Joe Gatto & Sal Vulcano of Impractical Jokers on 100 Episodes, Humiliation & More

There are so many things to do during the amazing and chaotic event that is New York Comic Con. Many go to the four day event in Javitz Center to look for exclusives on the convention floor or dress up as their favorite pop culture character and show off their incredibly detailed cosplay. Many of the panels are promoting the latest superhero television series or the upcoming genre film hitting theaters this year. Even if you’re not a fan of comic books, video games, science fiction, or anime, there’s still plenty to see at NYCC.

One of the most popular panels of the four-day extravaganza featured four comedians from Staten Island. Their panel was so popular that it reached capacity. There was so many people in line that Sal, Joe, Q, and Murr should have been given a slot on the Main Stage or Empire Stage for their The Impractical Jokers’ Impractical Panel. Their hilarious panel was a great way to start off the convention, especially when it was announced that Impractical Jokers has been renewed for a sixth season!

After the panel, I spoke with Joe Gatto & Sal Vulcano about creating the show, coming up with their hilarious scenarios and punishments, and what they do when they aren’t trying to humiliate each other.

So I basically want to start this off by saying that my girlfriend does not care about New York Comic Con. I told her that I’m covering the convention and I will be doing all these awesome things, and she was like “oh, have fun.” She couldn’t care less, but when I told her that the Impractical Jokers were going to going to be there. She was like “No way!” 

Joe Gatto & Sal Vulcano: Really?

You’re the only thing she cared about.

Joe: She clearly has great taste in men. That’s really what it comes down to.

She watches your show religiously. She watches all the worst television shows like Keeping Up with the Kardashians that I can’t stand to watch. The only thing that we can come to agreement on when we are flicking through the channels is your show. 

Joe: I’m no Khloe.

Your NYCC panel was hilarious. I love that you showed your original television pitch video. When did you decide what the format or styleof the show would be? Did you have any influences when you were developing Impractical Jokers?

Sal: Influences we have for sure.

Joe: Influences we definitely have for sure as far as comedy goes but as for coming up with the format of the show, we had three ideas that we wanted to shoot and then Impractical Jokers was one of them. The other two was a buddy cop drama that we wanted to do but we wanted to play it straight but make the comedy be about the murder so it was flipped on its ear like where the comedy was about the murder and then the buddy cop was the drama part so that was one of our big things. We’re like “well this is going to be a hard sell, we’re not going to do it right now.” And then the other show was actually a kids show like Blues Clues.

Sal: Yeah but I still want to do this one.

Joe: Yeah, no, yeah,

Sal: I don’t want to put it out there.

Oh you don’t want to talk about that one?

Sal: Do you know what I’m talking about?

Joe: Yeah. I was going to talk about the other one.

Sal: Oh it’s the other one. Yeah, okay.

Joe: The other one was about…

You can tell me about the other one after. When we are not on the record. 

Joe: We will. It was when Blues Clues was big and it was the same sort of thing but it was with a drunk uncle and it was kind of like the same thing where he was always lost and you had to get him home and stuff like that so we had these really crazy out there ideas and then the third idea of course was Impractical Jokers so then we said, at that time people were looking for a prank show and we were like what’s our take on that and what’s our way. It’s like why don’t we just take that and turn it on its ear and just make it a hidden camera comedy where we make fun of each other and that’s how we got our show. We still want to make the buddy drama, the cop drama. [laughs]

Listen in a post-Brooklyn Nine-Nine world, I think you can.

Joe: You’re right.

Sal: And as far as our show, you know a lot of times people say, the easiest way to explain is oh they tell each other what they do over the ear piece and then the guys have to do it and they get punished. It’s one of our favorite parts of the show but it’s probably a third of our show because we do all these other crazy things but they’re all different so the easiest way to sum it up is to say that ear piece.

Joe: But if you look what the goals of our challenges are, that’s maybe thirty percent of the show. The other ones we make up games, we do different things.

Sal: But I will say that the first time I ever saw that earpiece that stuck with me forever was Letterman doing it in like 92 when he went over to the late show on CBS and he was doing it with…

Joe: The guy next door.

Sal: Rupert.

Joe: Rupert.

Sal: From the Hello Deli and that was the first time I saw something like that.

Do you have a writing staff on Impractical Jokers or do you guys just come up with these crazy and embarrassing situations yourself?

Sal: We have writers too. it’s all hands on deck. Our whole crew and staff is very collaborative and we have people who elevate the show from all of the different departments that they do. When we first started it was just the four of us I think the first season?

Joe: The first season.

Sal: And the second season we added two writers and then I think the third season we added four or five and that’s where we stand now. We have four or five and us.

