EXCLUSIVE: Before the three creators of TruTV’s Impractical Jokers promote the 10th season premiere of their hit unscripted comedy, Sal Vulcano, Brian “Q” Quinn and James “Murr” Murray have a confession to make: there’s actually no real meaning behind the title of their long-running sketch show. In fact, there’s nothing remotely impractical about the show’s premise, which involves the three lifelong friends embarrassing each other in public with outrageous dares.
“That name was thrust upon us in the early stages of the network,” admits Vulcano to Deadline. “We were like, who even uses the word impractical? It felt so clunky to us. To be honest, out of the gate, the show was originally called Mission Uncomfortable. When Impractical Jokers first came out, I was like, ‘we are going to be mocked roundly.’ It was the most clunky, unfunny, confusing name that I ever heard.”
Here, Vulcano, Quinn and Murray talk about their 10th season (which will be simulcast on across TruTV and TBS), along with why the show continues to resonate with audiences (it lured 6.1 million viewers in season 9), and how they will end it if and when the TruTV suits decide enough is enough.
DEADLINE Explain the secrets of your success.
JAMES MURRAY Good question. It’s not sex appeal, that’s for damn sure. I think we remind people of the friends they have, or used to have when they grew up. I hope that we’re funny and make people laugh. I also think there is an authenticity to our friendship that makes the show very watchable.
BRIAN QUINN The thing we hear the most from people is like, ‘you stole the show that me and my friends would make.’ Or, ‘me and my friends do that stuff all the time.’ Do you ever get tired of making fun of your friends? That’s the core of the American friendship … busting chops. I think the day people get tired of it is the day that society falls apart. I think Impractical Jokers is the only thing holding the world together at this point.
SAL VULCANO It could be. We are the finger in the proverbial dike. I also think we are good escapism. The show is very digestible. One thing I hear a lot is from people who say they’ve seen the same episode 10 times and still laugh. We look back on 300 episodes and it’s a strange feeling. I could watch an episode and have absolutely no recollection of doing it. I mean, we’ve done thousands and thousands of bits.
DEADLINE So can you dust off old bits and re-use them?
QUINN Yes, we do.
MURRAY It would be funny if one day we re-do, joke for joke and shot for shot an old episode, but looking 12 years older from when we first shot it. Just to see if the fan base realizes what we did.
DEADLINE Is there a certain rubric or scenario that always seems to work best?
MURRAY There are scenarios that are primed for success, always. We just did it two weeks ago for the season finale, an episode with us working in a closed environment with a receptionist. Any environment where it’s you and a mark or a few marks where it’s intimate and quiet and you can be weird or unusual or loud is great. We always have success working as a dentist one-on-one with a patient, or working as an optometrist.
DEADLINE Do you draw the line at public nudity?
QUINN We had a game called Strip High Five early on where two of us were in public and we had to get a high five from strangers. And if you didn’t get a high five, you had to take a piece of clothes off. It got tense.
VULCANO It was in the middle of Union Square Park.
MURRAY Coming up in season 10, I won’t say who, but somebody had to wet their pants in front of an audience.
VULCANO That was from years ago but we used it again to pay back a friend of ours who came on the show. Years ago, the guys locked me in an escape room with five other strangers and I had to pee myself in the first five minutes and then help them escape. You would be surprised at how much your body does not want to urinate itself.
QUINN We had to stop filming. He couldn’t pee. So me and Sal went to the parking lot and started pounding Jameson until he got drunk.
VULCANO Let me tell you, once you start peeing, you can’t stop. I learned a lot about my body that day.
DEADLINE Have you updated your humor to reflect the changing times?
MURRAY Because the show has been in production for so long, we can respond very quickly to the culture and trends. The beauty of this show is that it does change with society as we get older and as sensibilities change. The show has also become more family friendly. We didn’t imagine that one day it would become a family co-viewing show. So we kind of feel that responsibility to our fanbase.
DEADLINE Have there been bits over the years where you start them and realize, oh man, this isn’t working?
MURRAY We retire bits when we feel like they have run their course. Sometimes we do stinkers. But we don’t leave them on the cutting room floor. We air almost everything. We almost get arrested doing it, but almost everything gets aired.
VULCANO We decided early on that there’s funny in the failure. If we are going to spend production’s money, we’ve got to make sure we can’t burn it. So for better or worse, we are kind of transparent.
DEADLINE Are you recognized pretty regularly now? Is it hard to pull off bits because of that?
MURRAY Yep. But that’s a good thing. It means people like the show.
QUINN We many shoot in the Tri-state area. Manhattan is really our main hunting ground.
DEADLINE Can you tease what to expect from season 10?
MURRAY We’ve got really great celebrity guests. We got everybody from Post Malone, John Mayer, Kesha, Anthony Davis, Bret Michaels, Paul Rudd has a cameo in this season of the show. We have Alf in an episode! We brought Alf to punish us.
QUINN And they got the original Alf to come in and do it. It’s unbelievable. And Bruce Campbell is one of my big heroes. I love him. So the guys got Bruce Campbell and used him against me in an Evil Dead dead-themed punishment.
DEADLINE Has it felt weird doing the show without original co-creator Joe Gatto, who left for personal reasons?
MURRAY For the second half of season 9, we were without him. Season 10 is a whole new season without him. It was tough. There will always be a hole in the show without his presence. He is irreplaceable so we didn’t even try to replace him.
DEADLINE If and when you do finally wrap the show for good, do you know what your final bit will be?
QUINN We know what the final episode will be. We have it mapped out. We already have a director in mind. We had the idea five years ago. We came up with it in Wales. We explain what the island is, why Hurley took the island over from Jack, we explain everything that wasn’t explained in the Lost finale.
DEADLINE Now, about the title of your show…
MURRAY A funny story for you. The show plays around the world in like 120 countries. In some countries, they dub over the voices. Oftentimes in our languages, there is no translation for impractical. It’s an unusual word, even in English, right? So they rename the show to hilarious results. In Belgium, the show translates to Four Dicks, and in Holland the show is called The Fuckers. Both of which, are better than Impractical Jokers.
QUINN I have video from a camera I turned on Sal back in the day when he learned the name of the show. He looks in the camera and says, ‘you’re joking me. That’s not for real, right?’ And you hear me behind the camera going ‘it’s Impractical Jokers.’ He’s like, ‘no that’s terrible. I hate it.’ It’s great. I’m going to put that in a museum some day.
Season 10 of Impractical Jokers kicks off at 10 p.m. ET, Feb. 9, on TruTV and TBS.
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