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Times Impractical Jokers Took Things Too Far

Since 2011, four New York comedians who call themselves the Tenderloins have entertained millions — and freaked out unsuspecting strangers, pedestrians, and business customers who happened to come to cross their paths — with their extremely popular TruTV series Impractical Jokers. Together, Brian Quinn ("Q"), James Murray ("Murr"), Joseph Gatto ("Joe"), and Salvatore Vulcano ("Sal") consistently put out a fun, light-hearted reality show in which the joke is always turned inward. Sure, their hidden-camera-and-microphone gags play off the reactions of unsuspecting innocents, but the victims of their pranks are always each other. For each bit, one or more Tenderloins are let loose into the world at large, and through an earpiece, receive wild and weird instructions designed for maximum humiliation. If they fail, refuse, or otherwise don't measure up, they're punished in a funny, ironic, or bizarre way.

In their haste to be hilarious and bust each other's chops in stunts and punishments, the Jokers can get carried away. Their antics can veer into the unseemly, dangerous, or even illegal. Here are some times when the jovial pranksters of Impractical Jokers got a bit too extreme.

The time Joe stole baseballs from children

The loser of this 2017 Impractical Jokers is Joe. And in accordance with show rules, he must endure his punishment, which is to be at the center of a public prank in New York's Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. For this bit, the Tenderloins have enlisted the assistance of Mets pitcher Noah Syndergaard. While he autographs balls and T-shirts for fans in the stands like he does before most games, it's up to Joe to act as obnoxiously as possible, intercepting and stealing away that Syndergaard-signed merch from fans, most of them children. Dressed like a Mets superfan in a blue-and-orange T-shirt, headband, and fanny pack, Joe snatches balls away as Syndergaard throws them up to kids and tweens, shocked that an adult could be so rude. "Gotta be quicker," he tauntingly quips at them.

Then Joe asks if he can borrow a woman's toddler daughter, offering to get the kid a signed ball. She obliges, Joe gets the ball, then takes the ball for himself and tries to skedaddle. The woman gives chase to give Joe a verbal dressing-down. "You cannot do that. Give me the ball. That's wrong!" she screams. Then she forces Joe to apologize — and he replies with the fed line, "I'm so sorry I didn't get that ball." Then he hightails it out of Citi Field.

That time Sal threw chicken at a guy and he was not pleased

In this 2013 episode, the challenge is simple: Sal must work the counter at Jimbo's Bar and Grill on Jersey Shore and do whatever the other three Jokers tell him to do. First, he interacts with a couple, but is forced to wag around a foot-long wiener to emphasize his words. The male half of the couple smiles and is mildly amused. The woman, however, is rightfully left feeling "weirded out" and then straight up annoyed when he hands back her credit card and notices that it reeks of hot dogs. Sal's next command: Toss a chicken finger near a tough-looking guy walking down the boardwalk, looking at his phone. Sal does it, and almost hits the guy. The stranger could easily ascertain the origin of the chicken finger, what with its trajectory and the fact that Jimbo's Bar and Grill is right there. He heads up to the counter to confront Sal, who appears more terrified as the seconds tick by. The man explains that he was targeted with chicken, and Sal attempts to calm him down. When asked who threw it, Sal must follow orders and he responds the way his friends tell him to: "Yeah, I threw it." He somehow manages to not get a pummeling on camera.

That time Murr married Sal's sister

A very special 2014 episode featured maybe the most extreme punishment yet, and one that would be hard to top, as it involved parties outside of the Impractical Jokers foursome as well as the government and what's likely a great deal of paperwork. Jenna Vulcano is a recurring Impractical Jokers cast member, showing up whenever her brother Sal needs to be made especially uncomfortable by his cronies. Her appearances usually involve staging some kind of intimate encounter with the three Jokers that aren't Sal. The third season finale "Brother-in-Loss" tops them all. Sal lost the episode, and for his punishment he had to watch, alongside his family and friends, as Murr married Jenna. (The bride wore white, the groom a black tuxedo with lavender accents.) That's really going above and beyond, and the duo really did tie the knot, however briefly. "Yes I legally married Sal's sister, no joke," Murr tweeted after this "Wedding of the Century" episode aired. "And yes we annulled the marriage... after the honeymoon night!" (That's one more joke for the road... probably.)

When Murr got shot up with novocaine

Dental procedures are among life's most unpleasant and potentially painful tasks, so even the idea of delving into that world as part of an otherwise innocuous and silly prank show feels a bit beyond the pale. And yet, on a 2014 episode of Impractical Jokers, the Tenderloins made Murr, a man purported to be their friend, submit to some unnecessary and deeply uncomfortable treatment to his teeth for his punishment, having lost the episode. Because the dental anesthetic of novocaine is a powerful numbing agent, it's inherently funny to listen to somebody try use the mouth they cannot feel, not to mention try to eat food. Murr thus endured some novocaine shots and then had to talk about exotic foods while also eating them. In short, he made a terrible mess. The bit had long-lasting implications for Murr, too. Responding to an Impractical Jokers fan on Twitter, Murr revealed that since the novocaine-related punishment he's now "more sensitive to it." Complicating future dental surgeries — now that's suffering for one's art.

