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By: Allison Ebner


My love for truTV's Impractical Jokers is no secret. Whenever the topic of TV comes up or even when there's just a lull in conversation, I always ask, "Have you seen Impractical Jokers?" It's so good and so outrageously (and consistently) funny, you just want to keep talking about it. I mean, who doesn't want to watch four best friends dare each other to do some of the wackiest and most outrageous things all in the name of embarrassing themselves?

Legions of fans have become enamored with the show and the four best friends, Sal, Q, Murr and Joe, and after the show went on a break in February, they've been left to watch and re-watch the first episodes until they can recite them from memory and work them into everyday life. But the time has finally come for some brand new episodes with hysterical challenges and unforgettable punishments. Yes, you better believe it, the Impractical Jokers are baaaaaack!

To get the scoop on the second half of this season and the show's huge surge of success and popularity, I had the opportunity to catch up with Joe Gatto, one of the jokers himself, and let me tell you, in some strange way, I felt like I was watching an all-new episode just by being on the phone with him. He's as genuine, down-to-earth and 100% as hysterical as he is on TV and his excitement over the show and gratitude toward the fans makes him even more endearing than us fans would already have found him.

Joe has been very active on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the show's debut and knows just how much the fans have been spreading the word and the love for the show. "It is absolutely, absolutely insane how people are really just taking to the show and really love us as a group and have their favorites," he started.

"It seems like they don't root against any of us, but they definitely root for one person more than the others, you know what I mean? They're not looking for anybody to fail, but they're happy when one person doesn't." Joe laughed. Fess up, my fellow Impractical Jokers fans, you know he's right! We're all on someone's team... even if it happens to change from episode to episode.

But the four friends certainly weren't expecting the storm of support they rallied. And Joe definitely wasn't expecting things like "Larry!" and "RayRay" to catch on. "I can't believe that a lot of the things you just think in the moment just become such a thing. Like, I get 'Larry!' yelled at me so much and it's so great to see people yelling and taking to the show."

"My favorite stories are when people share with me how they've used what we've done on the show," he continued, "like I get numerous stories on my Facebook and Twitter about people telling me how they used Larry to their advantage to cut in line or one girl told me about how she couldn't find her mother when they were in a Walmart, so she was calling her name and her mother didn't answer and then she yelled 'Larry!' and her mother yelled 'yeah!'" He laughed, joking, "I'm offering a service is what I'm really trying to do."

But before this service of his, he was in a very different industry. That bio for him on the Impractical Jokers website is not a joke. He was, in fact, a personal shopper in a baby store for many years. "I worked my way up to a training program manager for a national baby retailer called Giggle, a chain that went across from here to San Francisco. I was a baby product expert which is very bizarre for a guy who doesn't have any kids or isn't even married," he laughed as he explained his job.

"It was very weird. And Sal and James and Q always thought it was really weird how much I knew about baby products and that was sort of like a device I used to make them laugh. I still do to this day! When we're filming, if a woman walks by with a certain type of stroller, I start talking about the features. The woman is probably like, 'why does this guy know so much about this stroller?'" he laughed. "Yeah, we always get a big kick out of that. And then Sal, he tells me I don't realize how creepy it comes across. I guess that has helped me to load my comedic arsenal a little bit with baby product knowledge," he laughed.

Maybe Sal thinks it's creepy, but I'd chalk it up to that Joe charm we've all come to know and love. Another part of that charm is that he is certainly the most fearless of the jokers, which he admits has always been the case.

"You know, it's funny, it translates to fearlessness on camera, but it's really [that] I've always had a gift to judge what I could get away with from people," he laughed. "I know what people's limits would be for when I'm messing with them. And I do it in a way that people don't really think I'm messing with them, so I get away with a lot. I think that's what it comes down to."

"And, I mean, this show definitely plays to my strengths because for years I've been doing all this stuff to make Sal cringe," he explained. "He's one of my favorite people in the world to make laugh. I love his laugh. I love making him come to tears and [he's] a great audience. I'll just always turn and see him shaking his head in disapproval."

