As the opening warning says, Impractical Jokers is a show that contains scenes of graphic stupidity among four lifelong friends who compete to embarrass each other. Having just wrapped their seventh series, Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, Brian “Q” Quinn and James “Murr” Murray, a.k.a The Tenderloins, are heading to the UK for their biggest British tour to date. We caught up with Murr to find out what the Jokers have got in store for their British fans…
The show is hugely popular in the UK, is there a difference between American and British audiences?
Well you guys are much, much smarter than we are. We filmed a whole episode in London last year and, I’ve got to tell you, you guys called us out on our bullshit the whole time. We couldn’t get away with anything. You’re also better looking.
Spoken like a man who hasn’t spent much time in Nottingham. Has the response been much of a surprise?
We were completely blown away last January when we brought over the Santiago Sent Us tour; we couldn’t believe the response, and how passionate the UK fans are. The show’s doing really well in the UK, but we haven’t toured as much here as we have in America. It’s been really amazing and humbling.
The new Where’s Larry? tour is coming to Nottingham on 11 October. How does the live show differ from what we’re used to seeing on TV?
It’s a stand-up comedy show where the four of us are on stage at all times. There’s a giant screen behind us showing footage from when we shot a bunch of hidden camera challenges exclusively for the live show that you can’t see anywhere else. We describe it as “our friendship on display” and I think it’s even funnier than the TV show. This tour has a small interactive element in it where we borrow an audience member’s phone, and what we do with it will literally bring the house down.
Will the wig made from Q’s hair you had to wear for the last season be making an appearance?
You never know, there could be a guest-wig cameo. We just finished filming the series finale of series seven in America, which I guess is series thirteen here in the UK. It was the last time I had to wear that damned wig, thank god.
How much focus do you put on keeping the show fresh?
When we finished series one, we were all wondering what we were going to do, and where we were going to take it next, because we’d done everything we could think of. We made a promise that if at any point we felt the format of the show wasn’t advancing in any way, or if we weren’t having fun, we’d stop. But the series that’s currently airing in the UK is probably the best one we’ve ever done. The punishments are huge, clever and personal; the show has evolved so much.
Last series was the first time we really pushed the show into our real lives, so we didn’t know we were being filmed. Here’s a little spoiler: in this season coming up, something amazing is happening in one of our lives that isn’t real. The guy being punished has literally no idea. It’s going to be the greatest moment of my life when it finally comes out.
Does that make you more cautious day-to-day about what’s actually real in your life?
If there’s a death in my family, I do wonder if it might be fake. Our agent called me two months ago and said he’d got me an audition for an Adam Sandler movie, but in my head I’m thinking “This obviously isn’t real, they just want to fly me out to LA to make a fool of myself.” They’re my best friends, but I’m not going to put anything past them at this point.
Is there a line you don’t cross?
I assume death is a boundary, but anything short of killing each other is okay. When they threw me out of an aeroplane, that pushed a boundary; I locked myself in a bathroom for half an hour and wouldn’t come out because I was so afraid. But that’s the best thing about doing a show with your best friends, we all know each other’s limits. If I’m not sure how the other guys are going to take an idea I’ve had, I might call up Sal and say, “Listen, I’ve got an idea for Q: what if we break into his house and get rid of all his furniture?” If Sal says it’s a great idea, I know that that gives me permission to do it to Sal.
Is there ever an element of wanting to hold back on punishing the other jokers so when it’s your turn in the barrel they’re a bit softer on you?
That’s probably a smarter way to do business, but no, we don’t think like that at all. If it’s Joe’s turn to get punished, we think, “Fuck Joe!” and come up with the worst possible punishment for him. We’re thinking of punishments constantly, because a lot of them take months to prepare. We had Sal thinking he was testifying in front of Homeland Security for such a long time before we told him it was fake, and that took a huge amount of preparation.
As the show has grown in popularity, is it getting more difficult to trick the public when more of them know who you are?
It is, but we try and account for that. We don’t film in certain locations anymore because it’s just too hard, and word spreads that we’re there through social media and stuff. The show is 100% real, and must remain that way; if we’re not really embarrassed, it doesn’t work. So we try and do a lot more one-on-one challenges, or film in controlled locations like focus groups and waiting rooms.
Has anyone ever said no to a punishment?
The skydiving one was the closest I’ve come to it. Another that was tough, that might not seem as bad, was when I had to take cigarettes out of people’s mouths and throw them away. It’s hard to explain why, but it’s such an unbelievably awkward thing to do. I try to be a gentleman; my mum watches the show and calls me after every episode, and I believe in respect and personal freedom, so it just went against my entire nature. It was the same with Joe when he had to go up to parents and tell them they weren’t looking after their kids correctly. It’s just the most uncomfortable thing to watch.
We just filmed a punishment with Joe that hasn’t aired yet which was a bad. It was at a big baseball game in America, where the star pitcher was signing baseballs and throwing them into the crowd. Joe had to grab as many as he could away from the kids that were trying to catch them; he ended up with about a dozen of them, and people were really furious. It’s hard to get someone like Joe because he’ll literally do anything; he has no shame whatsoever. But he’s genuinely a really nice guy who loves kids, so we punish him by making him go against his nature and crush the dreams of young children.
Do you have any downtime from messing with each other at all?
This really is our lives at this point. I think people can see that we’re not faking it, and that we truly are friends with a genuine chemistry that love and hate each other at the same time. When there are no cameras around, we’re exactly the same; it’s just the way we are. The biggest compliment we get is when people tell us we remind them of themselves and their friends.
I think that’s probably why the UK remake stunk, there just wasn’t a genuine sense of chemistry between them; they were just four comedians hired to play tricks on each other…
That’s the toughest thing to repeat internationally. The four of us own the format, so we sell it around the world and they’ll re-cast the four of us. But in most countries, the original version is more popular. A group of friends that have known each other for three decades is really hard to come by.
Impractical Jokers are in Nottingham for The Where’s Larry? Tour on Wednesday 11 October, at the Motorpoint Arena, at 8pm.