Yes, you read that headline correctly. Impractical Jokers is in fact among the most important shows on television. However, to fully get the meaning a little bit of personal history is needed here. I promise that this won’t just be me whining about my love life, but to understand why the show has this very specific place in my heart, some context is needed. First of all, I don’t watch a ton of television. I’m a movie guy, for better or worse. Now, I do watch a few of the big shows, like Ted Lasso and the Marvel/Star Wars series, plus things that pop up for Emmy coverage or interview, opportunities but by and large, it’s film for me. Part of that is habit, part of that is work, and another part is that I tend to watch more TV when I’m in a relationship. When I’m single, for some reason shows are harder. As a couples activity? That’s a different story. Most of you know that I had been seeing someone for a fair amount of time, bringing her up on the podcast and even having her contribute a little something on Valentine’s Day. Well, some of you might be aware, but that relationship came to an abrupt end in March, and it was devastating. It still is, frankly. I didn’t and haven’t let it impact the site, but largely, the joy in my life has been sucked out. Those of you who follow me on social media usually can tell how bad a day I’m having or how well distractions are currently working. There is, however, one small glimmer of a thing that keeps my head above water, and that’s, believe it or not, Impractical Jokers. Yes, one of the other rare shows I watch is this fun little lark, and for the service it provides, it’s one of the most important things on television. It’s a unique TV gem, which I’m going to be paying tribute to today.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Impractical Jokers is the hit TruTV series that mixes hidden camera and prank show formats for something a bit unique and very funny. Four lifelong friends from Staten Island, Joe Gatto, James Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn, and Sal Vulcano, compete to embarrass each other, with the almost arbitrary loser of each episode punished in some way. It’s very simple, but boy does it work. Defying easy description, it just sets out to entertain, through the friendship and comedic skills of the guys, as well as the simplicity of the premise and often insanity that it allows for. It even led to Impractical Jokers: The Movie, a really funny film that mixed narrative elements with elevated show segments to form something great. It was a hit, though coming right before the COVID lockdowns kept it from being as big a smash as it otherwise would have been.
Up until this season, it has been a foursome, though Gatto’s departure to spend more time with his family has led to a slightly different format this time around. The preview episode for this impending new season showcases how similar much of it is, but how the swerve has allowed Murray, Quinn, and Vulcano to experiment in new ways. Much like the Impractical Jokers spinoff shows have done so (which I loved), with Dinner Party being a real standout, this is still what you love, just ever so slightly tinkered with.
I came to find the show through actually being a fan of Quinn’s participation in the Tell Em Steve-Dave podcast, which I in turn discovered through my fondness for Kevin Smith. Smith obviously does a ton of pods and this particular one is led by two of his childhood friends, Walter Flanagan (who I recently interviewed here) and Bryan Johnson. Quinn is friends with Johnson and eventually became the third leg of the tripod. Having enjoyed him on the podcast, it led me to Impractical Jokers right as the show was getting set to premiere. Quickly, it became a favorite, but as you’ll understand, it takes on a new meaning down the line.
So, why are they so important? Nothing does a better job to distract you from the pain and realities of the world. For a half hour, these guys, who are real friends, allow you to smile and laugh at their antics, just like real friends do. They’re always laughing with each other, as opposed to at each other, so it’s never mean-spirited, either. It’s pure in that way. They take the unique personality traits that make Joe, Murr, Q, and Sal the people they are and utilize them for comedy. Truly, it’s much like what you would do, hanging out with friends, just minus the competition element.
The show has been serving this purpose for a long time, too. Close to a decade ago, I went through a different, yet also sudden, break-up. It was messy, messy to the point that people who know the story are often stunned. To make matters worse, we were still spending a lot of time together, even as that person began seeing someone else. Long story, trust me. It was a terrible period for me, mentally, as you’d imagine, but it was shortly before then that I’d gotten into Impractical Jokers. So much was on my mind, but when I was watching the guys, it temporarily floated away.
Beyond moping over girlfriends, the guys have helped me through other tough times. Almost five years ago (five years this July), my grandfather passed away. He was 84 and had been suffering the recent effects of a stroke, so it wasn’t wholly unexpected, but it was a huge blow. He was my best friend. Readers who have followed me long enough know that he even used to do Oscar predictions back in the Awards Circuit heyday. The world felt empty. Truly, he was someone I spent more time with than anyone. My only outlet from the pain of losing that loved one? Joe, Murr, Q, and Sal’s antics. Sensing a pattern here?
Now, I’m obviously dealing with a loss all over again. This relationship I had thought, just days prior to the breakup, was headed for marriage. Never before had my life been so intermingled with someone. We had a life, a future, a union. Gone, in one fell swoop (the details of which some of you know). In the days immediately following, it was a numbness and a pain, alternating between each other, that I’d never felt before. Hyperbole aside, my life felt over. At my lowest, I needed to try to take my mind of the heartbreak and devastating pain. What did I do? I put on TruTV and let the Jokers try to distract me. Initially, it didn’t work. But, I kept watching. If I wasn’t busy with something movie related or listening to a podcast in bed to try and drown out my thoughts, I had Impractical Jokers on. Slowly, but surely, I would smile or just chuckle at an episode I’d seen countless times before. April’s new episode offered something fresh. It wasn’t solving any of my problems, but it lowered the volume in my mind, if only for a half hour at a time.
I know this may seem silly to a lot of you. However, to me, the silliness of Impractical Jokers has been a literal lifeline. Everyone has a movie or a show that does this for them. For me, it’s Impractical Jokers, so the return of the show for a new season this week is something to treasure. It’s needed, in my case. If you need them too, they’ll be there for you, eager to make you laugh and forget your troubles, if only for a few minutes…
The new season of Impractical Jokers debuts June 16th on TruTV!