And lucky for Joe, this fearlessness seems to help him in the show, too, because it makes it much harder for Sal, Murray and Q to sabotage him. "They're having trouble! I think that's going to carry through for when we come back," he revealed. "They try to get me to do some stuff and they get mad at themselves that they can't get me, which is more enjoyable for me and makes me more fearless."


But that doesn't mean there isn't a line. "There's definitely a line," he assured. "I don't like to be a jerk to people. I'm definitely a people person. I don't like to make people feel bad, so I guess that would be my line."

"I always say I don't want to come across as an a-hole. I was raised by my lovely Italian mother who in the back of my head, if I hear her say, 'Mm, I wouldn't do that,' that's probably my limit," he laughed as he continued on. "The perfect example for me is when we did the handwriting analysis and they told me to say to that lovely girl, 'I can tell by your signature that you are a hot girl trapped in an average woman's body.' I mean, that is a perfect example of something that was just like, 'no, I'm not going to do that.'"

That's why we love him so much! He's so good at making people laugh and making the other guys squirm, but he never takes it too far. So, we'd like to thank Mrs. Gatto for being the voice in his head, which is just another reason we imagine she's proud of her son. "My mother is a peacock, she's crazy right now. Every time 10:31 rolls around on a Thursday night, my phone will ring and she'll always say the same thing, 'BEST EPISODE YET!'" Joe laughed, tagging on, "it's good to finally make my mom proud."

Now we can only imagine what his mom is thinking when they go into those punishment rounds, though. When the show premiered in December, I had the chance to chat with Sal and Murray where they explained that the punishment days are the absolute best days for the non-losers and the absolute worst for the winner. But Joe has a little bit of a different take on it.

"You know, I have a little bit more fun with it, I think, than them, because I'm going into it like, 'okay, they're going to get me; how can I get them while they're getting me?'" he explained his tactics. "There have unfortunately been a couple of times, coming up, when they do get me a couple times in good ways. I was proud of them a little bit," he laughed and admitted, "These next rounds of punishments I definitely dealt it as much as I took it, so I'm excited for everyone to see what we came up with."

And he assures us that the punishments the rest of the season are going to be unforgettable. "There's a lot more of what the fans have come to love, when we really get to throw each other under the bus. We think of some really funny ways to throw each other under the bus and we do them in some pretty big ways with a lot of people watching, which is good."


He went on to explain, "The punishments can be great in two ways. They could be great just because there's a big crowd that you have to do it in front of, like Sal when he had to sing in the baseball stadium, or they're great, too, when there's that one-on-one interaction and these next punishments have a good mix of that."

And believe it or not, it won't be Sal losing every week! "There's a good mix of who loses, which is nice." Joe laughed. "We gave [Sal] a little break."

 


But when I asked him about the day-to-day life of their friendship, it was pretty quickly revealed that Sal doesn't get too much a break in real life hangouts either. "We really do just like to messing with each other and making each other laugh. It is often like this," Joe acknowledged.

"I have to tell you this story. Last night, me, Murr and Sal were hanging out and Sal decided to drive me and Murray home because we were uptown and Murray and I live in downtown Manhattan," Joe was already laughing at what was to come.

"So, Sal decides to be nice and drive us home and we talk him into driving us to our apartment, but you have to go up some like side streets which are all one-ways. So, we're pretty close to our apartment, we could walk home, and Sal's way home is the other way, and he's like, 'Can't you just get out and walk home?' And we're like, 'Sal, just drive us.'"

"So, he makes the turn and about halfway up the block there is a garbage truck taking up the whole street. It literally has like piles of Manhattan apartment garbage next to it and the guy's like, 'Sorry, you know, we're doing this.' So, now two cars come in behind Sal and Sal's stuck," Joe laughed harder. "I looked at Murray and go, 'Alright, buddy, thanks for driving us home!' and we get out and walk and leave Sal in the car by himself behind this garbage truck!"

"He was stuck there for twenty minutes while me and Murray were in tears crying, walking home, and Sal was just yelling out of the window, 'I'm never driving you home again!'" he mimicked Sal. I admit, I can envision this scene playing out as though it were already included on an episode, only further proving the real friendship behind the show and the real humor. "This stuff happens on a daily basis," Joe said, "where we just mess with each other and have fun, but it's all in good fun."