Joe: And the process is very much they pitch us ideas we think about. We basically spend hours poking holes in every idea being like this doesn’t fit, why it doesn’t fit and then we’ll try to turn something into it because it’s very specific, what we do. We don’t want to be mean to people, that’s not what our show is. And we also don’t want to be pranky because that’s not our show. We’re not a prank show. So it’s a very fine line. It’s really like a social experiment. We want people to look at us and go what the fuck are these guys up to?

Sal: I think it’s a show about friends and it’s also a comedy show. It is hidden camera. I’ll give it hidden camera. We try not to use the word prank.

Joe: It’s not a prank show.

Sal: Because we, yeah it’s not. It’s more like you said, social experiment. So like if we’re in the room tossing around ideas and something feels too straight up.

Joe; Prank Sinatra?

Sal: Pranky, we’re like no we can’t do that. That’s pranks and beans.

Joe: Yeah, that’s Pranky Valli.

Sal: That’s the Pranklin Mint.

Joe: Yeah we’ve got em all.

So it’s mostly just puns based off Italian singer.

Joe: Yeah and then we just get on that for about fifteen minutes and then go to lunch and then we don’t come up with any ideas.

You recently had an epic live episode where one of you performed a high-wire walk five stories in the air above New York City. Did you ever think during the taping of the first season that one day you would have an entire part of the city watch your show? 

Joe: We were hoping to get a second episode. [Laughs] We never thought we’d hit 100. It’s crazy. The ride’s crazy. Because we’re doing it with our best friends and we had a big falling out and it almost didn’t happen.

Sal: That’s true.

Joe: If that meeting didn’t go the way it did. Like it’s all like dominos. Over pizza we just had this huge falling out and if you look back on it, it’s so stupid about like whose turn it was to pay. Next thing you know, you’re cursing each other out because we just worked so hard together.

Sal: We’re together 24/7 like every day. During the week we film the show, during the weekends we travel and do comedy, like live comedy. Then we have side projects together.

Joe: So we hate each other at times because it’s like you’re best friends but you’re also business partners, creators-

Sal: Lovers…

The Impractical Jokers 100th episode live punishment special. Host Howie Mandel speaks with The Impractical Jokers at South Street Seaport. Photo CIT: Edward M. Pio Roda/truTV

Joe: We’re lovers. We’re hand jobbing each other. No. Creatively. It’s hard when you’re trying to judge comedy because it’s very personal too. The three of us are very funny.

Sal: Is handjob a verb? We’re handjobbing each other?

Joe: Yeah. And the three of us are very funny so it really is hard for that fourth guy to just try to keep up.

Sal: There’s one odd man out. It changes weekly.

Joe: Yeah, it does.

Since you are all from New York and you have become pretty recognizable from the show, how hard is it to film in New York? Is it becoming difficult to start a situation and someone comes up to you like “hey I know you, you’re on TV.” Do you ever run into that?

Sal: We thought that might be the case if we had gotten this far but it’s proven to be not a detriment to the show because New York is so densely populated that as many people know us, there’s tons more that don’t so that’s why, even if we take the show on the road sometimes, we’ll do like New Orleans or we did a cruise ship. As long as that place has a lot of people, we’ll navigate those waters and.

Joe: You know people are on camera before they see us. Like we see them before they see us. So somebody walks in and all of a sudden see Sal like serving a burger and they are like oh! And then they’re trying to put it together like “I’ll have one hamburger please,” but like this guys full of shit.

Sal: I’ll say “you’ll have one nothing, you’re full of shit, get out” and we’ll kick people out.

Joe: That’s actually one of our favorite things. One of our favorite things, when we know someone is a fan, we will totally push it in a way that is completely different because you know they’re a fan so you can do whatever you want. So it really comes down to like you’re just trying to hug them and kiss them and like make it really weird.

Sal: It’s cool it’s like there’s this thing where like you know Don Rickles? If he insults you, it’s the best thing that could ever happen.

It’s like a form of flattery. 

Sal: So when people who watch our show come up to us, even when we’re filming and stuff, if we mess with them, like we, he will be like we’re filming get the fuck out of my face and then everybody laughs because if we mess with them they’re like oh my god!

Joe: “Joe told me to get the fuck out of here!”

Joe: One time actually we were working in a burger joint and it actually made the cut. There was a kid that walks in, we were serving burgers, and we walked in and…

Sal: Lucky’s.

Joe: Yeah Lucky’s Burgers, they said tell this kid to get out. And I was like get out. And he froze. Right before that there was a kid that recognized us and I did a similar thing and then Sal was like, it would be really funny if you did that to somebody who doesn’t know the show. So when the kid came in and the kid didn’t know the show, the second kid, and I did it I kind of felt bad but I played it the same exact way. Like get out. No you’ve got to get the hell out of here and I just kicked this kid out that had to use the bathroom.

