What you didn't know about Impractical Jokers

Everyone loves a good laugh, especially when it comes at someone else's expense, so it should come as absolutely no surprise that TruTv's Impractical Jokers has been delighting irreverent humor enthusiasts since its debut in 2011. It's only human nature to find it hard to look away when a hilarious trainwreck is unraveling around you, and in between all the belly laughs, it's very easy to miss all kinds of key details about this long-running hit show. Whether you're a longtime aficionado or a more recent convert to the series, there are plenty of potentially surprising facts left to learn about Impractical Jokers, and we've taken a loving look back at the show's history to dig up some of the most interesting stuff most people don't know.

They've been pranking each other since high school

How awesome would it be to find your way to fame and fortune by goofing off with your best buds from high school? It sounds like a ridiculous pipe dream, but that's exactly what happened to James Murray, Brian Quinn, Sal Vulcano and Joe Gatto. The four guys grew up on Staten Island and met as teens while attending Monsignor Farrell High School. The all-boys Catholic high school was the perfect proving ground for breaking balls and fine-tuning prankster chops.

So what happens when four class clowns join forces? The guys ultimately turned their sophomoric antics, love of teasing each other, and ability to make people laugh into viable careers. Murray explained how the early high school shenanigans shape their specialized skillset. "We became well-practiced in the art of pranking," Murray said. One such high school prank — Gatto's recurring attempts to touch people with his nose without their noticing — even made its way on "Jokers." And they say school doesn't prepare you for the real world.

The Tenderloins came before Impractical Jokers

Goofing off is awesome, but you need to find an audience if you are going make a living at it. So, in 1999 Murr, Q, Sal, and Joe formed a comedy troupe called The Tenderloins. In 2007, the four friends entered a comedy competition on NBC called It's Your Show. Hosted by Carson Daly, It's Your Show featured amateur video producers, competing weekly for cash prizes. Their entry, "Time Thugs," an infomercial spoof about a time machine that can fix your past, helped nab them the top prize of $100,000. The guys took the cash and invested it in themselves, because charity begins at home, putting together a pilot of what would eventually become Impractical Jokers.

Like so many awesome ideas, the inspiration for said pilot came from kicking back and hanging out with pals. As Murray told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "We were hanging out one night in my apartment playing video games, and we were talking about a hidden camera show, and we had an idea. On all those shows, the comedian is pranking the public. What if we did it the opposite way. What if the joke is on us? It's an upside-down hidden camera show where we're the butt of our own jokes."

But for those who like comedy but not pranks (even if the pranks are directed toward the prankster), they still tour together as the Tenderloins, and even have their own YouTube channel featuring short comedy sketches and clips from their stage shows.

They weren't always Impractical Jokers, either

Technically, they're still not IJ–they're the Tenderloins, but either way, in the original pitch for the show, it was called Mission: Uncomfortable. The guys, as the Tenderloins, shot the pilot for Spike TV under the title after winning NBC's It's Your Show (with the sketch above) and investing the money in their fledgling TV career. Spike ultimately decided not to pick the show up, but the guys often show snippets from it at their live shows.

There's been little discussion about where the title change came from, or whether it originally intended to reference popular Tom Cruise vehicle Mission: Impossible. But considering how many increasingly ridiculous sequels Mission: Impossible has spawned, there's some serious untapped crossover potential here. Just imagine Murr hanging off the side of a plane like Tom Cruise.

Life before becoming famous prank stars

Born within nine months of each other on Staten Island, the IJ gang all had normal lives and typical aspirations before become mega-famous prank stars. Back in high school, Vulcano nerded out with the chess club and jocked it up in intramural basketball, football and bowling — he even got his finance degree from St. John's University. According to the rest of the guys, he has the hardest time following through on a dare — maybe it has something to do with his chess background?

Before graduating from Georgetown with a BA in English, Murray's high school interests included bowling and dramatics. Murr was also a member of something called "The Retreat Team." Was that possibly some sort of advanced preparation for the bogus campaign to get Murray elected to Congress? You can't prove it wasn't.

