Impractical Jokers: interviewing Sal, Joe, Q & Murr

We chatted to the Impractical Jokers about the TV and live shows, pranking and Jason Statham. Fair warning, things got foul-mouthed...

This one got away from me.

The cast of the television show Impractical Jokers (Sal Volcano, Joe Gatto, Brian ‘Q’ Quinn and James ‘Murr’ Murray) were in London for their first ever live UK performances and Den of Geek had managed to grab a little time with them ahead of the shows. In our excitement over what we expected would be a fun interview we had failed to consider the possible difficulties.

It turns out that interviewing four comedians at the same time is hard work. Typing up my recording afterwards was like trying to transcribe a riot. If a regular interview is like fishing (it’s not) then interviewing the Impractical Jokers was like attempting to lasso four octopuses with the same piece of rope.

Obviously, I had an absolute blast.

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Here’s how our chat with the cast of Impractical Jokers went. Warning: some swearing.

So, you guys have been running for a few years with the TV show, but it’s only been shown in the UK for maybe a year. Did it surprise you how quickly the UK shows sold out? Because they went in seconds.

Joe: Well, we knew through social media how the show was doing here because we would see tweets of old episodes and people would be like “Oh my god, I can’t believe you did that.” And we would be like “Oh, what is showing over there?” It was a nice trip down memory lane. We got a really good fan base really quick, so we’re happy with it.

Sal: I don’t know. We said this earlier, we didn’t know if the show would translate, exactly. There’s a lot of universal things that happen in the show. But I think it’s safe to say that British comedy and television has a different sensibility, possibly, than American. So to be this popular here has shocked me. And then I guess you’re mentioning the live show?

Yeah.

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Sal: We couldn’t believe how fast it sold out.

Murr: We’re actually doing a much larger UK tour in January. We’re doing arenas. We’re doing venues like the arena at the O2, which is gonna be great.

Wow. Normally it’s like 20,000 in there, right?

Murr: Yeah, something like that.

Sal: Is it really?

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Joe: We’re selling 15 tickets, so it’s the first 15 people that show up.

Q: Yeah, it’s one row. But they have ways they can block off the top.

Sal: So then what is the maximum capacity at O2?

Q: I thought 17 (thousand).

I’ve seen stuff there and I think it may be more, but I don’t know so I’d tell you and it’d probably be wrong.

Murr: We’re also charging $10,000 a ticket.

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When you’re coming up with your sketches or set-ups for the show, obviously you want what’s going to be funniest or get the most interesting responses, but how early in do you have to take into account the technical elements? So, whether you can get audio, whether you can get an image that’s of a broadcastable quality.

Q: We’re very lucky in that we have a production team that’s been with us since almost the beginning that are so good at their job that we don’t ever have to worry about anything like that. They handle it.

Murr: But we think about it all the time. Right?

Q: I never think about it. That’s why we have Dave Scarborough (cinematographer and various other roles).

Murr: But Joe thinks about it all the time.

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Q: That’s why he has Dave Scarborough.

Sal: You start to learn when you’re writing. Like, if you were writing a movie and just had a million explosion scenes, you dial it back a little. There’s certain things we’ll know right away. If we want to film in a nightclub, we know music’s going to be an issue, because we have to have the rights to it, and then it can’t be really loud because we have to talk over it. So stuff like that we kind of have built into us. But our crew definitely finds a way if we really want something to happen.

Q: (to Sal) Hey, you said it at Seńor Frog’s the other day. You were like “What are we gonna do about this music?” and Daniel Cast (assistant director) was like “It’s our music, baby!” It’s pretty good. They’re on top of it. We have the greatest crew.

Murr: It does limit us in some ways. Like, we’ve toyed around with going up and ringing people’s doorbells. But how do you get the reverse point of view? You can’t set up hidden cameras in somebody else’s house.

Joe: I will say that the Go Pro has changed things, now that they’re HD and we’re able to air it. It’s really enhanced our show. If you look at the angles we’re able to get now. On set, our director Dave Scarborough has a bag of Go Pros. At the end, those’ll be the last cameras we’ll put up and we’ll talk about where we could get them. But you get some really good, interesting angles with the Go Pros.

