Impractical Jokers is the highest rated show on Comedy Central UK. James Murray, Sal Vulcano, Brian “Q” Quinn & Joe Gatto are the fearless best friends who regularly prank each other in a series of challenges that results in one of them doing a punishment.
Impractical Jokers has become the number one must-watch comedy show on TV, with a huge legion of fans from across the world all tuning in to see what weird and wonderful challenges await the friendly foursome.
Comedy Central is the exclusive UK home of Impractical Jokers and is currently airing Season 8 (US Season 4). New episodes air on Mondays at 10pm. The hilarious show has also been so successful that a local version has been produced, and will air on Comedy Central and Channel 5 later in the year.
EF’s Jason caught up with Sal, Q, Joe and Murray when the guys visited the UK for their first ever overseas live shows. As the comedy troupe The Tenderloins, they played 4 sold-out performances in London and Manchester.
The guys sat down to discuss the success of the Impractical Jokers, what they’ve learnt from their adventures and why they think the show has become such a meteoric hit.
Welcome to London guys!
All: Thank you!
How has your trip been and what have you been up to so far?
Joe: It’s been really good.
Murray: We went to the set of Wonder Woman the movie! Oh … I am not allowed to say that?!
Q: You said it – let’s just put it out there! We can say we went to the set; we just can’t talk about what we saw…
Murray: Got it… and it was fantastic!
Q: It was awesome.
That sounds amazing! Well, now that we are in Season 5 (US), Season 8 (UK), what were your hopes for Impractical Jokers at the very beginning – did you expect this to be such a massive success?
Joe: We were just happy to get episode 2!
Joe: Yeah, I know… it’s a crazy ride we’ve been on, being four friends together for so long. We are definitely fortunate and realise that every day.
It’s that friend dynamic that makes the show – you feel like you are one of the gang…
Q: That’s what we hear, that was the hopeful intent and I’m glad it took.
Did you find it difficult coming from a sketch comedy background with The Tenderloins to then find yourselves doing a reality show?
Q: Not really, right? It seemed organic…
Murray: For us I think the hard thing was finding the right format for what we do. We are organically best friends, you know. We’ve been doing this kind of ‘embarrassment’ humour all our lives and so when we created the format for the Jokers show… it just shows off our friendship in a really nice way.
Why do you think the show has struck a real chord with audiences?
Q: Yeah – straight up.
Joe: How much hot sexiness can we do… That’s why I’m sitting across from you.
I did think that. I’m already feeling the tension with you Joe…
Q: The biggest compliment I feel we receive is when people say we remind them of their friends. Or ‘you stole our show’, or ‘we should have made this’. We made a show that you would have made with your friends if they’d have given you a budget.
Have there ever been situations where you have genuinely thought that your safety was in jeopardy?
Q: I thought you were gonna say no! Hahahaha!
Sal: Yeah, I mean there’s always the chance of it. And that kind of keeps us on our toes when we are filming the regular show. And of course, if we lose then there’s a real air of tension because most of the punishments are kept secret from each other. And that day… the day of the punishments. The not knowing… you know, you always think the worst! But we’ve been in situations which were definitely threatening. I’ve been in situations where the assumption of the threat is big.
Sal: They’ve put me in a haunted house, you know! I know that they are just scaring me but I’m still really threatened because I don’t like it! It makes me very uncomfortable!
Yeah, last week’s episode (US Season 5) I felt really bad for you too…
Sal: Which one was it?
Where you had to cut people off from drinking at an unlimited drinking festival…
Sal: Yeah, that was tense!
Murray: That’s true!
Sal: It’s the simple ones too… the simple ones like that. Did you see the Bingo episode?
Sal: When people get mad at you… right away you feel really threatened!
Murray: It’s hard to compare that to say, you in the cornfield…
Murray: It’s a different threat!
That’s a personal favourite…
Joe: That’s a really good one…
Sal: The fact that they managed to produce something like that… When we were done that day I was just like… ‘Wow, that was amazing!’ How long was I in that cornfield?
Joe: You took 20 minutes to walk in.
Q: It was like 40 minutes all in!
Joe: We had to say to him ‘Sal, we’re losing daylight, get in there!’ It was more elaborate than I think it played on TV too…
Murray: I have a problem with that day…. because that day we filmed two punishments back to back. We filmed me jumping out of an aeroplane and then went over to the cornfield to punish Sal. Two in the same day. And he goes on and on and on about how terrified he was. I fell 14,000 feet free-fall, not knowing if the parachute would open.
He walked through corn…
Sal: You can see how mine was scarier… People jump out of planes – people pay to go up and do it. No one pays to go in a cornfield!