This good fun has proved excellent television for fans everywhere , leaving no doubt in my mind that we'll be in store for more antics and laughter in a second season (and third and fourth and fifth, etc.). While the official word has yet to come from truTV, the jokers remain positive.

"If we are, it's going to be insanity," Joe laughed while discussing the prospect of the second season. "I'm hopeful that that's coming for us. We would love to keep making people laugh and doing this stuff with my best friends."

"You know, we just love the fan support," Joe turned it back to the fans that have been spreading the love for the show and propelling it to the next level. "It began being us having fun and it has now evolved into something bigger than that where we are actually providing real entertainment for people who are really taking to it and really enjoying what we do."

"So there's a higher stake for us in season two and we're going to want to push the envelope even further, do a lot more fun stuff and now people know us. So, that's good!" He explained. "That's going to make for better TV because people get to know and want to know more about us. So, it may be less about what they're going to do, but to see us mess with each other and be real friends like people know we are."


Only half a season in and this is true already. No matter what team we find ourselves on, we just want to know more about these four men! That's certainly part of why we love those insightful scenes between the challenges where the guys are just talking to one another. "We have a lot of fun doing those. And those come very naturally to us because we have a plethora of stories that we could talk about whenever you just give us a topic," Joe acknowledged.

But with viewers getting to know the four extraordinarily likeable best friends and the show garnering more and more attention, I had to touch on the potential for being recognized while in the midst of a challenge.

"We get recognized a lot when we're together as a group. We do get recognized individually as well, I mean, it's been insane," Joe explained. "But I feel like we get recognized a lot more outside of New York because New Yorkers aren't paying that much attention. I just recently went to Las Vegas on vacation a little while ago and when I was there, I got recognized there more in four days than I did in three months [in New York]." He laughed.

"It was absolute insanity. I was getting approached, getting pictures taken and all that stuff and it totally caught me off guard because in New York, it happens maybe once or twice a day. But we had filmed a couple of episodes since the show had aired, so we only had to stop down a couple of times because people knew us. So we just had to be like, 'Shh...'" he laughed, again, clearly thinking back on some challenge. "But there's still enough that don't [recognize us] that I think we can get away with it for a little while longer... It definitely helps that people never think they're on TV. They're like, 'no, that's not you.'"

But those individuals and fans that have recognized and supported Joe and the other Impractical Jokers have certainly left a mark on these funny men. "The way people have taken to it and the fans - it's really surprising how fast it took off for people," Joe reiterated. "Our official Impractical Jokers Facebook page, just watching the numbers fly and watching the reviews that people have given after each episode and to just see it grow has been absolutely amazing."

"The fans are amazing. I love spending some time with them because there's nothing like that. It's a nice reward," he explained after having recounted the incredible fan displays like the artwork, the videos, the covers of 'Butterfly Crime Scene,' the story of a woman running up, out of breath, to he and Murray to get a picture with them or even the Vice President of Operations of the White Castle they've now been to twice who was "completely bummed because he had a meeting he couldn't miss, so he wasn't able to come out the second time."


But, all you Team Joe members, prepare yourselves, because you may just fall even more in love with Joe Gatto than before when you find out what he said was "one of the coolest things that happened" due to the show's success. And it has to do with his family!

"I really think one of the coolest things was my nephews are 13 and 10-years-old and their friends wanted to come over when I was over. Like, I left the house and had to go outside so all [his] friends could meet me. He was such a proud little guy and to be able to give him that was really, really cool." Alright, yet another thing to add to the list of charming attributes of Joe. (Does the list ever end?!)

So, as you prepare for the new episodes and watch the old ones that remarkably never, in fact, get old, keep in mind Joe's final message to all of us fans: "Get ready! There's a lot of fun stuff coming up on these next episodes!" And, of course, "thanks so much for all the support. We need it and love it and love you back!"

Impractical Jokers air Thursdays at 10 PM on truTV.

For more, check out our interview with Sal Vulcano and James Murray
and our Impractical Jokers news feed.

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