Logistically (turns to Sal), and I apologise for bringing up what is probably a bad memory for you, but how difficult to organise was the wedding? (As a punishment for Sal, Murr legally married Sal’s sister)

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Murr: The wedding was the biggest secret we ever held on the show. It was months.

Joe: At that time.

Murr: At that time. There’s been bigger since.

Joe: There were so many people involved in it, I think was the big thing. It took about two months to plan, where we were getting all the ducks in a row. And then just to corral people, because we had to create an audience at the church.

Murr: It was funny. The original idea was that we would take Sal to a ski slope, and he’s not a very good skier. We were gonna drop him off at the top of the mountain and he had to ski to the bottom, and at the bottom was me getting married to his sister.

Joe: The pastor would ask who objects and Sal would be at the top of the mountain.

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Murr: And he had to race to the bottom, even though he couldn’t ski, to stop the wedding, or stop the kiss. And then we said “Wait a second, the wedding in itself is a great season finale”.

Joe: But we already had the ski mountain booked so we decided to put the two of them (Murr and Sal) on the ski lift and just shut it down.

Sal: Is that where that was supposed to happened?

Murr: Yeah. We were gonna have you ski to the bottom and stop the marriage, if you could make it in time.

A good deal of the show trades in social boundaries, and particularly with you overstepping them. When you spend so much of your day doing that, is it difficult to then step back into normal life?

Joe: Life is totally different. We don’t know many boundaries any more. And we’ve all learned the lesson that people don’t act the way people think people will. They’re much more along-for-the-ride and friendlier than we thought. A lot of times on paper, it looks like ‘Oh, this’ll get us punched.’ The first thing we ever filmed was, we had to eat off people’s plates, like we just walked over and took something. We thought we would get punched.

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Sal: Remember how nervous we were? Sitting in that side room at the restaurant, peeking through…

Q: Yeah, the grate thing.

Sal: …and we were like “Oh my god, it’s our turn!” That was like the first thing we ever did. Wow. I didn’t remember until you said it now, but we were so nervous. Now if I had to do that, I’d probably be nervous once I was about to do it, depending on who was sitting in the seat, but we were nervous the whole day.

Joe: We were nervous for each other. We didn’t know what was gonna happen.

Sal: Oh, remember the lady grabbed my hand and she just wouldn’t let go? And she was just squeezing and I didn’t know what to do.

Q: We still don’t get many reactions like that. Where someone clamps you and holds you there.

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Murr: When you screw with somebody’s sense of ownership of something, that’s when they react. If they’re shopping, you take something out of their cart. That’s theirs, you know?

Sal: It’s a weird dichotomy, because we’ve got thicker skinned because of kind of what we just mentioned, but I also find, when I’m alone and daydreaming or thinking about the show, I think of something that I would want to tell them or I just think of something we would do on the show, I think ‘Oh my god, I would never do that right now.’ It almost is easier to do when we’re filming the show.

Joe: Because there’s a reason to do it.

Q: There’s a safety net.

Sal: There’s a collective around you that’s like ‘We’re all trying to do this.’ But when I’m alone I’m like ‘I would never do that’.

Joe: Sal just roams the street and eats off people’s plates by himself.

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Sal: When we’re alone and just hanging out, though, I’ll tell Joe to do something just to make me laugh and he’s never not done it.

Joe: Yeah, I don’t need a camera, I just do stuff.

Q: We were on a movie set last night and Joe, as a joke, goes “Hey man, what do you think if I just walk in the background and ruin the shot?” and we know enough to discourage that immediately. Because if one of us even giggles, he’s gonna fucking walk through that shot. So we’re all “No, no, no. Don’t do that.”

Sal: I actually wish the camera could be on you for all the things you do for me when the camera is not on you. Because I laugh as hard as I do in the show.

Again on social boundaries, does it affect how people are around you? I’ll come to you (Sal) as an example again. When I told my wife I was interviewing you – and she loves you guys, we watch the show so much – she said “You have to get Sal to show you his tattoo.” (As another punishment, Sal had to get a tattoo on his upper thigh, without knowing what it was. Once it was finished, it was revealed to be an unnervingly accurate portrait of Jaden Smith, who has no significance to either Sal or the show.)

