were not willing to do and say. Do you end up preying on those aspects of one another? You know, not sabotage, but you know what's going to challenge each other?

Sal: I would actually specifically use the word sabotage. [laughs]

James: Yeah, that is exactly what we do for every challenge. [laughs] The three of us who are in the control room telling the other guy what to say or do are strategizing - we know each other so well, it's not even actually something we plan on, it's just we know each other so well it's second nature to us to dare Sal to do something we know is going to freak him out because we know all his quirks, all his eccentricities, everything that drives him crazy.

We know it just from being best friends for 20 years, so it's just second nature that we would, of course, dare our best friend to do something that he's going to hate to do.


It's definitely priceless to watch the reaction of all four of you guys when you either hear what you have to do or when you watch what the other one is doing, but what is also so funny is to watch the people on the end of these dares get to watch you make fools of yourselves. Do you tell them afterwards what's going on?

James: Yeah, after we do something crazy to a person, we'll usually tell them and 99% of the time, they crack up laughing because they don't understand what happened. They know that we made a fool of ourselves, [laughs] because the show is all about us being fools and embarrassing ourselves without us embarrassing the public in any way...

Sal: That happens, too, but really, really it's about us throwing each other under the bus.
James: So I'd say 99% of the time, they crack up laughing when they realize they were just on a TV show and they find out what we had to do because we were told we had to do it.

Sal: And the other 1% we can't talk about.

Do they not make the show?

James: Some of them make the show. [laughs]

Sal: The other 1%, as far as they're concerned, we're in the witness protection program right now. [laughs] We don't want them to find us.

 


Can you tease us about any more of the challenges from the season? Any particular moments that stand out for you?

James: Yeah, you know, the challenge that we were just working on last night - we went to one of these all-you-can-eat buffets, you know people pay a fixed amount and they go in and they shove their faces full of food, and the challenge is very simple: we had to go up to people at the buffet line and take food off their plate.

Very simple, it's a very simple idea, but it was terrifying - terrifying! People got, I think that's probably the craziest people got, right Sal? People were so protective over their food, even though it's a buffet - there's tons more of it for free in front of you. [laughs] It makes no sense.

Sal: There's something about once the food hits your plate, there's an assumed ownership, I guess, then there's a violation of space. And that's the kind of thing we really try and focus on in all those challenges - those little moments, those little social moments that are relatable to everyone everyday that people might be at a buffet sometimes and maybe it crosses their mind that "I wonder what would happen if I dared to take an eggroll off this guy's plate?" But you never do it and so the show is less like big, big stunts or anything like that and way more of social interaction and just exploring that kind of dynamic.

James: Yeah. [laughs] It is really funny how protective people can get of a drumstick. [laughs]

Sal: Yeah, yeah, exactly.

James: There's a tray of a thousand more drumsticks in front of you, but this one's on your plate, so it's like - it's like they're defending their child. [laughs]

Sal: Yeah, to say what I said and simplify it a little bit more, it's also about taking someone's god damn eggroll. [laughs]

Well, the challenges do serve as competition. So from the challenges in the first season, has their emerged a clear loser?

James: That's a good question. I think Sal has lost the - well, I don't want to give anything away, do I? But I think one of us, who may be Sal, probably lost the most challenges, don't you think? I don't know!

Sal: You know, it seems like it. It seems like maybe, but you never know. I didn't really do a full tally, but - we've all lost, definitely.

James: We've all spectacularly lost, don't worry. [laughs]


And have you found the punishment challenges at the end of the show to be truly just mortifying and horrible?

James: They're the worst.

Sal: You know, they are and they're also amazing when you're watching. You know, when we do get punished, it's like the most fun day when I'm not punished and I get to watch one of them get punished. [laughs] Because basically we just show up all day - I wake up, get out of bed knowing that I have nothing to do today that's going to get me killed or embarrassed and I get to watch James suffer all day and it's like the most wonderful feeling. I'm sorry I feel that way, but you know how it goes.

James: [laughs] I feel the exact same way! But then on the days you are getting punished, you're stomach's in knots -

Sal: It's the worst, the worst, because you know that the whole day is just going to be just you getting pounded, you know? [laughs]

James: And another thing is that we don't know the punishments before we go into it, so the guy getting punished shows up on set not knowing what he's going to have to do - which is terrifying, because you know these guys know me so well and I know them so well that I know they're going to plan something that's insane, like no one in their right mind would ever want to do.

Sal: The worst feeling is not knowing. You wake up with a knot in your stomach. [laughs]

So it's a really bad day for the loser and just a fantastic day for the other three.

James: That's the worst thing.

