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Impractical Jokers Before All The Fame

The group of guys we know and love as the Impractical Jokers were once once just a regular gang of small town pranksters from Staten Island. Best friends at an all-boys Catholic high school where they honed their skills in front of their classmates (and doubtless served countless detentions), they later came together to found their first sketch comedy troupe, the Tenderloins—and that was just the start of their rise to fame. Here's a look behind the scenes.

Pranking their all-boys Catholic high school

The Impractical Jokers first met in a religion class at Monsignor Farrell, an all-boys Catholic high school where they banded together and quickly realized that the best way to meet girls was through comedy in their school plays and improv classes. They invented "Vermin Day," aptly named for the backpacks filled with vermin they'd set free at noon. Sometimes it'd be mice, but other popular critter choices included blue crabs, ducks, and squirrels. In a variation on that stunt, the guys would dump giant bags of rice for what they called Rice Capades—they'd fill their backpacks with ten-pound bags of rice, and at the perfect moment, simultaneously dump it everywhere. Students would slip and slide through the rice like they were figure skating, throwing loads of it at one another too. It must have taken the poor custodians weeks to clean it up.

Brian Quinn

Brian Quinn was born on March 14, 1974. (That's right, ladies. He's a Pisces.) Before he started his career as a professional television jokester, he joined the New York Fire Department; after taking a leave of absence from fighting fires to film the first season of his show, he would return to the FDNY years later with a $50,000 donation.

Affectionately known to his closest friends as "Q," this young hooligan was an avid fan of pro soccer, specifically adoring Manchester United. As a kid, he was also obsessed with Star Wars and forced his parents to take him to see Return of the Jedi in theaters—four times. Q still maintains his collection of Star Wars toys today, only they're safely secured in a box in his attic instead of scattered across his bedroom floor.

Quinn was a fan of the Tenderloins before he was formally accepted as a part of their crew. He loved to go watch the troupe perform sketch comedy in the city, but was always less of a performer and more of a behind-the-scenes talent. When the guys gave him an opportunity to help write sketches for them, comedic magic was made, and their fame skyrocketed from there.

James Murray

James "Murr" Murray was born on May 1, 1976 in Staten Island, New York. Murray worked as a producer before humiliating himself on Impractical Jokersfor your enjoyment. But it's not all pain and embarrassment for the double-nipple pierced Murr: in one episode, he got to meet his lifelong crush Danica McKellar. Sure, he was wearing a speedo and totally oiled up, but how else were the guys supposed to prank him?

After graduating from Georgetown with a BA in English, Murray was surprised when his father told him he was going to buy him a Ford Taurus as a graduation gift. Murr opted for the cash instead so that he could finish a film project. Once as a punishment, the guys forced Murr to watch a 1998 video of his directorial debut with a live studio audience. His unintentionally hilarious film was meant to tell a serious story about a modern teenage Jesus, and it needs to be seen to be believed.

As a kid, Murray loved pro wrestling and baseball. His fondest childhood sports memory was seeing a live WWE event at the Meadowlands with his father, during which WWE superstar Bobby "The Brain" Heenan had his teeth smashed out by Hulk Hogan. Perhaps this stunt was what really piqued Murr's interest in self-deprecating entertainment. As a child, Murray wasn't a great athlete, but can recall going to many sporting events—and remains specifically focused on the ones that contained shocking yet hilarious violence. He was even there during the subway series when Roger Clemens threw a broken bat at Mike Piazza.

As we mentioned previously, Murray wasn't much of a natural sportsman, but that didn't stop him from playing baseball. He even won the championship for his Staten Island Little League Team, snatching a fly ball shot way out to wherever his coach had him stashed in the outfield.

Salvatore Vulcano

Sal "Ja'Crispy" Vulcano was born on November 6, 1976, on Staten Island. As a kid, he enjoyed playing basketball, football and hockey, and graduated from St. John's University with a degree in finance. While studying at St. John's, Vulcano also starred in a comedic mockumentary video series titled Superdude & Friend.