And then when her sister found out, she said “You have to get Sal to show you his tattoo.” I can’t ask someone to undress in an interview. But people feel like they really know you.

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Q: Exactly, we get that a lot. That’s good. It’s a blessing and a curse. A lot of people buy people they know drinks. So that happens.

Sal: You get people that, just like you get people anywhere, don’t have a filter. Some people don’t even request that I show them the tattoo, they just demand it. “My wife is here, take your pants off.”

Joe: We get this a lot (mimes having a phone put up to his ear). “Say hello, it’s Lorraine.”

Sal: They always think that they’re on the show. So when we’re in our regular life and we’re just hanging out, shopping…

Joe: Sal and I were in the mall just shopping, and we’re walking through this retail store and little old lady goes “NO! You’re not gonna get at me.” We were just shopping. She was looking for cameras, she was like “I know who you are, you crazies!” and she walked away from us.

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Murr: Well, we get away with a lot because of that. People think we’re always pranking them or that we’re constantly on camera. We steal things from stores all the time.

Joe: I steal cupcakes. If we’re at a bakery I’ll just grab something.

Murr: And people are like “Oh my god, they pranked us! They’re stealing and pranking us right now” (huge smile)

Sal: I actually ended up sleeping with that old lady, too.

Joe: So she really got pranked?

I don’t know what I can put in this.

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(Right, so I was being glib here. The joke Sal made was cheeky but it would have been fine. I thought I was just saying something throwaway, the sort of thing I would normally edit out before publication. But on reflection this is the point at which I lost the room.)

Sal: Oh really?

Q: Who is this for?

No, I’m being silly, it’s fine. It’s for Den of Geek.

Q: Oh, I know Den of Geek. Cool. You can put that in there.

Yeah, we’ll be fine.

Sal: Yesterday they (Murr and Q) were on TV in the morning, what was it?

Murr: Lorraine.

Sal: And the guy…

Q: Dr. Hilary.

Sal: Dr. Hilary. I thought it was a male?

Q: His name is Hilary Jones.

Sal: Oh, the guy’s name is Hilary? I’ve never heard of that.

Q: Yeah, he went through life like that, man.

Murr: We pranked Dr. Hilary on Lorraine and he called us bastards on live TV.

Sal: But that’s not even a curse to me. (To Den of Geek) I thought you guys, from what I gather, anything goes on TV. There’s like cursing, nudity. The first episode of The Office they curse so much. So to just say bastard and it’s all over the news.

Joe: Yeah, but it’s after 7pm in the UK.

I think it might be 9pm.

Sal: Who are they protecting?

Q: Well they’re saying if you have Lorraine on while you’re making breakfast and the family is around, the kids before they go to school, and you’re dropping b-bombs all over the place.

Sal: At 8pm a kid’s not gonna be flicking through the channels and hear the word?

Q: Yeah, but you’re taking the power out of the parents hands.

Sal: But bastard is actually a word, it’s allowed on American television even. If Dr. Hilary would’ve called them fuck-faces at 7am, then I would’ve been “Oh, well there might be a little bit of a…”

(From this point onwards, the interview descends into sweary chaos.) (While we wanted to render the below true to events, we’ve chosen to tweak the odd phrase – Ed)

Sal: If Dr. Hilary had turned to him, at 7am when people are making their breakfast and called him a stupid silly little (front bottom – Ed)face, I would be like, that might have some blowback. But not a bastard.

Murr: But different cultures have different meanings for things.

Sal: But bastard doesn’t even feel like a curse. Like, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard, bastard.

Q: Right, but you can’t say (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole, (front bottom – Ed)hole.

Murr: Guys, you can’t say any of this stuff.

No, you can say whatever you like. That’s my editors’ problem

Q: No, it’s Den of Geek. I’ve been on your website, you can say anything.

Sal: So if Dr. Hilary would have said “You (front bottom – Ed) bastard!” it would have been “You (front bottom – Ed) beeeeep”?