Another bowling enthusiast, Gatto Jr. was also a member of the math team, who received his accounting degree from Long Island University. So which Joker gives him the biggest run for his money? According to Gatto, it's Quinn. "Q [is my biggest competition]. Sal and Murr are just so easy. Q's like a wild card because sometimes, he won't do something that you thought he would do, and then he does stuff that you thought he wouldn't do," he told In Touch Weekly.

Speaking of Quinn, he kicked it with the marching band and the film club, and was also a New York City fireman. He took a leave of absence from the department after the first season, before leaving for good to pursue a career in pranking his friends full-time. That's certainly preferable to pranking fellow firemen, especially when duty calls.

The pranks don't stop when the cameras do

The guys may be getting paid to force each other into the most excruciating situations imaginable on TV, but that doesn't mean they lay off in private. In a Comedy Central UK interview, the foursome discussed how they play tricks on each other constantly and, much like on the show, resident weasel Murr is typically the target. One of their favorite pranks involves increasing the tip Murr leaves at restaurants by adding a digit somewhere on the receipt while Murr is distracted.

They're constantly thinking of ways to mess with each other, too, even outside the confines of the show. But the guys rarely dare Joe to do anything in public anymore, so convinced are they that he'll do pretty much anything proposed to him, just for laughs. And considering this is the guy who walked down Wall Street in a wedding dress with his dog gussied up as a bride alongside him (among other things), it's fair to say they're completely right not to test Joe's limits.

They don't consider Impractical Jokers a prank show OR a reality show

Even though the show has the word "jokers" in the title, The Tenderloins have discussed several times (most notably in a lengthy interview with Complex) how they don't consider Impractical Jokers a reality show or even necessarily a prank show. It's a real sticking point for them, because when it comes to dealing with businesses like White Castle, for example, the guys want to ensure they know the joke is on them, not the customers (otherwise, it'd be much more difficult to get permits to shoot on the premises). We see four dudes causing havoc in public and immediately think Jackass, but the guys are quick to point out that they're always the butt of the joke, instead of unsuspecting members of the public.

"It's neither [a prank or a reality show]," Sal said. "It's just about us, and it's just about us having a platform to be funny and do comedy, really." Joe explained further: "Nothing's been really done to [the public], they're more an instrument of embarrassment."

They frequently pull stunts and pranks for charity

It's not just humiliating each other that drives the guys from Impractical Jokers. Many of the pranks are used to benefit others. In honor of their 100th episode, the crew challenged each other to a high-wire walk on live TV. The joker who walked the farthest during this punishment challenge would receive $50,000 for the charity of his choice.

Hosted by Howie Mandel, the live event took place in New York City. Murr walked for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, Sal's charity was Doctors Without Borders, Joe hit the wire for Daniel's Music Foundation and Q's charity (the winning one) was the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation. But much like when Jeopardy does charity games, there were no losers, as the three remaining charities each received $10,000 donations.

The punishments are worse than we could ever imagine

Impractical Jokers is a 30-minute show, so naturally only a certain amount of content can be used per episode. This doesn't mean, however, that the infamous punishments are over as mercifully quickly as they appear to be. Sal regaled Comedy Central UK with a tale of pretending to be a psychic medium for "65 minutes … trying to read a crowd of 200 people. It was cut to three minutes on TV, but I was there for one hour and it was rough."

Punishments have also become so elaborate, they can last for months on end. In an interview with Den Of Geek, Murr gleefully discussed how Sal had been pranked for eight months straight, thinking something in his life was real when it wasn't. "The punishments are tailored specifically for the loser and they've gotten out of control," Murr explained. "We're now planning punishments months in advance. We did one to Sal … he had no idea and he thought that something was real in his life that wasn't real. We finally revealed … that the past eight months, this thing that was going on in his life was all fake. He literally screamed out, 'What's real in my life?'"

If you didn't just read that in Sal's shrill "I will NEVAH forgive you!" voice, for shame.

