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The Untold Truth Of Impractical Jokers Star James Murray

TruTV's flagship reality show "Impractical Jokers" is best described as an elaborate battle of wills in which four friends attempt to goad each other into publicly embarrassing themselves, all while hidden cameras capture them at their worst. These comedic stunts are performed by the improv troupe the Tenderloins, consisting of James "Murr" Murray, Sal Vulcano, Brian "Q" Quinn, and Joe Gatto (who has since left the show).

Each of the four contributes his own characteristic wit to make each challenge all the more memorable. Murr, in particular, may often appear to be the designated scapegoat, but his real impact runs much deeper: Where would the show be without Murr's seemingly foolproof but usually fallible plans and his uncanny ability to take every punishment in stride? But as the reality star has himself indicated, his onscreen persona is only half the picture. Follow along as we unpack the personal stories, behind-the-scenes trivia, and unaired drama that make up the life of James Murray.

Murr can add 'sci-fi/horror author' to his list of accomplishments

Murr's had a passion for writing for years, but the draft of his debut novel "Awakened" didn't see the light of day until "Impractical Jokers" became a hit, he told Community News (publishers wouldn't even do him the courtesy of reading his manuscripts). Murr's rising clout as a comedian may have delivered his first book deal, but it's his writing prowess that has sustained his career as a novelist, sending his books to the top of Sunday Times and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists. Some of the credit should most certainly be shared by Murr's co-writer Darren Wearmouth. Their partnership has spawned five more books, including two sequels to "Awakened."

To Murr, writing a novel is no different than developing a TV show — which he also happens to excel at. The Joker describes his writing as having zippy dialogue, high-octane action, and plenty of cliffhangers, all critical ingredients of good TV. No wonder, then, that the television rights for "Awakened" have been picked up by IDW.

He helped Impractical Jokers get their big break

That's right. So indispensable is Murr to "Impractical Jokers" that the show would likely be nonexistent without him. As told to Community News, the prankster was formerly a development executive at NorthSouth Productions, known for producing "Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta" and "Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids."

This day job subsidized his passion for comedy, which Murr continued to pursue with his three high school friends. After gaining moderate success on the comedy circuit, the troupe was eager to make it onscreen, but a TV deal continued to elude the Tenderloins. The tide, however, turned with Murr's help. When the Jokers came up with the million-dollar idea of a hidden-camera reality show that doubles as public humiliation, it was Murr who pitched it to executives at NorthSouth, who were only too happy to produce the series. The rest, as they say, is history.

Murr once pranked his childhood crush

After losing yet another challenge in "The Blunder Years," Murr is dealt a comparatively mild punishment: Partake in a bodybuilding competition. Of course, that entails stripping down to nothing but a thong and lathering his body in bronzer. A groomed Murr enters the arena, only to find that his friends have pulled the old switcheroo on him: He'll be flexing his body not before professional bodybuilders, but in the presence of his boyhood celebrity crush Danica McKellar, otherwise known as Winnie Cooper on "The Wonder Years." The three pranksters then coax a bare-bodied Murr to break out into spontaneous squats and power poses while McKellar watches impassively.

Per Channel Guide Magazine, the incident crushed Murr's ego and left him feeling humiliated. However, he and Danica have moved past it — what began as an embarrassing prank has become in a beautiful friendship. The two even shared a picnic in Central Park, drawing surprised outbursts from fans.

He married fellow Joker Sal Vulcano's sister... for yet another prank

This gag is included in several compilations of pranks that went too far — and with good reason. While the foursome often gets into sticky situations, few of them are legally binding. But Murr ensured that Sal's punishment in the episode "Brother-in-Loss" is an exception. A gagged and bound Sal is left to helplessly watch Murr marry his sister Jenna. Their union is blessed by Sal and Jenna's parents, presided over by a real priest, and sealed with a big smooch.

Not only did Murr gain a wife, but he also made the bond of brotherhood between himself and Sal legal. Although Murr's marriage to his sister is clearly a sham, that doesn't stop Sal from getting visibly flustered. But every punishment comes to an end, and so did Murr and Jenna's marriage. In a tweet, Murr informed fans that the union was soon annulled, but not before "honeymoon night" — or so he claims.

He ran for Congress (as yet another joke)

Apart from professional exploits like comedy, writing, and developing TV shows, Murr also pursued a short-lived career as a politician in March of 2015. If the timing sounds suspect to you, that's because it is: Murr's legislative stint ended up being an elaborate setup for an April Fool's punchline. The comedian launched a write-in campaign to vie for a seat that opened up in the Staten Island borough. A campaign video announcing Murr's immediate exit from "Impractical Jokers" and subsequent entry into the Beltway was released.

But for every persuasive campaign video there's an equally effective attack ad, and Murr was not spared — a dissenting clip charged Murr with being unpatriotic, unserious, and a bald-faced liar. The political mudslinging got much too messy for the inexperienced comedian, causing him to ungracefully bow out of the race. Murr announced his return to The Tenderloins and "Impractical Jokers," only to find out that the troupe had already lined up another, better candidate to fill in for him. Fortunately for him, it was only a gag.

He wrote, directed, and starred in his own indie feature film, Damned!

