Joe Gatto Talks About Impractical Jokers, Larry and The Tenderloins

(PCM) Joe Gatto spent a few minutes from his very busy week to talk with me about the new season of Impractical Jokers, The Tenderloins, and what to expect from the funny man. Oh, and he explained “Larry!”

Joe2 Impractical Jokers is a ‘prank’ show where four long-time friends push each other’s buttons, testing their ability to get away with odd social behavior, and stretching the boundaries of friendship.

I spoke with Joe Gatto about the team, the show and touring as ‘The Tenderloins.’ Our conversation began with an explanation as to how the show came into being.

Joe1“The Tenderloins began touring in the late 90s, and that evolved into some sketch comedy. We loved it and decided what would work best on TV – let’s just be real – we really do these things to each other, mess with each other and embarrass each other in public. I love making Sal crumble in an elevator. It really is based on reality. There is no acting involved, it was simple… we went out and shot a tape without iphones, filmed some challenges and went to Tru (TruTV),” Joe told me.

“We brought it to Tru, they saw us embarrassing ourselves and died laughing, they loved it. They wanted it, and said they ‘want in.'”

Like the other members of the quartet, he keeps much of his personal life private. Fans found out that he was recently married due to a quick note on his Facebook page in September 2013. “About to be off the grid for 2 weeks for my honeymoon. Be safe y’all’s. And oh yeah, I got married.”

“Yeah,” he said. “We keep our public public and our private private. It’s kind of weird with the show, because the with public, you’re meeting all four friends when they meet one of us. You really get to know a lot about us, just from watching the TV show. You see a lot of our real relationship and friendship and if we weren’t on TV, we’d still be hanging out. We love our fans, but we’re not actors, we’re real guys. Some things you just want to keep to yourself. There’s a balance.”

I asked if having a camera on them effected how they plan and respond to each other. “I think the only thing you get conscious of is that you want something that will not just get your friend, but something everybody will think is funny. That’s the only tricky area, but I think that for the most part us being honest. We are really just four friends – that just bleeds through your TV. A lot is just a natural element on the show, what people latch onto. We hear it all the time while we’re touring, all across the nation, ‘I just like watching you, it’s just like hanging out!'”

Although simple in concept, there is a lot of work and detail that goes into each skit. Writing it, planning it, implementing it, filming and editing and THEN decide if it works.

“Each element in the day is a whole shoot day. We have anywhere from two to three challenges per episode, plus the punishment. Hopefully, if all goes well, it takes at least a week to shoot one episode. The show does take some to make, that’s why we have the breaks between episodes. It’s a monster to produce, but the payoff really works.”

Being a fan of the show, I took note that Joe faces his punishment(s) without hesitation, always a brave face. I asked Mr. Gatto what buttons he looks to push on the other guys.

“Oh, Sal is the most neurotic guy I know. So many buttons – the guy is just like a switchboard. He has a bit of a gross factor. He’s a scaredy cat. He won’t go to haunted houses.”

“For Q, he’s more of a guy’s guy. Whenever there’s a pretty woman, he’s like “I don’t want to embarrass myself in front of this woman.’ He’ll just take the loss.”

“Murray is just an odd fellow. He’s the frailest of us all. He’s intimidated by people who are bigger (than him).

With millions of fans, I asked about being recognized while doing the show. “It happens a lot when we’re all together. ‘Oh that looks like Joe’ – I can just step away when I’m by myself. But ‘That looks like Joe that looks like Murr…’ our faces compound and they know us. But the good thing about filming the show here in New York City, there are so many people – people who are in New York, and people who are just visiting, this huge pool of people to pick from, and if 2 or 3 people recognize us out of ten, we just shuffle right along and move forward with the show. The show has to be real for us. We need that real angst, without it, there’s no show. That guy looks like Joe… he’s working at Blimpies? It doesn’t hit people”

Joe3In a subtle attempt to see if stardom got to his head, I asked about when he met another star, the gorgeous Alyssa Milano. “She was super sweet, a beautiful person, she has such a nice, pleasant aura about her. We spoke for about five minutes at Comic-Con in San Diego. Just a sweet girl. She was cool on top of being beautiful”

While not filming the show, Joe, Quinn, Murray and Sal tour as the comedic troupe ‘The Tenderloins.” I asked how they came up with the name.

“In high school, Sal kept a list of words that would be slightly embarrassed to say in front of a large group of people. Hummus, nougat, tenderloins was on the list. That’s where it came from.”

I asked about how they develop a typical joke or challenge.

“We approach the challenges in two different ways. One way, what is a social norm that we can break – eating off someone’s plate, feeding yourself from someone else’s plate at the buffet. Hold someone’s hand without asking, hug someone you don’t know. The other way is wouldn’t it be cool to work at White Castle, or Ikea, and do what other people tell us to do.”

There are several running gags in the show, and I had to ask: Who is Larry?

“Larry is a crew member, a great a guy, the first time I called him was in the Shoe Store Challenge. I was working in the shoe store, and I had to get a new size. Larry was on the floor – he gets releases signed for people that show their face on TV. I just started calling ‘Larry! Come here!’ he was on the corner just laughing. I was doing it to make him laugh, and it just translated well.”

While touring with the guys I asked about the show, how scripted is it, how much room is there for improvisation?

“It’s a good mix, I would say a bit of a potpourri. The typical show is geared for fans of Impractical Jokers, but they leave as fans of The Tenderloins. We talk a lot to the audiences about where they are at, we talk about our experiences in that part of the country,” Joe added that they also show some videos of challenges that we filmed that were too hot for TV. Outtakes and stories from the set – a good mix. We’re always riffing, and come from an improv background, so if something happens during the show we just go for it.”

Not wanting to ask many personal questions, I asked Joe a few things about when he was younger. The first album he ever bought with his own money? “Probably NOW That’s What They Call Music, volume 1. Actually MTV Party To Go, with Marky Mark and Good Vibrations, Vanilla Ice. I’m a top 40 and old school rap kinda guy.”

Television shows Joe loved to watch included “Knight Rider, Wonder Years, I’m a huge Dan Lauria fan – I watch Sullivan and Sons, that show’s a lot of fun. Who’s the Boss of course, Small Wonder, Growing Pains, stuff like that.”

Movies that impacted him included, “E.T., Star Wars, I’m a big movie guy I’m all about movies. Summertime is my favorite time of the year, I see movies about every weekend. Recently, I really liked World War Z. I’m looking forward to Thor 2. The Consultant was pretty interesting too.”

His ipod playlist includes “Call Me Maybe” and old school Sinatra, even old school Doo Wop.

Can the show carry on once we get really get to know the guys inside out and backwards… what’s next?

“I think there’s a progression, maybe a movie version. Go across country, get a feel across town. There are a few ideas for new TV shows.”

In the meantime, in addition to Thursday nights on TruTV, you can catch Joe and the other Tenderloins on tour – ticket & touring info are here: The Tenderloins

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