Getting recognized can be a real problem

The bigger the show gets, the more difficult it becomes for the stars to cause havoc unnoticed on the streets of New York, or really anywhere else. Those who attended the Santiago Sent Us tour were treated to a video of a challenge that didn't make it to air, during which Sal was recognized and immediately fled the scene, the segment ruined.

It went like this. After pulling up to a couple of girls on the street, Sal demanded they "get in the van." Rather than screaming and running away, one of them exclaimed "Sal!" and pointed excitedly at the Joker she recognized. In true Sal form, he flatly told her "Oh, f**k you," and sped off. Presumably, he immediately returned once the cameras were off as the big softie who crumbles at the site of ghost children probably couldn't let a fan leave thinking he was a jerk.

Although this is par for the course when making a show like Impractical Jokers, what's worse (at least from the guys' perspective) are those people who assume they're on the show when they're not. Joe told Den of Geek a woman once freaked out at him as he and Sal were shopping in a retail store. "A 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."

Naturally, they use it to their advantage, mostly to, by Joe's admission, steal cupcakes. "If we're at a bakery I'll just grab something" he told the site, with Murr said the reaction is usually something like "Oh my god, they pranked us! They're stealing and pranking us right now." So if you own a bakery, don't get too excited if the guys stroll in. They might just take it as an opportunity to nab something.

They're still heavily involved in the nitty-gritty of the show

When Impractical Jokers started out, it was literally just the guys in control of every aspect of the show. After the success of the first two seasons, they could afford to hire some writers to work with them in creating the jokes, brainstorming ideas for challenges, and so on. But that doesn't mean the foursome are all of a sudden hands-off. Murr described the show as "an improv show in disguise," suggesting about 60 to 70 percent of it is made up on the fly. Joe still oversees all the editing, too, ensuring The Tenderloins' stamp remains firmly on the Impractical Jokers product no matter how big they get.

They aren't always able to get their way, however. It was revealed on Tell 'Em Steve Dave that Q petitioned for, er, a map of Staten Island to be placed behind him during the opening credits. Yeah, he knows funny, all right.

They've been acting elsewhere

Rather than resting on their comedy laurels, the guys have been getting involved elsewhere, with Murr and Sal doing an episode of Bones, and all four starring in 12 Monkeys. (Murr and Q starred in the show's sophomore season, with Sal and Joe set to appear in Season 3, which airs in May 2017.) Further, it was revealed earlier this year that Q is set to star in a movie directed by indie horror maestro Adam Green. Green revealed the news on Twitter in early 2017. It's thought to be a horror film, so expect Q to get his head blown off in some wonderfully gruesome way.

Still, in a Complex interview, Murr assured fans: "We have solo interests, but we love working together. We'll keep working together for a long time to come." Joe also suggested the guys would branch out into producing. There was no discussion of their spinoff show, Jokers Wild, which brought the guys back to their sketch comedy roots but has yet to be confirmed for a second season. (This is … probably for the best.)

You can vacation with the cast

Can't get enough of Impractical Jokers? If you think the crew would be fun to hang with, you have a chance to put that theory to the test, as the guys have actually invited fans to vacation with them, and on a luxury cruise ship, no less.

A big part of the Impractical Jokers draw is their regular-joe personas and their devious, yet good-natured, sense of humor. There's something about watching real-life friends act like friends that's genuinely appealing. So imagine being able to enjoy the pranksters unleashed on a boat. That's what fans who set sail with them on the inaugural voyage in 2016 experienced. The four days of nautical hilarity included musical guests and additional super-funny celebrities like Lisa Lampanelli, Gilbert Gottfried, and Michael Ian Black. The whole thing seems kind of crazy and unorthodox, but as those familiar with the IJ team would realize, crazy and unorthodox is exactly what you'd expect from them. Especially when you surround them with enough alcohol to fuel an entire cruise line. Finally, something practical.