Sal: Yeah, exactly. I usually wake up with a knot in my stomach and I'll turn to the few girls laying in bed next to me and I'll be like, "Oh, this is going to be a rough one." [laughs]

So when you guys are just hanging out, is it always like this? You know, is this series essentially an average day for you guys, just now with the addition of cameras?

James: Yeah. [laughs] I would say so. Every time we get together and hang out, I mean we work together all the time, but when we hang out [laughs] it's just utter chaos and fun, right?

Sal: Yeah. It really is. You know, we say that and I wonder if the people reading really believe that, but it is so true. I mean, we do hang out all the time and we are [laughs] always like this, all the time.

James: [laughs]

Sal: It's just what we do. We just - we always try to get each other, we always try to make each other laugh and I mean, that's why when the show came to us something just clicked because the format of the show just allowed us to just be very natural in what we always do and we're hoping that translates to everyone because we had some much fun doing it. It's like a magical formula for us.

And this isn't your first foray into the world of TV. Do you think that natural aspect is what pushed Impractical Jokers to that extra level?

James: I think so. I think that's exactly right, that's the exact magic formula that made this one different. I mean, we knew - when we started filming we were like, "we're having so much fun on set performing and making each other laugh, we're having so much fun" and it's so natural to what we do as best friends that it just felt completely right.

And truTV has, to their credit, been amazing at supporting us and giving us an amazing amount of freedom to go out there and - we have no script, there's no lines that we're reading off of; it's just us going out there and making each other laugh and they've been amazing at giving us that freedom and liberty to go out and have fun and I think it really translates. We finally stumbled upon the right format for the show and the right network to do it with.

Since there is no script, does it always turn out? You know, do you always get some really great reactions or actions to do or to some of them end up getting pushed aside and scrapped?

Sal: I think it's safe to say that it's basically a law of averages. I mean, we think of hundreds of ideas and sometimes the simplest ideas that we think "eh, we'll see how this goes," they end up being amazing and sometimes the ideas that we think "oh, this is going to be the best thing ever," sometimes it could be the opposite, too.

So it's really a mixed bag and we don't know what to expect when we go out there, you know, but for the most part, I'd say, right James, most of the stuff works because it's just - once you get out there and start doing your thing people are just usually taken back, right?

James: Yeah, yeah, I would say so. But I think you're completely right, Sal. Some of the things that are the simplest ideas, like leaning over and taking somebody's drumstick, ends up being hysterical and praiseworthy. So we continue to get surprised by what works [laughs] and what doesn't work on set.


And it is the holiday season right now, so are there any classic pranks or traditions you guys rely on this time of year?

Sal: [laughs] I, uh...

James: [laughs]

Sal: [laughs] I, um...

James: [laughs]

Sal: Alright, this is going to sound mean...

James: [laughs] I don't know if you should say it!

Sal: Okay.

James: I don't know. [laughs] I know exactly what you're going to say. I don't think you should say it! [laughs]

Sal: Really? Okay.

James: We... we... [laughs] I don't know, what do we like to do at Christmastime?

Sal: Every morning I get up and I slap my grandmother in the face.

James: [laughs]

Sal: Is that what you were thinking I was going to say, James?

James: Yes. [laughs] It's a great prank. She loves it, she laughs every morning.

Sal: [laughs] The thing is I'm dressed as Santa when I do it, you know, so she still doesn't know it's me.

James: Gosh, I don't know. Well, I will tell you, the holidays in New York are really crowded. Everybody comes to New York for Christmas and New Year's and the more crowded the place is -

Sal: The more opportunity.

James: The more opportunities. Before we had a TV show we filmed a video of Joe putting his nose on people in Times Square during Christmastime 'cause there's a billion people in Times Square [laughs] and they're all festive and oblivious and it perfect for what we do. [laughs]


Well, thank you so much for chatting with me today. It's been a real pleasure. Do you have a final message for your fans and the fans that are to come when they watch the show?

Sal: Yes, if you support us and DVR the show and spread the word, I will sleep with you.

James: [laughs]

Sal: That's as frank as I can get.

James: I think Sal speaks for both of us.

Sal: [laughs] No, honestly, I mean, really a big heartfelt and so sincere thank you to the people that have come to see us since we started our comedy troupe twelve years ago when we were doing it in a room full of ten people and welcome to, hopefully - fingers crossed, the new fans that we make now. So, thank you.

A big thank you again to Sal and James for the chat! But I will say it now, my new goal is to one day get them to fess up to whatever Christmas tradition they were laughing so ominously about. Stay tuned... it may not be until Impractical Jokers is well into its fifth season... but, oh, it'll happen!

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