Most TV/Internet prank shows focus on making strangers uncomfortable. And although that’s certainly part of Impractical Jokers, the main focus is on something far more personal: Making your closest friends squirm out of their skin.
Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian Quinn and Sal Vulcano — who lead Impractical Jokers and make up the New York-based comedy troupe The Tenderloins — use a combination of hidden mics and cameras to dare each other to ever-increasing heights of embarrassment on the TruTV reality series, now in its fourth season. And for Impractical Jokers‘ mid-season finale, airing Thursday (May 7) at 10 p.m. ET, the guys took their hilariously uncomfortable antics to the ocean.
When they’re not braving seasickness to film Impractical Jokers or touring the country as the Tenderloins (you can check out tour dates here), the guys are doing a few things you probably wouldn’t expect: Listening to Taylor Swift and barbecuing with Yanni.
Here’s what the Jokers dudes had to say when Billboard got them on the phone.
So your mid-season finale episode takes place in a cruise ship. Was that just an excuse to take a vacation?
Joe: Busted! It was an idea we had when we came up with the show in season 1. Wouldn’t it be great to get in a scenario where people couldn’t escape us? So we thought of a cruise ship. And then in season 4, we finally made it to the high seas.
Doesn’t that go both ways though? You humiliate yourselves in front of people, and then you keep running into them day after day.
Sal: That definitely happened. We do these travel episodes every so often. We did Texas, we’ve done Miami. The cruise was a one-off trip from New York City. And yeah, it goes both ways. We were on that ship for five days and gradually as the days passed, more people knew who we were and what we were doing, so it got tougher. More people were able to find us after we’d messed with them.
Joe: I slept with one of them. No, I’m kidding. One person was really confused because they thought Murr really worked on the ship after he did the captain’s speech [one segment found Murray giving a turnt up toast as the ship’s captain], because we filmed that our second day. Two days later he’s just walking our drinking a margarita. It’s like, should you have a daiquiri in hand while you’re in control on the high seas?
There’s one part where you dry your hands on a man’s shirt, and I was shocked how nicely he handled it. What’s the scariest scenario you’ve gotten yourself into?
Quinn: Jeez, how long’s this interview. Actually, very rarely people get angry at us. In the first season we had the guy with the moustache in Costco. The famous moustache guy who got very angry very quickly. To me he’s the height of a dude that’s angry. We get crazy every once and a while. We had a guy in a donut shop in Brooklyn. It was 90 degrees out and he had jeans on — no shirt but full leather jacket. He said we were representing a fake charity, and if he finds out that our charity isn’t real, he’s gonna come back to the donut shop and kill every single person in the donut shop. And then kill everybody in the neighborhood surrounding the donut shop. And he donated one dollar.
Do you have techniques developed for cooling down people?
Quinn: The thing to do is to plow ahead full speed.
Murr: Don’t forget how good looking we are. That disarms people immediately when they see us.
Sal: I’m sickly, so people feel bad for me.
Quinn: We also put out a lavender-like scent. We all smell like lavender, so people find that soothing.
Lately when you hear about cruises in the news, it’s not a good thing. What would you do if you ended up on a poop cruise?
Sal: This was the first cruise I’d ever taken in my life. And I had those legitimate concerns. I don’t do well…with much. I was afraid to get seasick, I was afraid to get a virus. I was afraid of all that. That’s a big risk for us to commit with our crew, 40 crew members. But if stuff went down, I’m not kidding — when we docked I’d probably just leave.
Quinn: Did you ever see Speed 2: Cruise Control? When the boat crashes into the dock at the end? That would be my contingency plan. Floor it.
Murr: On the same exact boat that we filmed the episode on, we might do an Impractical Jokers cruise next year. Where fans come out, we party, we perform, do karaoke, all sorts of other stuff. We tour as the Tenderloins comedy troupe. We go all around the country doing stuff, we’re headed to Boston in a couple weeks. It would be like a version of the live show on our cruise.
On this cruise episode you call a couple “sugar” and “toots.” What’s the most uncomfortable name to call a person?
Joe: We have a running joke where the bigger and brawnier a guy is, we’ll say into the microphone, “Call this guy babe.” We really think it’s fun because it’s so odd. You always get the same reaction. They’re slightly confused — and complemented.
Quinn: They had me call a woman beefstick once and I couldn’t pull it off. It seemed wrong to call a woman beefstick.
I know you’ve had a few musicians on the show as guests, but what are you guys listening to off screen?
Quinn: Taylor’s 1989 is one of my favorite albums of the year. I’m not going so nuts as to buy it on vinyl, but I definitely downloaded and gave it more listens than I thought. By the way I’m almost 40. So put that into your pipe and smoke it.
Murr: I’ll tell you what, we went to see Britney Spears in Vegas a few months ago and she was awesome. Still got it.
Quinn: Best concert I’ve seen the last 10 years, hands down? Bruno Mars.
Joe: He’s a fan and a friend, he’s a good guy. Bruno and his dancers worked it up there on stage, they did not stop dancing.
Quinn: I just went to Graceland. I’m a big Elvis fan. It was amazing.
The Jungle Room is crazy.
Quinn: One day I hope to have a room just like it.
Joe: I love my “Boom Clap.” Charli XCX is a big one for me.
Murr: Not to name drop, but I’m kind of best friends with Yanni. We barbecue together, we’ve walked on beaches together — it’s kind of a thing.
Sal: We wish he was kidding.
Murr: I’m dead serious. If you need the hook up, let me know. We had Imagine Dragons on last season. Sal and Joe opened for them in concert. And Joey Fatone is a good friend of ours, he was on last season.
Joe: I would love to do a show at a Bon Jovi concert to get the people in that crowd. That’s a good crowd to mess with.
Catch the Impractical Jokers mid-season finale on May 7 at 10 p.m. ET on TruTV, and keep an eye open for the show’s upcoming 100th episode.