Got Brian “Q” Quinn from TV’s Impractical Jokers on the phone. Asked him, “How does it feel to be on TV more than Steve Harvey, Ryan Seacrest, and the GEICO Gekko combined?” I was kidding.
Not really. Let’s take a typical Monday: truTV is running eight episodes of Impractical Jokers from 5 to 9 pm then five more episodes from 9:30 pm to midnight — and five more episodes from 12:30 am to 3 am. Channel 57 is airing two episodes from 7 to 8 pm — opposite the same show on truTV. Tuesday is a load, too, with 10 episodes from 4 to 9 pm, followed by five more episodes from 9:30 pm to midnight.
And that’s not counting Channel 2’s airings on weekends, and truTV’s marathons on weekends and holidays. Oh, and the Jokers have two other shows that air on truTV: Inside Jokes and Impractical Jokers: After Party.
“Q” says, “I know we’re on truTV all day, but I didn’t know about the other stations. It’s crazy. It makes me worry for the safety of the United States that they’re playing us that much. I can’t watch the show. I hate watching myself. I only like the ones when my parents are involved with the show, because I like them being on TV.”
His buddies on Impractical Jokers — Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano, and James “Murr” Murray — are four grownups (though they don’t act it) from Staten Island, New York, who challenge each other to make total goofballs of themselves. They keep score, too, and each episode’s loser must be punished. It’s the most successful, most aired, certainly, hidden camera show in recent TV history.
Impractical Jokers begins its eighth season Thursday, March 28, on truTV, and the Jokers are bringing their live stage show Sunday, March 31, to Smart Financial Centre in Sugar Land on the “The Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour.”
Here’s my “Q” and A with Brian Quinn:
CultureMap: How is your live show different from the Impractical Jokers television show?
Brian Quinn: What you see is four middle-age men up on a stage telling jokes into a microphone. We show some videos that we shot just for the live audience. We tell stories and make fun of each other and stuff like that. We obviously can’t do a hidden camera thing onstage, so we try to translate the spirit of the show. The things that people like about us, we try to re-create onstage. It’s fun. We used to take questions from the audience, but we’d get one good question for every five dud ones. So we decided that we’ll just get the info out that they’d ask, anyway.
CM: Let’s review: Impractical Jokers has aired 180 episodes, and you’ve been punished 44 times. You’re in third place behind Sal and Murr. So far, you’ve been beat up by pro wrestler Tommy Dreamer, been dragged by a horse at a rodeo, jumped 10 feet into a pile of horse manure, and been the target of 100-mph hockey pucks. Have you ever thought you might be seriously injured?
BQ: Not really, we’re not out to kill each other, these are my best friends. How are you with your friends? You want to rub it in a little bit, but not too much. You don’t want to hurt them. It’s all in fun. I don’t want anybody to get hurt, and I don’t want to get hurt.
CM: After wearing your hair long the first five seasons, you shaved your head on a 2017 episode. Of course, Murr had to wear a wig made out of your hair that entire season. Are you growing your hair back or keeping it short this year?
BQ: I try to change my look every year. I’m actually growing my beard out this year, but the hair is staying short. We don’t want people recognizing us. I like changing up my looks as much as I can every so often. It might help now that my hair is going almost completely gray, so that’s good.
CM: With all of your success and TV celebrity, how do you keep from becoming the biggest jerk in the world?
BQ: I think the key is, I didn’t get on television until I was 36 years old, you know what I mean? The level of success we have now really didn’t come in until the last three years. You’re talking about a guy, look, man, I was a fireman. I know what’s real and what’s not real. I think we just hit too old. I’m already set in my ways.
I’m not like these people who get on TV when they’re 19. I had time to develop as a human before I got on TV. I’m friends with the same people, I hang out with the same people. It hasn’t changed my life that much at all. I was single when I was a New York City fireman, and I’m single now. I go to the same restaurants. I drove a Wrangler then, I drive a Wrangler now. I could say, hey, we’re good guys, which I think is true, but I think age has something to do with it.
CM: Are you worried that Impractical Jokers is becoming so popular that people will recognize you when you’re filming and ruin everything?
BQ: We shoot in New York City. There are 8 million people on a 14-mile island. If every person in New York City knew who I was, then damn right, I’d be flying private jets. But it’s still a pretty small show in the grand scheme of things. Most people still don’t know who we are, so that works to our benefit.
CM: You have three cats: Brooklyn, Chessie, and Benjamin. As a punishment, Joe made you get a tattoo that reads, “38. Lives Alone. Has 3 cats.” Who watches your cats when you’re on tour?
BQ: I have a team. It’s mostly a guy from my old firehouse named Dan Finn, he’ll help me out. But I have friends and family who help me out, too.
CM: Last year, you took your show to Madison Square Garden. What was that like for someone who grew up in New York?
BQ: That was crazy. But we had already played Radio City Music Hall, and, I don’t know why, that was a little more magical to me. But when I walked out at Madison Square Garden, it was like, this is crazy. On top of that, I used to be with the fire department, the FDNY, and my whole fire house was there, and I could see them. We sold out Madison Square Garden! That’s not a sentence I ever thought I’d say in my life. It’s nuts.
CM: Eleven foreign countries, including England, Lebanon, Italy, Sweden, and Greece, have their own versions of Impractical Jokers with local casts. You OK with that?
BQ: We don’t have any involvement in that. What they usually do is take the bits that we’ve done and just re-create them. We did spend some time with the British cast, hanging out and drinking with them in London. They’re really good guys, and I thought they made some funny episodes. We watch the foreign shows out of interest, but we have no say in anything about that. I’d rather they do what they want to do without us.
Let’s see what they can do. If they get four really funny people together, it wouldn’t be the same as our show. I don’t think they should try to be like us. I know people online are like, ‘Oh my God, what are they doing? They’re trying to be like you.’ Look, I don’t make any money from it, so I don’t care. But it’s pretty cool because it’s a different culture’s humor.
CM: What’s going on with your movie? When’s it coming out already?
BQ: We shot the movie last year. They’re working on it now with the distributor. I’m one of those guys, I don’t want to know about something until it’s done. I don’t know any of the details. I know that we had a great time making it, and I love the movie. We worked on editing it, so we’re really excited about getting it out.
It’s about 80 percent challenges and punishments. We have a wraparound story, but the story is not to be taken seriously in any way, shape, or form. We break the fourth wall. We play ourselves in high school at one point, but we didn’t set out to re-invent the wheel. It’s mostly what people would expect from us, with a little goofy sauce on top.
CM: Do you ever get tired of seeing Joe get naked on Impractical Jokers? Not to be unkind, but seriously, it’s amazing to me that a guy like that, who calls himself, “Captain Fatbelly” has no problem taking off his clothes in front of strangers. It’s hilarious.
BQ: Maybe his wife does, but not me. Oh God, no!
I want you to think about this, Joe Gatto has never had a drop of alcohol or done any drugs at all in his whole life. Never. Can you imagine if that guy started drinking? The world couldn’t handle it. I’ve never met anybody like him. He’s a special animal for sure.
Laugh it up with the Impractical Jokers on the "The Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour," Sunday, March 31, at Smart Financial Centre, 18111 Lexington Blvd., in Sugar Land. For tickets or more information, visit Live Nation.