TV’s ‘Impractical Jokers’ hit the big screen for blockbuster pranks

Brian Quinn, from left, Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano and James Murray attend the premiere of “Impractical Jokers: The Movie” at AMC Lincoln Square on Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2020, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
WTOP's Jason Fraley previews 'Impractical Jokers: The Movie'

Since 2011, “Impractical Jokers” has cracked up cable television audiences on truTV.

Now, hosts Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano bring their antics to the big screen in “Impractical Jokers: The Movie.”

“The movie is like 90% improv and hidden camera,” Murray told WTOP. “Over like 10 years of filming ‘Jokers,’ we’ve saved this list of dozens of crazy ideas that are just too big for TV, too crazy for TV, we couldn’t afford or couldn’t fit into a half-hour episode, so we stuck all that into the movie.”

The movie is structured differently from “Jackass: The Movie” (2002), which was a hilarious array of pranks edited together. Instead, it strings the gags together between a fictional storyline, which doesn’t work nearly as well.

“It’s a very loose narrative,” Murray said. “We’ve been friends for 30 years … so the movie starts in high school when we accidentally ruin a Paula Abdul concert. Thirty years later, we end up meeting Paula Abdul, who’s now fan. She gives us three tickets to her show in Miami, but there’s four of us. So we have [to] settle the bet.”

In order to decide who gets the concert tickets, the four guys go on a cross-country road trip competing in various reality challenges. Like the TV show, the gags involve one member out in public as the other three give instructions in an earpiece.

“We made Sal talk to children as Santa Claus,” Gatto told WTOP. “Kids are just comic gold. It’s so fun how they react so honestly. We made Sal fall asleep while this kid was telling him to listen. The faces this child makes of disgust that Santa has fallen asleep is one of my favorite moments in the movie.”

While such gags make the hosts hilariously uncomfortable, others elicit genuine fear.

“Sal is terrified of cats,” Murray said. “We locked Sal in a motel room with a 600-pound white Bengal tiger attached to a chain, and he almost soiled himself in the movie. So if you want to see that, this is the kind of movie for you.”

D.C. audiences will enjoy a segment involving spreading ashes at the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.

“We went to the Reflecting Pool in D.C. and had to give a eulogy,” Murray said. “We had a container full of ashes of the deceased [and] had to run the eulogies by unsuspecting passersby, but of course the guys have written the eulogies for us.”

Their biggest coup comes infiltrating the Atlanta Hawks for a job interview.

“[It was] unbelievable to be stuck in a room with these six-figure-paid, high-level people,” Gatto said. “They were so confused. … They made me start off the interview by telling the person I don’t want to talk about myself. … She’s like, ‘So, tell me a little bit about your experience,’ and I go, ‘Nah.’ And she’s like, ‘Excuse me?'”

Do their increasingly famous faces make it harder to go undercover?

“It happens more and more,” Murray said. “But honestly, that’s a good thing. It means the show is popular. I’d rather have it be a little tougher to film than nobody recognizes us, in which case the show would suck. It’s a good problem to have.”

It’s the culmination of a lifetime rising the comedy ranks. The high school buddies formed their stand-up troupe, The Tenderloins in 1999, performing at various comedy clubs around New York. They even pitched a few TV pilots that never made it to series.

“Eventually we thought, ‘What’s the best way to showcase what we do, enjoy each other and make each other laugh?'” Gatto said. “That’s where ‘Jokers’ came in; this embarrassment comedy that we do. It’s the way we genuinely make each other laugh.”

Are they surprised the show has lasted nearly a decade?

“The fans really embraced it, we embraced our fans, and the momentum carried us through 200 episodes of television, being able to tour live and now ultimately the movie,” Gatto said. “It’s all because we just put something out there that people can relate to and enjoy and not have to think about all the B.S. going on in the world.”

What’s something that they can tell us about the guys behind the scenes?

“Murr sleeps with a blankie still, and he’s a 43-year-old man that’s engaged,” Gatto said.

“It’s true,” Murray said. “I sleep with a blankie, and I won’t stop.”

In all seriousness, they cherish their friendship.

“They’re the best guys in the world,” Murray said. “I think Sal is the funniest guy I’ve ever met in my life. He’s all heart and he wears his emotions on his sleeve, which is both his greatest strength and his greatest weakness. Q is sweet and charming.”

Suddenly, he interrupts himself in awe.

“Oh my God, Joe! I’m passing our billboard in Times Square! I’m driving right through Times Square and there’s the billboard. That’s really cool.”

“You’ve made it, Murr,” Gatto said.

WTOP's Jason Fraley chats with the 'Impractical Jokers' (Full Interview)

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Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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