SALT LAKE CITY — When asked about some of the best and worst punishments he's received on the hit show “Impractical Jokers,” Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano had to reflect on nearly 200 episodes of dares and punishments.
“It's almost a traumatic thing because I have to reflect on, like, seven years of being punished,” Vulcano jokingly told the Deseret News. “Just so many things. Just so many terrible, terrible things.”
Vulcano mentioned when his buddies made him go to a casino bingo hall, with more than a thousand senior citizens in attendance. His dare was to keep yelling out “bingo” when he didn't actually have it.
“And I almost started like a mob,” he recalled. “I think they actually had to pull me out of the casino because they were going to literally kill me. These old people — they take their bingo very seriously.”
While not in front of the hidden cameras, Vulcano and his “Impractical Jokers” costars/longtime friends Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray and Brian “Q” Quinn regularly tour the world as The Tenderloins. According to Vulcano, the group's “Santiago Sent Us” tour, which comes to the Maverik Center on April 14, will showcase a more personal side of improv group than seen on TV.
Having all grown up together in Staten Island, the foursome have established a tight and profitable — if only a little unhealthy — bond that is palpable in whatever format you choose to see them.
According to the Washington Post, the group practiced four times a week in a basement for six months before they found success with truTV. Their filmed skits soon became popular in online social circles, and after winning a $100,000 grand prize on NBC’s “It’s Your Show,” they went on to have one of their pilots picked up by truTV.
Making a full-length live-show has had its own challenges and rewards, according to Vulcano. Writing them will take months, and the group will use small venue shows twice a night roughly 15 or 20 times as jumping off points for their larger shows. Between television and live performance, Vulcano struggled to choose one over the other.
“Both have different payoffs I guess,” he said. “On TV, you can kind of craft and edit how you want the tone and the vibe and the beat to go, and it's a late payoff. Live, it's so much different. Live is just in the moment. It's you and them. It's instant gratification or failure. The energy is completely different, like the feel of our shows. Because it's four of us, people feel very familiar with us, and also people have, like, a horse in the race.”
Considering their punishments after lost challenges, watchers may easily empathize with the jokers. The tendency to pick favorites even materializes in their live shows, where, Vulcano said, attendees will sometimes dress as the four comedians, ready to support their favorite. Vulcano describes the vibe almost as a music concert or a rock show.
And if their performances scream rock show, the foursome certainly have the personalities to match. Vulcano, who has had the most punishments out of the four, describes himself as “the mush” of the group — meaning the sensitive one.
He added, “Quinn’s got a laissez-faire attitude that people take to — and then Joe's a nutcase. If people like seeing a train wreck, Joe is definitely a nutcase, and people take to that.”
Murray, who Vulcano said could be polarizing amongst fans, can also be figuratively thought of as the music manager. According to Vulcano, although the four enjoy Utah, Murray is particularly partial to the state and is welcomed by many Utahn friends.
In fact, Vulcano said Murray was the catalyst for the group's Utah visit when Murray noticed they hadn't performed in Utah for a while.
After they complete the last legs of their tour, the group still has big plans for the future. Recently announced is a feature-length film produced by Funny or Die. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film, which is set to go into production this spring, will be truTV’s first ever feature-length film.
Whatever fame brings, Vulcano said he is still grateful for his position in life. He also finds comfort in his and his friends' willingness to laugh at themselves.
“My job is literally to write jokes and to laugh,” he said. “Like, I just got a mortgage and it's from that. So I can't believe that. It's what people say to us the most, both in celebration of the fact that we did it and in resentment that we're doing it.
“But I think that's it,” he continued. “Daily success on our show is measured by how much we laugh.”Comment on this story
If you go …
What: truTV's “Impractical Jokers,” “Santiago Sent Us” tour
When: Saturday, April 14, 7:30 p.m., doors open at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Maverik Center, 3200 Decker Lake Dr., West Valley City
How much: $52.50-$153
Note: Maverik Center parking is $10 per vehicle
Content advisory: Recommended for ages 16 and older
Correction: The previous headline for this story listed "Impractical Jokers" member Joe Gatto as the interview subject. It is actually Sal Vulcano.