Joe: It was a great day for Q and I! Hahahaha!
What are your favourite pranks?
Joe: I think one game that we’ve all had fun with was putting the balloons on people.
Joe: Q had introduced that game to us. It’s just so stupid to do it but one of the most terrifying feelings is when you are about to clip it onto someone. When you get caught – when you are a middle-aged man in a supermarket and they turn and look at you with judgement in their eyes! That’s one of the worst feelings!
Also the one where we put pencils in people’s pockets… that game, when we came up with it, from the first time to the last time – every time you do it – you feel just as terrified that you’re going to get caught.
I loved the fact that the kids helped you with that challenge too…
Joe: Yeah, that was great!
Murray: One of my favourites is leading the blind, with the blacked out sunglasses. That game is scary in its own way.
Sal: I like swapping my mom’s medication with regular vitamins…
Joe: (looking up in the sky) Rest in Peace.
What have you learnt from doing the show and observing people up-close?
Q: Oh, you could get away with anything… It has completely changed my personal life! I do what I like now. I cut lines; I just walk into places…
Joe: We just walk into places!
Q: If you have confidence, no-one stops you. If you give them the slightest bit of bullshit, they’ll let you through. It’s been a game-changer, that.
Talking to women – it used to be something scary but all the time we have approached women on the show with nothing, and how receptive they’ve been… I’d say to all the single guys out there just go for it!
Murray: Just get out there!
Q: Yeah, just go for it.
Murray: It’s very easy, right?!
Sal: If you wear a dummy ear-piece and say, it’s my friends who told me to say this…
Murray: Like, if I’m ever bad in bed, I say I’m wearing an ear-piece and the guys have told me to be bad.
Q: Right, right…!
Joe: Yeah, we’re in your closet… ‘pump slower’
Q: I love the fact that you use the word pump!
You have a huge fan base. What have been the oddest fan reactions you’ve experienced?
Joe: I wouldn’t call it odd, but there are some extreme fan reactions out there. You know… really die-hard fans. We are really flattered! We get a lot of fans asking us to autograph them and then get tattoos done.
Joe: There was this woman once. She was backstage and said ‘I have to meet Q! I have to meet Q!’. I said why and it turned out we met her all at different times and she lifted up her leg and had Sal and Murr and I. She turned up backstage so I said ‘Brian you gotta go see this girl…’
Q: …but I messed it up. I messed it up and didn’t tell her!
Q: She just has a horrible version of my signature… I’m very sorry!
*Murray shows us all a picture of the woman’s leg on his phone*
Q: Is that the guy’s or the girl’s tattoo? – I’ve got a picture of a guy’s leg on my phone!
Murray: There are many more out there – even babies have us tattooed on them!
Q and Murray – would you have both preferred to get members of the Smith family tattooed instead of what you got?
Q: Hahaha, no I’m happy with my tattoo! I’m the only one that likes my tattoo.
Murray: Mine looks adorable, I will say. But it gives me odd reactions when I get massages.
Q: You have an odd definition of the word adorable…
Murray: Well, I’m adorable.
Q: Once again, you have a very odd definition of the word adorable!
Will we get to see any more of the reaction footage from past seasons?
Murray: Yes and no… By design, when we created the show we purposely chose not to do that because in our show we are the butt of the joke. We are the mark. So you see our reactions. Sometimes we do and you may see some in the future but there’ll never be episodes which are just ‘the reveal’ so to speak.
Joe: Sometimes when the joke plays in a way that you can’t believe people fell for it that much – like for instance we recently just filmed one where we play hosts of a restaurant in Times Square and they made me just pass out!
So I’m in the restaurant, I start coughing and I just pass out. These women run over to me, standing there with menus fanning over me, so I’m like ‘stay with it, stay with it!’ Then I say, can I get you a table and they are like ‘No, no, you sit down’. It was such a big moment and when we actually told her, she went nuts! Like, if somebody falls that hard sometimes the reveal is better.
Q: That might be the hardest I’ve laughed on the show… it was so funny!
Joe: I heard on the ear-piece that all 3 of them fell on the floor laughing!
Sal: I think the funniest was right when they got to him on the floor, he popped back up and said ‘Can I help you?’
Sal: The timing of it!
Who are your comedy heroes and has British comedy influenced you at all?
Joe: Yeah, Ricky Gervais.
Murray: I grew up watching Benny Hill.
Q: Fawlty Towers is one of the best. The best… The guys who made The Inbetweeners – we became good friends with them. We were such mega-fans of that show that we just kind of connected.
Murray: Who was the guy with the snake?