Of all the embarrassing things that Murr has done onscreen, the feature film "Damned!" is the only one he's orchestrated all by himself. Shot on a shoestring budget courtesy of Murr's parents, "Damned!" depicts the story of an ultra-modern Jesus at the turn of the 21st century. In addition to writing and directing, Murr also made a discreet appearance in the movie.

Given that "Damned!" was far from a blockbuster, the mere memory of the movie might be enough to provoke regret or embarrassment for Murr, and his four lifelong friends were only too happy to ensure that his humiliation was given an audience. As punishment for losing the episode "Damned If You Do," Murr was forced to sit through an exclusive, crammed screening of his amateur movie, followed by an in-depth interview with a distinguished film critic.

He faced his fear of skydiving for the show

According to widespread fan opinion, one particular Joker seems to bear the brunt of most punishments, and it's Murr. Nine out of ten times, the Joker may grin and bear it, but every once in a while, the dares strike a nerve. In the episode "Look Out Below," after failing yet another challenge, Murr is given the seemingly innocuous punishment of skydiving. What makes it so bad? Murr is deathly afraid of the activity.

As soon as the Joker realizes what his punishment entails, he descends into complete panic, even attempting to flee the scene. Intense as it is, his onscreen meltdown tells only half the story. Off camera, Murr also reportedly began shooting off goodbye texts to his near and dear ones. So acute was his panic that teammate Q (unsuccessfully) tried to give him a hall pass from the punishment. His efforts turned out to be unnecessary as Murr did end up taking the plunge, even if he did shriek all the way down. Murr had the incident immortalized in the form of a tattoo that features a skydiving ferret, a reference to his animal doppelgänger.

He nearly got beat up over a prank

Murr may have gotten out of skydiving unscathed, but another incident brought him very close to bodily harm. Not all prank victims are good sports, and Murr learned this the hard way. In "No Good Deed," he's tasked with getting up close and very personal with unsuspecting customers in a local store. The Joker sets his sights on invading the privacy of a burly patron, nonchalantly encroaching on his personal space and even suggesting he try on a bra.

The customer is none too pleased and gets into a physical altercation with Murr, only stopping after a security guard and bystanders intervene. While this segment of the episode concludes here, the incident stretched into dangerous territory offscreen. In a candid web chat, Sal revealed that the surly customer decked Murr with his phone and very nearly caused production to come to a grinding halt. He then waited outside the store to settle his score with Murr, who quietly escaped — but only by the skin of his teeth.

He got a prostate exam as punishment

As we've already established, Murr's punishments hardly ever fit the crime. He normally takes them in stride, but one really managed to rile him up: In the fittingly named episode "Dark Side of the Moon," Murr is asked to volunteer his posterior for the purpose of a prostate exam at a medical demonstration. He receives a thorough inspection as a packed crowd watches on, simultaneously captivated and repulsed by the spectacle.

Later, Murr revealed why the punishment was twice as mortifying for him as viewers might think: The only thing that beats having several million households privy to your prostate exam is almost actually knowing the person performing the exam. Murr and his onscreen physician, Dr. Frank, go way back, having been friends for over 10 years. The only conceivable upside to the punishment is the all clear Murr gets after it's all over.

Murr met his wife at a book signing

When he's not getting rectal exams or being pushed out of a plane, Murr's life can be something out of a fairytale — or maybe a novel. In June 2018, the reality star/author was hard at work promoting his book "Awakened" when he met Melyssa Davies, his future wife. As he recounted to Millenium Magazine, a smitten Murr offered Melyssa his number and asked her to keep in touch. It would take three months for the comedian to hear from her again, but the pace of their relationship really picked up from there.

In fact, Murr considered their first date an opportune time to introduce Melyssa to the rest of the Tenderloins. The group was just as enchanted with her — so much so that the three Jokers later commanded Murr to be smart about his relationship with her. Their exact words to him: "Don't you screw this up." Luckily for Murr, he didn't.

Murr had fans help him propose

Even for someone of Murr's stardom, proposing to the love of your life can be daunting. Fortunately, he had plenty of fans willing to help. As told to People Magazine, the reality star summoned fans from all over the country to record a video asking Melyssa to be his life partner. In fact, few proposals could match the sheer size and scope of Murr's, given that it even included swarms of people at Comic-Con, which alone translates to approximately 20,000 fans. That a group of fans this large could resist the temptation to post about Murr's big plan on social media for six whole months is an achievement in itself.

When Murr finally popped the question, Melyssa gladly accepted and the pair married on September 25, 2020. To Murr's relief, none of his castmates pulled any pranks on his big day. (He'd previously joked that he worried his teammates were pulling a long con by hiring Melyssa to be with him.)

Say Whaaat?

Given Murr's success in TV development, it's hardly surprising that "Impractical Jokers" isn't the first show he created. In 2001, a whole ten years before "Jokers" show would come to fruition, he came up with the concept for "Say Whaaat?," a TV show where comedians improvise voiceovers for everyday conversations between people in different situations.

The idea had its genesis in casual banter between Murr and Joe. The duo was dubbing over tourist interactions at Rockefeller Center when inspiration for the show struck Murr, although the idea didn't pick up steam again until 2017, when he pitched it to Comedy Central. While a pilot for the show aired in December of that year, it didn't gain enough traction to merit a whole season. Just goes to show you that it can be hard to duplicate the success of a runaway hit like "Impractical Jokers."