By Janee Law
For the past two decades, The Tenderloins four-man comedy troupe has set out to annoy on a seemingly daily basis. Joe Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Sal Vulcano, known for hit hidden camera television show “Impractical Jokers,” have been doing it since grade school.
Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island “was an all boys catholic high school, so we basically bonded really quick with no girls around since there was nobody to impress,” Gatto said in an interview Thursday.
Naturally, this led the four friends of the past 26 years to develop ways to “annoy each other to perfection,” the basis for their television show, and a launching point for their “Santiago Sent Us!” tour, which is set to hit The Paramount’s stage this weekend with six performances over three days.
Gatto explained that The Tenderloins have created their own version of stand up with, with “the four of us on stage, working with the crowd, telling stories from our lives together.”
He continued, “We also film a couple of hidden camera challenges that you can only see exclusively at the live shows. It’s a good mix and it’s good for us to actually get in front of fans.”
“Impractical Jokers,” which airs on truTV, focuses on the four comedians, who compete to publicly embarrass each other in a series of dares. Whoever loses in the episode of hilarious challenges, has to be ‘punished,’ typically by way of the most embarrassing prank of the episode.
After college, the four started The Tenderloins in 1999, first performing live improv and sketch comedy.
“Then, we started moving to film sketches for the internet, and we had some traction with a couple TV pilots that didn’t get picked up for a series. Eventually, we came up with the format of Jokers, and that’s how we became the ‘Impractical Jokers,’” Gatto said.
The show’s first episode aired in December 2011. It’s now in its fifth season, airing Thursday nights at 10 p.m. on truTV. A sixth season, promising new over-the-top hijinks, is also planned.
The show has become top-five in ratings for its time slot on cable in the U.S. It’s also the number one show on Comedy Central in the United Kingdom and India.
“We basically live life and try to think about what we’d be uncomfortable doing, and then we make each other do it,” Gatto, 40, of Lynbrook, said. “We push ourselves to try to make different formats and keep it fresh each season.”
One of Gatto’s favorite bits is “Scoopski Potatoes,” a challenge in which the individual group members were tasked with serving as many scoops of mashed potatoes to strangers as they could. When it was his turn, Gatto approached a group of strangers, none of whom placed an order for mashed potatoes, and began saying “Scoopski Potatoes” to the table with each scoop that he dumped onto their plates.
Gatto said he loves to get paid to make his friends laugh.
“A great day at work means you laugh so hard till you cry, so that’s the dream job,” he said. “It’s an outlet to give people the chance to forget their problems for a half hour, and I love that I’m able to bring joy into people’s lives.”
The performances at The Paramount in Huntington village begin on Friday with show times slated for 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. Two more are slated for the same time slots on Saturday, and Sunday promises shows at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Doors open an hour before each show, and tickets are available at the box office or at Paramountny.com for $79-$150.
Gatto said he’s looking forward to the “hometown crowd.”
“I’m excited to play Long Island because the crowd is always good to us,” he said. “New Yorkers get it."