Many of us would relish the opportunity to prank and embarrass our closest friends.
Very few of us have had the chance to do it professionally.
Brian "Q" Quinn is one of the four stars of the hit TruTV series, Impractical Jokers. For the last two years, Brian and his three best friends from high school in Staten Island, NY -- Joe Gatto, Sal Vulcano and James Murray (known on the show as "Murr") -- have competed in hidden camera challenges to see who can most embarrass each other.
The challenges have winners and losers, with most involving whether a "joker" will say or do whatever the three others watching on camera nearby tell him. The joker with the most losses in each show is declared the night's "loser" where he must accept a humiliating punishment created by the other three jokers.
Pranks range from stealing food off people's plates at a buffet without saying a word to going up to complete strangers in Columbus Circle asking them "Don't I know You?" and attempting to convince them that they do know the joker through reasons written on cue-cards by the other three guys nearby.
Punishments have varied from presenting a fashion show with no clue of how tasteless the runway models new designs will be to one of the jokers taking a lie detector test back at his old high school in front of the entire student body and faculty.
I had the opportunity to talk with "Q" as a guest on my latest podcast, The Honest Brew. Here are a few of the highlights.
Was the concept of the show as simple as the four of you guys pranking each other growing up?
[Laughs] It was a mixture of both planning and no planning. We wanted something that was going to showcase us as friends and as people. We also had nothing planned and we had a pitch meeting set up for a Thursday and on Tuesday, we were like, "We should really come up with a concept for a show!" So we were just sitting around, shooting the shit, trying to come up with ideas and that was the one we really struck on. It just kind of came together. If you ask the other guys, they're going to come up with a whole bullshit story for you about how they tried this and they tried that. I am telling you for the record that on Tuesday, we did not have a show idea.
The whole idea seems so organic which is great. It's just coming up with a concept of, "let's find a way to embarrass each other with a camera" and to go as far as to do it and it's worked!
Murray likes to describe it as an upside-down prank show where we just rip on each other and that's what we wanted to capture. That's the most important aspect of the show. Anything we say or do sounds like something you could have said with your friends and is something you could probably do with your friends if you wanted.
It would appear to me, and tell me if I'm completely off-base here... that Joe (Gatto) is the most fearless out of the four of you. I rarely recall a time in the show where he's lost unless he's in front of a ridiculously hot woman or a ripped guy at the gym and not done what you guys have asked him to say.
Joe's an animal. We're shooting season three now, but season two for us was all about getting him in the crosshairs and bringing him down. Now we're just taking personal shots at each other left and right but season two was all about bringing Joe down.
I feel like Sal (Vulcano) is the most embarrassed when he has to go through the final punishments but Murr (James Murray) always tends to lose most often.
Well Murr's a loser! When you're a loser you tend to lose! [Laughs] Sal is almost too easy to get. In season one, we were still working regular jobs, so we'd go to our regular jobs, come back and then shoot the show. It was brutal. But Sal will sometimes write from home and if he's not in, we're all thinking of ways to get Sal because he's so easy! You know what his reaction is going to be and that's just utter misery.
Some of your losses/punishments have included presenting at a photo gallery where the guys presented "your works" and you had to attempt to explain the most uncomfortable photography I've ever seen. And you just lost it! I don't know if the show does justice to how uncomfortable and how hysterical that must be because they put in the final couple minutes of the show and that must have been at least 30 minutes trying to go through all those!
[Laughs] It's a long time. If you look in the background there are bits that they cut out because you only have three minutes to get in the best comedic pieces. It's hard, man and that audience particularly was... like sometimes an audience will just be like "what is going on?" Or are they thinking "am I on a hidden camera show?" So in that, they were serious art people and then also there were two really hot chicks in the front and they were looking at me like I was a total ass. But that one, they really broke me down.
One of the iconic moments of the show for me was in season one at Costco while you're working as a check-out clerk.. The guys tell you to refer to the guy in line that you're checking out as "Moustache" and he got really angry. Or when Sal talked to the Canoli at the bakery. Do people yell "Don't call me clown, moustache" ever to you on the street and are there other moments in the show's history that stand out as one of the more famous moments in the show's two seasons?
I hear "moustache" constantly. We do the live shows and when we come on stage it's crazy. In the first three rows people will be wearing shirts with quotes from the show on it or holding up signs like they're at a wrestling event saying "Don't call me Clown, Moustache." People feel like they're in on it which is great. I'll be walking in the Staten Island mall and people will yell out, "Hey Rosie!" because of the whole Rosie O'Donnell look-a-like shit. In fact, I actually spoke to her. She reached out to me on Twitter. I've been on record for saying for years that I think Rosie O'Donnell is funny, which is great. She reached out on Twitter saying "Hey, you stole my face, give it back!" I direct messaged her, she gave me a number to call and said I was watching TV one night and she didn't even hear the joke, she just watched a commercial for the show and said "this guy looks like me!" She then did research and then found out about what everyone had said.
That's great though! Now you have Rosie in your pocket and maybe she'll make an appearance on the show!
I got news for you pal, if she's on the show it won't be on my side. It will be because the other guys brought her in to fuck with me.
Can you give us one of the funniest moments between the four of you when the camera weren't rolling?
Every time we check into a hotel, we distract Sal and Joe runs into Sal's room and turns the heat up to 100 and takes a shit in his toilet. At first, Sal didn't have a concept of who did it and thought the maid did it or something and he ran down and complained to the manager about it. Now, he'll just forget about it and get hit right as he walks in with a hot-shit smell and he'll just go, "you motherfuckers!" We'll shoot the show, and then afterwards, we'll ask each other, you want to go get some food or see a movie?" Because we're friends and we're going through this experience with friends and we're always laughing through it together.