No, you couldn’t have said (front bottom – Ed) in the morning. It’s the time of day.

Joe: Again, before 7pm. After 7pm you can call everybody a fucking stupid (front bottom – Ed) sloppy motherfucker. And everyone would be fine with it.

Q: But I thought in the UK, (front bottom – Ed)’s like a friendship term, isn’t it? “Ahh, you (front bottom – Ed)!”

Murr: Let the Den of Geek record show that I have not said the c-word once.

Help yourself.

Q: You just said ‘the c-word’. Are you afraid to answer to the Den of Geek editor?

Murr: No. It’s an offensive word.

It’s not quite the same over here as in the US.

Murr: But bastard is a bad word over here.

Not on the scale of (front bottom – Ed).

(pause)

We have gone off road.

Sal: That was our intention.

Q: Do you know that Lorraine is quite hot in person?

Really?

Murr: Yeah, I’d take a run at her.

Sal: Dr. Hilary is no slouch himself.

Q: He’s well dressed.

Murr: He’s aging well.

Joe: Wait, he’s a guy?

Sal: So I’m told.

Murr: I told him to look at my buttocks, I had some marks, he said “Oh, that’s (medical condition I couldn’t make out that is apparently not serious).” Remember I got that from Spa Castle? He nailed it. A long time ago I went to a spa castle, which is like a castle of spas. It’s all hot tubs and things like that, it’s not very well maintained.

Q: (to Den of Geek) It’s exactly what you think it is.

Murr: Not very well maintained but it’s a touristy thing. I went and I got a rash from the spa.

Joe: It’s not touristy.

Murr: Sure it is.

Joe: No it’s not. No one comes to New York and says “We’ve got to check out Times Square and Spa Castle!”

Q: Maybe a sex tourism thing.

Joe: Yeah, he caught something from the water.

Q: Ted Water. No, the chlorine level was high.

(I can’t fish all the jokes out of my recording from this. They were all making them at the same time and laughing.)

Murr: It’s not a sex place, it’s a legit spa castle.

When people give you tips, when a challenge on the show is to get a tip, do you give the money back?

Murr: No.

Joe: We keep it.

Murr: I earned that money.

Joe: If people ask for it we take it back, but at the end of the day, we keep that money. One time we actually bought a lottery ticket for the crew. The first one at White Castle. We didn’t win.

Sal: I think that sometimes when people are very generous, we’ll make sure that they get it back. I think sometimes we forget. But at the end of a day of filming, when 50 people give a buck, they don’t want it back. (To Joe) But the other day you had 26 bucks, and you gave me 13.

Murr: We were filming two weeks ago and the challenge was, you had to leave a $5 bill on the floor. When a regular person picked up the $5 bill you had to run up to them and say “Excuse me. That’s not my bill. I know you just found it and it’s not mine, either. But, can you give it to me, here’s why.” And the guys give you a ridiculous reason. We pocketed some serious cash.

Q: I still have that burned $5.

The good-natured tone comes through on the show.

Q: THE WHAT?

THE SHOW IS REALLY GOOD NATURED, RIGHT?

Q: I’m kidding, I heard what you said.

(attempts to speak, laughs/gives up)

Sal: This is just us. We entertain each other all the time.

It’s very hurtful but I’m coping.

But, is that something you’re conscious of maintaining, or are you genuinely lovely?

Joe: Well we’re friends for real. I think that…

Q: I yelled at Joe on set the other day.

Joe: Yes.

Q: We’re not over that yet.

Joe: We’re still hitting that hard. I mean he’s never done it…

Q: In 6 years of making the show I’ve never…

Joe: … it caught everybody by surprise.

Murr: It was the first time ever that it wasn’t directed at me.

Sal: When we first started filming at the beginning we noticed that if people get angry and there’s tension, it defuses the comedy. And we’re like, well, we shouldn’t skew that way. We just want it to be funny.

Joe: We even say a lot of the times, we’ll put our own filter on. We’ll rein each other in when somebody’s out there. If we see somebody’s getting mad we’ll change the direction on purpose. Cause that’s not what our show is. It’s not getting people upset. It’s making each other laugh.

