Getting paid to prank people on television might sound like a dream job, but it’s the real-life career of Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn, and Sal Vulcano.
Friends since high school, the New York foursome started a comedy troupe called The Tenderloins after college. Live performance and sketch-comedy shows graduated to online videos that gained traction, and eventually led the comedians to their truTV hit series, Impractical Jokers, which airs its fifth season next year.
City Pages spoke to Gatto about the guys’ Where’s Larry? Tour, which is a live version of the hidden-camera, hijinks-heavy show, coming to the State Theatre on Saturday.
What is it about doing comedy as a group that works better than each of you going at it alone?
Joe Gatto: Well, you only have to be funny 25 percent of the time with four guys, so that really helps. It’s a numbers game. Nah, we have good chemistry. Our show is about friendship more than anything else. We know each other well, and know how to make each other laugh genuinely with this kind of comedy. I think that’s what people take to: We remind them of their friends.
You’ve been in the business for quite some time. How do you find new ways to make each other, and other people, laugh?
We try to keep it fresh. We push ourselves to invent new games on the TV show. People see us with the ear piece telling each other what to say and do, but our show is probably only 40 percent that. There are a lot of games that we play that are in the awkward, social-experiment realm, from holding strangers’ hands to feeding them or getting them to feed us. It’s a lot of fun.
Have any of you ever refused to do a prank?
The way the show works is that we compete within challenges, and whoever refuses or loses the most challenges gets punished at the end by their friends. You can’t say no to a punishment. When that rolls around, you have to do what they tell you to do.
Which pranks do you like the least?
I’m the only one that’s married with a child, so I don’t like when the guys try to use that against me.
How do they do that?
There was one challenge where we had to kiss a stranger. We had to go into this food court of a mall and we didn’t know the stranger that had been picked out for us by the other guys. We were taking turns, kissing strangers until we found the right stranger. What they did was they sat my wife right next to the pretty girl that they’d picked out for me so I had to make a choice to either kiss this pretty girl in front of my wife or lose. I did the right thing by losing.
Do you have a dream prank that you’ve been concocting all these years that you can’t wait to do?
Yes, and I think I may have pulled it off for Season Five as a punishment.
How did you translate the television show to the stage?
The stage show is a different experience for the fans, which is really fun because they get to hang out with us for the night, which is what we’re most excited for. We tell stories from growing up and from our antics from the road. We also filmed hidden camera pranks for the live show; you can only see them there, you can’t see them anywhere else.
It’s titled the “Where’s Larry?” tour. Who is Larry and how did he get lost?
It’s a joke that the guys make me do. I keep yelling for this fictional Larry that we can’t find, and I’m searching for him everywhere. I just run around and yell his name as much as I can to confuse people.
Do you spend time with each other outside of work?
We spend pretty much every day together. It’s crazy. We’re about to get on a bus for this tour. But we’re friends, too, so when work’s over, if there’s a movie that we want to see, we’ll turn to each other and be like, “Wanna go grab dinner and a movie?” We always say at the end of the day, “See you in 12 hours.” We’re friends and business partners.
Are there any drawbacks to that? Sometimes when people work so closely, it takes a toll on the relationship.
We’ve been friends for 26 years at this point, so I think we’ve had every fight. We’re all set in our ways. We’re 39-year-olds. We know each other and how to get along. We’re doing okay. I don’t think we’ll kill each other any time soon.
IF YOU GO:
7 and 10 p.m. Saturday, November 14
$49.50, $150, $250