TruTV’s ‘Impractical Jokers’ Relish in Being the Butt of the Joke

The comedy troupe known as The Tenderloins will perform this month at DTE Energy Music Theatre
Impractical Jokers
Meet The Tenderloins: (From left) James “Murr” Murray, Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto, and Brian “Q” Quinn. // Photograph courtesy of TruTV

The Tenderloins have always had a penchant for the awkward, the uncomfortable, the embarrassing. The comedy troupe even chose their name by sifting through a list of words that made them uneasy. Other options, including The Nougat and The Culottes, didn’t make the cut. Member James Murray attributes this proclivity to their years at New York all-boys high school Monsignor Farrell, where embarrassment was a daily routine. “You were constantly embarrassed by your friends, because there was nothing else to do but prank each other.”

The four men, now stars of TruTV hidden-camera comedy series Impractical Jokers, bonded in the school’s improv comedy club. Their gags were never mean-spirited, rather intended to amuse each other, which Murray says became a fundamental part of their friendships.

It was this real-life pranking that landed them the on-screen gig, Murray says. After college, the guys spent a few years performing at comedy clubs and eventually began pitching their idea for a series. In 2011, TruTV picked it up. “We would be doing this whether the cameras were there or not,” Murray explains. “TruTV saw that realness and that chemistry between us, and thankfully, America has, too.”

Still, the group rebuffs the title “pranksters.” Unlike typical prank show hosts, star Joe Gatto says, the guys from Impractical Jokers only prank themselves, daring each other to execute embarrassing “challenges” in public. If someone refuses, they lose, and the resulting punishment is even more embarrassing — but only to the stars themselves. “We never make the people feel bad,” Gatto explains. “We’re always the butts of our own jokes.”

“It amazes us that people are more good-natured than you would think.” – Joe Gatto

Now in their eighth season, the jokers have filmed roughly 1,000 challenges. Something that never ceases to surprise the group is the reactions of the people they film with. “The general public is the secret sauce of the show,” Gatto says. “It amazes us that people are more good-natured than you would think.”

He points to a challenge in season three, when the jokers dared Murray to wander a crowded store, looking for his “mommy,” and a woman put her shopping on hold to help. She searched the store with him and even held his hand. “We’ve had some people on the show that have restored our faith in humanity,” Gatto says.

The jokers say one drawback of filming is that it doesn’t allow them to interact with fans. “During filming, if we bump into a fan, we have to get rid of them, because they’ll ruin the hidden camera bit,” Gatto explains. They make up for that on tour. Their interactive performances and meet-and-greets offer the group cherished opportunities to focus on the fans. “It’s a great way to actually say, ‘thank you,’ ” Gatto says.

On Aug. 9, DTE Energy will become home to one of the three “summer spectacular” shows on The Tenderloins’ The Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour, featuring performances from top comedians, such as Kyle Kinane and Chris Distefano. The Tenderloins are excited to see fans at the “comedy fairs” and — more importantly — to embarrass themselves in front of an audience.