Q: Jake the Snake Roberts? No, not him…
Murray: Monty Python.
Q: Yeah, they were funny! I tell you who – the guys who did the League of Gentleman. What’s the name of the horror show they made…?
Q: Oh God, Psychoville! It’s so funny man, all those guys and that show. It’s just great!
Sal: Sasha Baron Cohen is a big influence on the show. He’s an extension of Andy Kaufman’s stuff too – we touch on some of those moments. I think he’s a genius though. I’ll go back and watch some of his stuff from like 15 years ago and cannot believe he was able to achieve this. He’s like a guru I would say – a guru of awkward comedy.
Which one of you do you think has endured the most physical pain during the show – I think it might be Murray?
Murray: Yeah, I’ve been to the hospital like 5 times because of the show. I got secondary burns from the ice-cream vendor. There was dry ice at the bottom and I didn’t realise when I climbed inside. Then at the Dodgeball punishment I almost broke my nose. It was bleeding and I had two black eyes. If you watch Sal’s punishment (we filmed two punishments on the same day), the one where Sal is a psychic –I had two inches of make-up on to cover up the black eyes! I went to the hospital again more recently when Sal jumped out of the helicopter…
Joe: The fat race…
Murray: The fat race… I tore up my knees and my hands very, very badly…
*Murray pulls up his trouser leg to reveal some major scars*
Sal: Oh shit… I was wondering the other day if that was still bad…
Murray: Yeah I’ll have that for awhile. This is 4 months ago that we filmed that.
Q: A lot of his injuries though are his fault… you know what I’m saying…
Q: When they strapped me to the labour-simulator, they made me do that. He’s just apparently clumsy.
Joe: Yep, clumsy…
Q: He got hit in the face with the Dodgeball. Don’t stick your face out… You know what I do when a Dodgeball is heading my way? I dodge it.
Murray: I just like taking balls to the face!
That’s my headline right there!
Ok, some quick-fire questions for you… which one of you owes Santiago the biggest debt?
All: Hahaha Joe!
Joe: Yeah it’s probably me, I gamble a lot!
Murray: Actually, the new live show which we are debuting in June of this year is called ‘The Santiago Sent Us’ tour!
Murray – Was the Danica McKellar challenge the most awkward situation you’ve ever been in?
Murray: The most awkward I’ve ever been in my life – yes!
Joe: For her as well!
Murray: It’s my number 1 most embarrassing moment on the show for sure.
Sal – do you think Benjamin the human-sized cat is going to make reappearance?
Sal: I hope not!
Q: He’s actually getting his own spin-off show! truTV are doing some animated shorts – what’s the 15min shows that they do? I can’t remember!
Sal: Aaaarrrh, why can’t we remember! It’s like Cartoon Network…
Q: truTV is doing, like, a short-form comedy show and we just shot 5 episodes of Benjamin the human-sized Cat.
Sal: It’s going to be fun!
Sal: I’m not scared of Benjamin the human-sized cat like I am of cats in general. I mean, if Benjamin came into this room right now… a 7 foot cat, you’d run away! It’s just something natural that you’d run away from – something running at you! And it’s been someone different in the suit each time.
Q: Most of the time it was Carlos, who is one of our crew members…
Joe: The one at White Castle still makes me laugh!
Sal: That was the one that freaked me out the most, because… was that Benjamin’s first appearance?
Q: I think so, yeah…
Sal: So my mind couldn’t process what was happening!
Sal: ‘Is this cat from them? Is it a lunatic?’
When he starting climbing through the window I remember thinking ‘I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel right now’ so I ran from him! It’s funny because after it’s done they take the head off and I see who it is and I’m like, ‘oh I’m not scared of you!’
Murray: It’s become an honour to be the one in the costume.
Q: We had a girl once play Benjamin when you (Murray) married Sal’s sister at the church. If you look at that scene, there are a lot of Easter eggs. We invited a bunch of old characters… scarecrow from the cornfield is there…
Joe: ‘Who threw the chicken’ guy…
Q: Yeah. We put a pink bow on her head just to lineate that it was a girl in there that time.
Q – If you had to pick one of the guys to be your tag team partner who would it be and who would like to go up against from the WWE, past or present?
Q: Ooooh, that’s a question! Hmmmm, I want to say Murray because he’s probably in the best shape but I don’t think that matters that much in wrestling!
Q: I’d probably go with Sal… and it would definitely be against… I’d love to take on The New Day. Because I would take Francesca 2 and just bend it around Xavier Woods’ neck with no problem!
Catch brand new episodes of Impractical Jokers on Comedy Central UK, Mondays at 10pm.