He likes to keep his personal life relatively private, but he shared a few personal anecdotes during an appearance on Midevenings with Jay Miller, including the time he held a pair of women's pants ransom. After accidentally receiving a pair of size six sateen women's dress slacks from Ann Taylor Loft, Vulcano noticed the purchaser's email address was inside the package. Rather than returning it like a normal person, he meticulously drafted a ransom note out of letters from old Entertainment Weekly magazines, took a picture of himself wearing the pants and a ski mask, and then shot it off into cyberspace. The next morning, he got an angry reply from the pantsless customer, who threatened to report his antics to the authorities as a possible act of terrorism. To Vulcano's surprise, the package was intended for his landlord's girlfriend—and luckily for him, his landlord had a sense of humor.

Joseph Gatto

Gatto was born on June 5, 1976 on the same island as the rest of the crew, and got his undergraduate degree in accounting from LIU Post. In addition to comedic pranks, Gatto's other true passion is food; he's recalled how, growing up in a large Italian family, there was always an open-door policy for meals, which regularly included guests. Gatto's food-fueled upbringing often translates into his jokes and pranks today.

The "Scoopski Potatoes" skit made famous on Impractical Jokers is just one example of Gatto's unique penchant for food jokes. His favorite childhood memory involved a time when his nephew was sitting in his highchair, double fisting tiny cannolis, and one of the tops fell off. Rather than risking the loss of one of his Italian treats, he plopped his face onto his tabletop and ate the cannoli top—a decision that, in Joe's eyes, made his nephew a "True Gatto."

As a kid, Joe Gatto mostly enjoyed old-school hip-hop, Vanilla Ice, and Top 40 radio jams. His favorite television shows were The Wonder Years, Growing Pains, and Knight Rider. His favorite movies were E.T. and Star Wars.

Getting the Gang Back Together

The guys all went to college and their respective separate ways, until one day Murr ran into Sal on the ferry. The two were affectionately reminiscing about their good old days in improv, inspiring them to get the group together. From there, the guys practiced their sketches together in Joe's mom's basement for six years. Murr admits that Joe's mother was really like the "fifth member of the Tenderloins," because she would always pretend to have something to do in the next room, while laughing at their skits and providing her own hilarious commentary. At the time, Sal, Murr, James, and Q, all had day jobs, but were having so much fun performing for virtually no one that they decided to take their unique underground troupe to the next level. They brought their show to small venues for a few years, all the while slowly losing hope that they would ever actually be able to quit their day jobs. The guys refer to their journey as a "nineteen-year overnight success."

Time Thugs

The Impractical Jokers got their first shot at stardom after winning $100,000 on It's Your Show, a video submission contest hosted by MTV's Carson Daly, with a comedy clip titled "Time Thugs." The newfound fame and cash inspired the guys to take a stab at television, filming a pilot for Spike TV called Mission Uncomfortable. Spike passed on the project, but the undaunted Tenderloins started their evolution into television's Impractical Jokers, piling up a series of early gigs that even included opening for Imagine Dragons—as a joke, of course.

Jokers Wild

In 2014, Sal, Murr, Joe, and Q starred in one season of Jokers Wild, a spinoff of Impractical Jokers that found them returning to their roots in sketch comedy. They didn't torture each other on the show physically; rather, they showed their more sensitive sides (and their penchant for sleepovers). During one episode, Sal even came out as gay on the Sally Jesse Raphael show to trick Murr to admit that he was gay—as an elaborate scheme to fool Gatto into admitting that he slept with Murr's ex, who was really a dude, to simultaneously prank each other into revealing that all of them are gay. The guys aren't actually gay, this was just what the Tenderloins did—creating skits with insane comedic twists. Audiences preferred the public humiliation and self-injury humor, so the show only lasted one season.

On the Road

In 2015, the Impractical Jokers boys packed up their GoPros and set off on a cross-country bus tour. The jokers traveled the country on a tour bus, and for the most part, said they had a great time. Much like anyone on a long road trip, they hated each other once in awhile, but Murr later insisted in an interview that they really only argued over shoes. (Sal claimed the issue was that the bus was their home, and shoes are all naturally covered in urine and human waste.) Overall, the guys loved touring for huge crowds, as it was vastly different from their humble beginnings performing as the Tenderloins in small Manhattan theaters for crowds of only a handful of people.