When Sal had an accident in his pants

The Impractical Joker who loses this 2015 episode is once again Sal, and his costars select a deceptively simple — not no less humiliating — punishment. The group heads to a New Jersey escape room place called Exit Strategy and makes Sal go through the experience — get locked in a room and solve riddles to get out — with a group of strangers. But going through this mildly entertaining group outing is not the entirety of the punishment — Sal has to pee his pants while locked in this small, enclosed space with other people. Urinating on oneself falls well outside of the box of what's considered normal and acceptable adult behavior, but Sal is faced with having to fake a bathroom emergency, then make the problem rectify itself. He takes a long time to execute the assignment, prompting much imploring from the other Jokers. He literally starts to sweat, and the others try to force his hand (or bladder) by playing running water sounds through his earpiece. Finally, Sal does what he has to do and urinates in full view of everyone, in the escape room, fully staining his lightly-colored khakis. It so freaks out his unwitting escape room companions that some scream and some can't help but laugh. But he still can't get out of the room until a solution can be found, forcing pee-soaked and smelly Sal to work in close contact with these strangers.

That time a huge guy nearly pummeled Murr

Tensions are high and quarters are close in a budget department store chain, and in a 2018 episode of Impractical Jokers, the pranksters go to one to stir things up... and almost get one of their own beat up. Murr heads in to pick out some clothes and to be as annoying as possible to his fellow shoppers. The other Jokers encourage him to reach over bins and other customers to go after what he needs. The pranksters watching on a monitor focus in on a guy about twice Murr's size, and decide it would be fun to get Murr on his bad side. Murr follows instructions and all but climbs over the man to get the shirt he needs in a different size, and then another because "Randolph needs one, too." When Murr picks up a bra, his costars tell him to ask the gentleman he's been bothering to try it on, "to see if it would fit" Murr's lady friend. Murr doesn't even get the chance to ask — the stranger sees him hold it up, knows the score, and stares down the Joker. "Think that s*** is funny?" he asks. "You think you're funny?" After flicking Murr about the face, he runs after him, until a quick-thinking security guard gets between them and defuses what could have been a violent situation.

When the Jokers got bizarre tattoos

"The Permanent Punishment," the title of a 2014 Impractical Jokers episode, is also, unfortunately for three Tenderloins, a spoiler. In a prank involving attaching balloons onto people just trying to grocery shop, Q, Murr, and Sal— in other words, everyone except Joe — fails, and gets their punishment. For each guy it's a possibly eternal reminder of that time they didn't succeed on their silly reality show: a tattoo. The Jokers go under the needle and ink to receive the worst and dumbest tattoos this side of Jackass. Q's consists of a cat, along with the caption "38. Lives Alone. Has 3 Cats." That's mildly embarrassing, but not as ridiculous and pointless as Murr's sweet body art depicting a ferret skydiving. Again, that's funny and humiliating for Murr, but the hardest, weirdest, and most silliest permanent ink of all went onto poor Sal. Because rules are rules and punishments must be accepted on Impractical Jokers, he got a thigh tattoo of musician, actor, and celebrity offspring Jaden Smith. (And it's not even a particularly lifelike likeness of the rising star, either.)

That time Q revealed more than he intended

This bit from a 2017 Impractical Jokers episode is a challenge straight out of a game show... but with much higher stakes than winning cash or prizes. Each Joker is set loose in a mall and must enlist a helpful stranger to untangle a pair of headphones. And they've got to do it quickly, because otherwise a hired hand will come along and "pants" the Joker — swiftly pulling their trousers down and exposing their underpants (and terrible tattoos) to mild-mannered shoppers. Second up is Q, who finds a guy to help him out, but he's not nearly fast enough, because as he's working on those knots, wrestler Tommy Dreamer (who worked over Q in a previous episode) comes around the corner. Q nervously pleads for mercy, blurting out "I thought we were friends!" and "Please don't hurt me again!" It's to no avail as Dreamer squats down and removes not only Q's pants, but his underwear as well. This shocks and surprises the poor Joker, who howls "We're gonna get arrested!" That's a legitimate fear — indecent exposure is a prosecutable offense.

When two Tenderloins competed to get naked on the street

Murr and Joe lost a 2014 Impractical Jokers episode, leaving them to a punishment called "Strip High Five." Both would stand in New York City's Union Square and ask pedestrians for high fives. Every time they're refused, the Joker must remove an article of clothing, and the punishment is over when one of them winds up completely naked.

An onscreen graphic reveals that Sal and Q almost replaced the punishment because they thought getting high fives would be too easy for Murr and Joe, and thus nobody would get nude. At first, it looks like that instinct was correct, as the two easily get strangers to slap their palms. Then the goodwill of their fellow humans dries up, and both Murr and Joe are forced to remove more and more, with Joe losing both his shirt and pants before his opponent. (Adding insult to injury, Murr's discarded sweatshirt gets swiped by a rude stranger.)

The battle goes down to the wire, with both guys left in their underwear and Murr ultimately losing. It takes him a good three minutes to steel himself for the demeaning and illegal act of exposing himself in front of the gathered crowd. And that's when New York City police arrive and put an end to the shoot. They didn't arrest anybody, but they must certainly could have, as exposing one's private parts on a street is quite illegal.