The Impractical Jokers 100th episode live punishment special. Host Howie Mandel speaks with The Impractical Jokers at South Street Seaport. Photo CIT: Edward M. Pio Roda/truTV

Sal: That’s the fun part of the show too like I’d say we improvise anywhere from a quarter to a half of the time at least on set depending on whoever walks in, like whoever the mark or the public person is, if they spark any inspiration we just run with it.

Joe: A lot of the stuff you can’t write. it just happens. The right person walks in the right thing just falls apart.

Sal: We started out, we’re in a comedy troupe called The Tenderloins. That we started in ’99. It’s essentially been our identity and still is outside of Jokers. And we were an improv and sketch troupe. We welcome improvising in the moment on the show.

Joe: It’s what our roots are in, yeah.

What was the reception like from the 100th episode? Because it’s completely different than what people are used. It was more kind of like what you just did in the panel like very personal and just kind of ragging on each other in a sense that there is no actual plot development or you’re not going to be going through an actual skit. 

Joe: With the 100th we were like we knew we were hitting 100 and we were like we gotta do something big so then we’re like, and it’s only fair that we, all four of us do it because you know we all should. It’s a big staple challenge. And so you’re like well what  can we do and we came up with something crazy.

Sal: What would none of us want to do?

Joe: Yeah.

Sal: And how can we make it even?

Joe: And what are none of us good at.

Sal: Right and how could we make it a big spectacle so that’s why we made it live.

Joe: And then the charity tie in came from the network which was great so now we’re doing it for charity and then we said hey we want to do it live and like in public and then 5000 people came down to the seaport to watch it so it was a really really really cool experience.

Sal: We were nervous, I was nervous not only to get on the road but we were nervous to make a good episode of television.

Joe: Yeah.

Sal: Because we were like what if we all fall right away? That would be anticlimactic and it’s not going to be fun.

“If we all die I don’t think it’s going to be good.”

Joe: Then the show is definitely not going to go on.

Sal: It’s going to take a hit.

Joe: The next episode might do good because it would be our ‘in memoriam.’ [laughs]

Sal: We were surprised as anyone with how it turned out. You couldn’t have imagined that it would be a tight race and then Hugh would get across and all that stuff so it was really magical for us.

Joe: Yeah it was really just crazy and it ended up being there with all the fans when you went up on that, onto the six story, six stories up and looked down and you just saw 5000 people because you couldn’t get a sense of it until you were up there, it was crazy.

Now since we’re at Comic Con, I know Q is like probably one of the bigger Batman fans. What do you guys kind of fan out about when you’re not doing all of this, what do you geek out over if anything?

Joe: I’m a big video game guy. The Assassin’s Creeds stories. I’m actually really geeking out about the new Tomb Raider coming out. I’m really psyched about that.

Sal: I’m not good at video games. [laughs]

Joe: We geek out as a group actually pretty much, definitely me and Sal mostly about movies. You know like when something is coming out, like we can’t wait to go because when we go on the road, we’ll get into a town like we’ll be in the middle of Bumblefuck, Iowa and you know we’re like what are we going to do and we’re like let’s go see a movie.

Sal: It’s a place, google it.

Joe: So you know it’s good that when we’re on the road for the weekends we get to see, if a good movie is opening, we’ll be psyched to go.

Sal: We’ll be excited to see it.

Sal: I’m a comedy nerd. So my equivalent of comic books and things like that is definitely comedy itself.

Joe: Stand-up too.

Sal: We watch it all the time. I love it, i dissect it, I…

Joe: …perform it. Sal does it on his own too. He’s funny, you should check him out. Where’s your next gig?

Sal: Ummm…

Yeah, please, plug!

Joe: Plug!

Sal: I don’t know.

Joe: You don’t know your next one?

Sal: Comedy Juice I think, Tuesday night.

Tuesday night? Hopefully this goes out before then.

Joe: It’ll be Wednesday. Come on down to Comedy Juice! [laughs]

Watch Sal, Joe, and the rest of The Impractical Jokers every Thursday at 10/9c on truTV. 

*all photos are courtesy and credit to truTV

Al Mannarino is the associate editor and photographer for Pop Break. He is also host of the News Over Brews Podcast, Loot Care Unboxed, Backstage Break, and the producer of Behind the Brews. He graduated Rowan University with a degree in Radio/TV/Film & History. When he isn’t writing he is either trying to build his own TARDIS or taking a nap. Follow him on Twitter: @almannarino. His photo website is: