We met the Impractical Jokers — Sal Vulcano, James "Murr" Murray, Joe Gatto and Brian "Q" Quinn — after they finished filming a new segment for their show recently at Pace University in Manhattan. They are as funny off camera as they are on camera, and they never stop teasing each other.
Off-camera, do you tell the people that it’s just a show? That you pranked?
Joe: Yes. At the end we have to tell them, and they have to sign something called a release. Unless we just put their picture on TV. And sometimes you’ll see people blurred on our show, and if they’re blurred, that means they didn’t sign.
When did you guys first meet?
James: We met 30 years ago. Monsignor Farrell High School [Staten Island].
Joe: A little less than 30 years ago — 29.
Sal: How old are you guys? [Eleven.] We met at 13.
Joe: So in two years from now, we met.
What was your least favorite prank show?
Joe: It was me, when I had to take the baseballs from people. I don’t know if you saw that one? When [pitcher] Noah Syndergaard was signing baseballs from the Mets and throwing them into the audience, and I had to steal them from people and show them.
Brian: We loved it.
Joe: They loved it. I did not like it.
How many hours or days does it take to film one episode?
Joe: Up to four days.
Brian: It’s just fun, so we really don’t mind.
Sal: Up to four days to actually shoot it. First we have to think of the idea. And then find a location. And then when we get a location, and we all like the idea, then we have to think about the idea, write for the idea, then we film it for four days. And then the people edit it for more days. So just physically filming it is four days. But overall, it can take maybe two weeks.
When did you do your first live show and where?
Joe: Well, our first live show, for us it was the Gramercy.
What was your favorite challenge?
Joe: I think collectively, we have to try to not laugh while the other guy is trying to make us laugh. You know the one with the two-way mirror ... Those ideas are so silly and outrageous, and we can be as outrageous as we want there. It’s a lot of fun.
Brian: That was my favorite because we’d yell cut, and then I was in the ocean. It was nice.
What do you like to do when you’re not filming?
Brian: Together, we’d go to movies a lot when we’re on the road. We eat a lot.
Sal: Eat, shop, movies.
Joe: We love a good deal. Outlets, yeah, we do the outlets all the time.
Have any fans ever realized you were the Impractical Jokers?
Joe: We do a lot of work to try to make sure people who we are using as people in the show don’t know who we are, because that ruins it. But the hard part is when we’re talking to someone and someone [else] sees us from far away, they’ll run in and be like, "Oh, my God, you’re so funny and famous” and want to take pictures with us, and that ruins everything.
When you punish Q, Murr and Sal by making them get tattoos, what was your inspiration?
Joe: My inspirations were a cat, a ferret and Jaden Smith [son of actor Will Smith]. I always thought it would be something fun. We also liked the idea that they’d always have this for their whole life, even when the show is over. And that they would just always have a memory on their body of me. Did you like the cat? And the Jaden Smith under the ferret? Does he look like a ferret in your book? No?
How do you come up with the different punishments?
Brian: With our writers who are friends of ours. A lot of them grew up on Staten Island and went to the same high school as us. We’ll just sit down and just come up with ideas. Too many ideas. And then we’ll just whittle them down to ones that we think will work. And then if one of us leaves the room, we’ll start talking about him and go over punishments for him. And that’s basically how it’s done.
Sal: As the year goes on, and we’re filming — we film for like 10 or 11 months — any time that we have any new ideas, from driving my car, I’m walking in the street, or me and him are talking, we’ll come up with another idea, in the middle of filming, we’ll go back and say we have an idea, we want to do this now, too. So we do a whole bunch in the beginning, and then we’re always trying to think of stuff at all times.
Valentina Gatti and Bonnie Hersch's sixth-grade class, Wantagh Middle School