By Barb Oates
We’ve been enjoying bellyaching laughter for almost 10 years now as we tune in to the hidden-camera antics and improv banter of Joe Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Sal Vulcano of truTV’s Impractical Jokers and TBS’s The Misery Index. The hilarious foursome are Staten Island high school buddies who’ve spent the better part of their lives cracking jokes and doling out unbelievably embarrassing punishments to one another. They’ve built an entertainment empire around their family-friendly laughs, and Jokers is now cable’s No. 1 unscripted comedy of 2020.
As self-quarantines in New York pushed the guys into isolation, the Jokers introduced Impractical Jokers: Dinner Party on truTV, a virtual meetup of random banter and fun. The guys shared with us some of what’s been going on at home, and how the Dinner Party episodes come together.
Gatto said, “We had a social-distance birthday party for me at my home – the guys just came over for a quick bite at my house outside – that was June 5, but we hadn’t seen each other since the last day of production, which was around March 12. That was the longest time in 30 years that we had gone without seeing each other, besides when we were away for college.”
Quinn shared this tidbit about a Dinner Party episode, “Jeff Daniels [who has been on their show in the past] was on To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway, and when he vacated the role, Ed Harris took it over. I was walking in Times Square and I saw Ed Harris coming out of the theater, and out of some misguided loyalty to Jeff, which he never asked for, I shot Ed Harris a dirty look. We told the story on the show and it turned into this “us against Ed Harris.” Then Joe one-upped me and got Ed Harris to confront me about it on [Dinner Party]. And like Jokers we don’t know these things are happening, so I was gobsmacked. Ed Harris is a very intimidating gentleman.
When asked about the difficulty of pulling of pranks these days, Vulcano commented, “It is definitely harder to film now than when we first started, and it gets a little harder each year with a little more success, but there’s just so many people in New York that if one person knows us, hopefully the second person doesn’t. . . . We won’t use someone if they know us or they know the show.”
As for the punishments the guys inflict on each other? Well, it’s all in good fun, but some of these really are doozies, Vulcano said, “We were not allowed to see what we were getting tattooed on us. Joe chose for me to get a tattoo of Jaden Smith – a very accurate, very professional portrait of Jaden Smith on my left thigh when he was 15. Five years later he surprised me and posed for a full-color portrait of a 21-year-old Jaden on my right thigh. So I live with this. When I got the first one, [Jaden Smith] had no idea, but when we did our movie he did a cameo . . . he was a great sport about it. We exchanged contact information, and I swear to you, every two months I get a text message from him asking how I’m doing, how my family’s doing. I guess we have a special bond.”
Murr shared, “The punishment that stays with me to this day . . . there was an episode where the guys decided to shave my eyebrows and it took three months for my eyebrows to grow back, but to this day and until 2024 this is still my driver’s license photo with no eyebrows, so when I go to the airport that’s how I look.”
And Joe admitted, “I haven’t had it all that bad. In the first season, I had to go down on the Boardwalk in New Jersey, and I held a bunch of envelopes and it said “tell me what I have to do,” and when [someone picked} an envelope and opened it and it said “put your big toe in my mouth,” and she just told me she was down at the beach and hadn’t showered in a few days. It was absolutely disgusting.”