More than 28 years ago, four high school friends had the idea of doing whatever they could to embarrass each other for the sake of comedy.
This was taken to a whole new level in 2011, when TruTV transformed their idea into a reality. The four friends went from making independent comedy sketches to performing shows on stages across the world.
Joe Gatto, James "Murr" Murray, Sal Vulcano, and Brian "Q" Quinn are the stars of TruTV’s hit comedy series "Impractical Jokers," a hidden-camera show in which the Jokers compete to try to push each other to the point of utter humiliation. The four also tour the world as "The Tenderloins," using their own stand-up mixed with behind-the-scenes clips from "Impractical Jokers" to entertain fans.
The current tour included a pair of shows Saturday at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
NeXt got the chance in talk to Quinn before the show about his experiences on "Impractical Jokers" and doing the live show.
"We try to make it like stand-up-slash-hang-out," Quinn said when describing the atmosphere of the show.
With the growing popularity of the show, the guys still remain genuine to their roots, he said. Their friendship with one another remains intact. It is what has allowed them to grow and expand the reach of their comedy across the world. This is impressive considering most of the TV and live show involves the four of them constantly going at each other.
Between filming challenges for the series, writing and coming up with new ideas, and touring for the live show, Q, Sal, Murr, and Joe end up spending most, if not all, of their time together. Quinn said no one has ever truly gone too far with a prank. All four understand and respect each other’s boundaries.
"We’ve been friends 28 years at this point," Quinn said. "I’d be a bad friend if I didn’t know what not to say to my boys."
Quinn, unlike the other three, never really had an interest in performing. He was a member of the New York Fire Department and worked on the podcast "Tell ’Em Steve-Dave!" before "Impractical Jokers" was created.
"We’ve got a pretty good thing going. I genuinely love the guys and I love working with them, "Quinn said. "It happens all the time, when we can’t actually believe this is our job."
Although comedy was never his intended career path, he’s grateful that this is how it turned out. Even though for a punishment on the show he had to perform a musical that involved him trying to tap dance and sing in front of his old FDNY colleagues, he still loves his job. He’s feels lucky to have this life.
It’s one thing to see this relationship on television, but it’s another to see all four together without any hidden cameras. If any viewer or fan of the show ever questioned how genuine the relationship is, they could easily see how true it is by attending the live show.
When the Jokers took the stage at Shea’s, their fun and inviting attitude filled the theater. The show started off with the four thanking everyone – even the balcony, which Joe and Sal referred to as the "Groupon section" – for coming. Then, the relentless making fun of each other began.
"We just try to take the spirit of the show ... and do it on stage," Quinn said.
They definitely achieved this goal. No hidden cameras, no ear pieces, and no unwitting audience, but everyone in the theater was still laughing and cheering them along. It was easy to see that the relationship fans see on TV is their true relationship. The atmosphere of the theater was energetic as the Jokers shared stories, videos and pictures.
"In today’s day and age, when no one can agree on anything and everyone is at each other’s throats, I think it’s cool that at the end of the day people can go home and turn on the TV and have some good old-fashioned laughs …," Vulcano told the audience during the show on Saturday.
This message is what viewers should take from the Jokers. Their show isn’t made to make anyone uncomfortable. It’s just to make fun of each other for the sake of their fans. The fans who, according to Quinn, are not intimidated by them at all and go up and talk to them while filming.
Quinn is particularly proud of this fact, because usually these street encounters are the best chances they get to talk to fans. He believes the live show presents much more of struggle to talk to fans because a lot of the time the four are exhausted afterwards.
"When I go to a live show, to me that’s work ... all those people in that crowd paid money to see us, so that’s a big responsibility."
The four work to create the best possible experience for fans, whether it be through the TV or the stage. Even at the end of the live show, fans were encouraged to take pictures. Then, as they were saying their good-byes, fans ran to the front of the stage and were welcomed to take selfies and collect autographs.
"Impractical Jokers," is now about to enter its seventh season, but the same four best friends that work to spread laughter to the world.
Megan Preisch is a senior at Mount St. Mary Academy.