TruTV created a phenomenon with Impractical Jokers, which unleashed The Tenderloins comedy troupe on America. The fearless foursome – Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, Brian Quinn and James Murray – compete to embarrass each other every week in a series of hilarious and often inappropriate challenges, and it’s epic. BFTV snagged a few minutes with Murr last week to ask him what the heck they’re all thinking.
“Impractical Jokers is basically an upside-down prank show, where the joke is on us instead of on the public,” he explained. “In the show, me and my the best friends from high school compete in a series of hidden camera challenges that we design to embarrass the hell outta each other. The idea came about really naturally. Like all best friends, we’ve been pranking each other for years. Might as well do it on TV! Plus, we love making each other laugh. For years now, we’ve performed live all over the country as part of our comedy troupe, The Tenderloins. Impractical Jokers was the perfect way to meld our friendship and love of improvisation into a TV show.”
“The guys and I know each other so well, that coming up with challenges for the show is pretty easy,” he continued. “We know what is going to screw with Sal, what Q would never do, what I am embarrassed to do…and then we force each other to do it! Usually, we begin with a social faux pas, or something you’ve always secretly wanted to try but never had the nerve to do. That is typically a good jumping off point for our challenges.”
Those challenges usually involve having to interact with strangers, while being forced to say or do what you’re told by the other three Jokers. Whether it’s having a passerby mediate a fake argument, or pretending to be an Ikea employee, or convincing someone to take tickets to a fictional Broadway show you don’t know the name of, there’s always the potential for utter disaster.
As with any show involving the public, some folks take better to the mayhem than others. The guys have been cursed at and chewed out, but have there been any serious consequences from their pranks? “Well, none of us have been beaten up yet, thankfully,” Murr reflected. “Probably because we look like easy targets. We’re not strong men. We bruise easily. I, for one, bruise emotionally. Most of the time, people just laugh, because it’s pretty clear that we are the butt of our own jokes.”
Another thing that works in their favor is that, unlike some other comedians, the Jokers know where to draw the line. They might suggest some truly inappropriate things to each other, but they’ll ultimately stop themselves before they go too far. “We all have different breaking points, except for Joe, who seems to be unbreakable,” Murr told us. “We were all raised to be gentlemen, so none of us will disrespect elders and we all get really nervous around pretty girls. I also get nervous around babies, newlyweds, citizens, immigrants, Canadians, employees, customers, pets, men, women, and humans.”
They keep score during each episode, and the person who fails the most challenges is declared the loser and is then subjected to a punishment. Last week, Murr cracked up when he was forced to be a nude model for an art class. You can watch him lose his composure and his dignity in the video included with this article.
Asked which one of them has been the biggest loser, Murr told us “It’s pretty evenly split, but I think Sal holds the current record for most losses, followed by me. Joe is the toughest to punish since he was born without the shame gene.”
Impractical Jokers is now in its third season, and shows no signs of slowing down. The guys drew crowds during their appearance at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, and they’ve taken their act on the road. “We tour live around the country nearly every weekend in the TruTV Impractical Jokers tour, which has been a total blast,” Murr said. “Actually getting to interact with fans live is such a rush.”
Has the run of the show made them less prone to humiliation, on or off camera? Not really. “We still find new and horrible ways of embarrassing each other!” he continued, adding that “The show has gotten much more personal. We broke into Sal’s house, for pete’s sake. Has it changed us personally though? Not really. I still don’t make my bed, and I still am unsure how to cook.”
But then there’s the burning question: why embarrass yourselves on national television in front of an audience of millions? Laughed Murr, “I ask myself that every single episode!”
Impractical Jokers is all-new tonight at 10 PM ET/PT on TruTV. You can also keep up with Murr by following him on Twitter (@JamesSMurray) and visiting The Tenderloins’ website (thetenderloins.com).
(c)2013 Brittany Frederick. Appears at Examiner with permission. All rights reserved. No reproduction permitted. Visit my official website and follow me on Twitter at @tvbrittanyf.