They test run their live shows with intimate crowds first

Before taking their live shows–such as Where's Larry? or Santiago Sent Us–out on tour, the guys do live podcasts in New York to test out the new material. Q has discussed these at length on the Tell 'Em Steve Dave podcast, particularly when Impractical Jokers producer Simi was on with them. (Simi also mentioned that Q sent an angry text message telling him "I know funny" which has already become an in-joke because how could it not?)

Murr explained the process in an interview with Den Of Geek: "The podcast shows are how we generate all the new jokes for the big theater tour. It's our testing ground, if you will."

The shows have around 100 people in attendance and are usually completely improvised. "We just go up there and tell stories and see what sticks, see what they like, and then we keep all the best material from a dozen shows and we piece that together into [the new tour]." Naturally, the tickets go pretty quickly, so keep an eye out if you live in New York.

They opened a Museum of Impractical History

The cultural significance of Impractical Jokers got its due, at least for a brief while, when the Museum of Impractical History opened. The kitschy display was a homage to all things prank. As Raymond Dooley of truTV explained to Nerd Reactor, "Instead of waiting for the Smithsonian, MoMA, or the Getty Center to finally launch a wing dedicated to the art of daring your best friends to embarrass themselves in public (seriously, what's taking so long?), we decided to create the Museum of Impractical History ourselves to celebrate four successful seasons of the show and to give something back to the viewers who've been so supportive."

Unfortunately for lovers of gags and pranks, the museum was only opened for few days during Comic-Con. That right there might have been the biggest prank of them all.

They're big pop music fans

We know the guys are massive fans of hometown heroes Wu Tang Clan, wearing merch on the show and playing their music before taking the stage on their live tours. They also count *NSYNC's Joey Fatone as a close friend–he's appeared in a task, and even took an injured Q's place in the Nitro Circus special.

But it doesn't end there. In an interview with Billboard, the guys, proud not to try to "catch cool" (as they told Complex), openly discussed their love of Britney Spears and Yanni, among others, solidifying their position as proud pop music aficionados. Q boasted about his love for Taylor Swift's 1989, noting it was one of his favourite albums of the year. He also revealed the best live show he'd seen in a long time was Bruno Mars (which Joe seconded). Murr, on the other hand, described seeing Britney Spears in Vegas as "awesome." He also further confirmed his lifelong love of Yanni, but fans of the show will already know all about that. Unfortunately.

Joe loves British singer Charli XCX, name-dropping her hit song "Boom Clap" as one of his top picks. Sal didn't offer up any of his favorites, but we can only assume his tastes don't extend to Willow Smith, sister of Jaden and purveyor of whipping one's hair back and forth. Sad! He clearly has the 'do for it, if only he'd risk messing it up.

Q went on trial for crimes against Reddit

The Impractical Jokers' Q has been doing the Tell 'Em Steve Dave podcast with Comic Book Men's Walt Flanagan and Bryan Johnson for years, starting originally as a sound guy and working his way up. Around Thanksgiving 2016, during one of the show's popular "Overkill" installments, Q told a creepy story about how he'd purchased the skull of the so-called Prussian Kissing Devil (essentially a real human skull you pay money to so it'll solve your problems) over the break while en route to his family home.

After extolling the virtues of the skull's supposed magical powers, Q discovered that Reddit users weren't too happy with him–both for lying about this story and for generally being, among other things, arrogant, out-of-touch, and not funny. (Simi may have a text message proving otherwise.) This led to a massive fan revolt, with Q standing trial on TESD in a so-called "trial by fire ants." ("Ants" here are fans of the show, not real fire ants, thankfully.) The trial itself took two episodes to get through, with Walt defending Q, Bry as the judge, and Git 'Em Steve Dave (a bugbear for fans was Q's alleged bad treatment of the show's autistic component) prosecuting.

The trial itself was predictably hilarious, but it was how they announced the verdict–in the last four minutes of a 90-minute episode called The Verdict, as an aside from Bry, who told Q, "Oh, you're good, you're still on the show"–that sold this as one of the coolest and weirdest moments in TESD history. And it was all about Q, much to the chagrin of those already planning his #Funeralz.