Q: And they need to sign to be on television, so it’s against our interests to anger them.

Murr: Sal physically assaulted me one day. But he backed off when I got in his face.

Joe: You whipped your coat at me and said “Your best friend just assaulted me!” and walked away into the night.

Murr: I stood my ground and he backed away like a scared child.

Q: And you stormed off set.

Joe: You stormed off set. You looked me in the eye…

Murr: I didn’t storm off set, we were done filming. I went home.

Sal: We’re with each other 24/7.

Joe: …“Your best friend assaulted me” and then you went to the Spa Castle.

Murr: I didn’t say that.

Joe: (theatrical but brilliant Murr impression) “Your best friend assaulted me.”

Q: Like when a parent is mad at their kid and they call it ‘your son’.

(lose room to laughter and funny bickering for a moment)

Murr: None of this is true.

Sal: We were on the road in Scarsdale, Arizona and we all went to a nightclub.

Murr: Scotsdale.

Sal: Scotsdale. We all went to a nightclub, and he went into another room on his own…

Murr: To get a lapdance.

Sal: …and there were like 20 people and we were like “Where’s Murray?”

Q: It was a strip club.

Joe: I guess Murray must have left….

Murr: I come out of a strip club in a foreign state…

(They are literally all trying to tell their own version of the story at the same time)

Murr: …they’re gone.

Sal: …he left without telling anyone. So we go across the street to eat something at Denny’s.

Joe: IHOP (International House Of Pancakes).

Murr: There was no Denny’s anywhere near there.

Q: It was across the street.

Murr: You took rickshaw to a Denny’s that was 5 miles away.

Q: It was literally across the street and a quarter mile to the left.

Sal: So we texted him and said we’re going to the Denny’s, we can’t find you. And then weeks later he pulled us aside on set and scolded us.

Murr: You did not text me.

Q: We didn’t text him. That was the problem.

Sal: Oh, you called us.

Murr: That was the whole argument. There was no text, no nothing, because nobody gave a shit about what was happening to Murr.

Sal: Cause we all have cell phones, he called us the second he came out and we said we’re at Denny’s.

What is your favourite Jason Statham movie?

Q: I mean, Crank. What am I, an asshole?

Murr: For sure.

Q: What am I, some sort of asshole?

Murr: Crank, and the sequel is really good too.

Sal: He was very funny in Spy. Although that’s not really his film.

Q: Why did you look disappointed when I said Crank?

No, that was my heart almost exploding with joy. Crank is his best film by a mile.

Q: Crank is amazing. And it’s got Dennis from It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia in it.

Yes!

Q: In a tiny cameo. He dies in the sequel. Spoiler.

Murr: He was great in Spy, too.

Q: He has to keep his energy up or he dies.

Sal: I can’t even… just listening to it gets me exhausted.

Joe: I really loved him in Spy. I nosed him (Joe’s signature move is to covertly touch people with his nose. That description does not do it justice) in California when I moved there.

No!

Joe: Yeah, he was in a Coffee Bean in front of me and I nosed him. I was by myself. I just said, I have to take this opportunity. I nosed him and I backed away and he turned around.

Murr: It’s like, if someone gets nosed in the woods, and there’s no one around to see…

Joe: So he turned around and looked at me. After I had gotten away with it, I said “I’m a huge fan and I just wanted to say hey”.

Q: What was his name in Crank. Che…?

Chev Chelios.

Q: Chev Chelios! Oh god, that’s gonna make me want to watch that movie.

Murr: Yeah, me too.

Sal: Was there a Crank 2?

Joe: Yeah.

Sal: They get him again? And he has to crank himself again?

Q: No, no, they take his heart out, and he has a mechanical heart so he has to electrically charge himself. And he’s chasing down his own fucking heart.

Sal: Oh. That sounds amazing.

Q: It’s unbelievable.

Joe, Sal, Q and Murr, thank you very much!

New episodes of Impractical Jokers are shown on Comedy Central UK Mondays at 10pm.