Taking the Joe out of ‘Impractical Jokers’

Pictured+From+left%3A+James+Murr+Murray%2C+Sal+Vulcano%2C+Joe+Gatto+and+Brian+Q+Quinn.+

Photo courtesy of TRUTV

Pictured From left: James “Murr” Murray, Sal Vulcano, Joe Gatto and Brian “Q” Quinn.

Autumn Okuszka, Contributor

“Impractical Jokers” is back — and this time, they’re one joker down.

The hidden camera series has been airing on truTV since 2011, following four friends — Joe Gatto, Brian “Q” Quinn, Sal Vulcano and James “Murr” Murray — who have known each other since high school as they dare each other to say and do things to unsuspecting bystanders.

The show has found a loyal fanbase and success that has lasted nearly ten seasons, as well as a movie released in 2020. 

Just when it seemed that the Jokers had reached the peak of their popularity, it was announced that Gatto would be leaving the tv show due to issues in his personal life.

“Bessy [Gatto’s wife] and I have decided to amicably part ways,” Gatto said. “I need to focus on being the best father and co-parent to our two incredible kids.” 

The remaining jokers then released a joint statement affirming that they would get back to making a new chapter of “Impractical Jokers” in January 2022, despite Gatto’s departure. 

Every fan of “Impractical Jokers” has their favorite Joker — I remember when Gatto became mine.

The episode was titled “Stare Master,” and Gatto was “tonight’s big loser.” He was punished by the other jokers by being subjected to uncomfortably staring at people who were working out at the gym. His commitment to the bit in spite of the awkwardness of the situation was mind-blowing, because it was something I could never imagine myself being able to do.

Over the years, Gatto continued to shock and impress in various punishments — from becoming a flying genie to stealing baseballs from small children. When I found out he would be leaving, I immediately thought the show wouldn’t survive without him.

The show post-Gatto was to return with a stand-alone special that succeeded the NCAA Men’s Final Four game on April 2, 2022, featuring the remaining jokers and special guest star Eric André. 

While I was anticipating the ending of “Impractical Jokers,” — believing that Gatto’s absence would be too much for the loyal viewers of the show to handle — I am happy to report that the special actually left me pleasantly surprised. 

Besides a new introduction that changed the iconic line, “four lifelong friends,” to “lifelong friends,” – which broke my heart a little — the special felt familiar and brand-new at the same time. Featuring the pranks that have made the show a household name, it did not stray far away from the original format, letting the remaining jokers shine and waiting to include André until the final punishment. 

Although Gatto’s absence was evident, I was happy to see that Quinn, Vulcano and Murray are all still able to do what they love and have fun doing it.

Quinn recently talked about working on “Impractical Jokers” without Gatto on his podcast, “Tell ‘em Steve-Dave!

“I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think people were going to like it,” Quinn said. “I think people are going to be really surprised at what we end up doing. […] I’m more invested and more involved and having more fun than I’ve had in a long time.” 

After the special aired, advertisements teased what’s to come for “Impractical Jokers” when the second half of season nine premieres on June 16 — including a slew of celebrity guests, such as Colin Jost, Chris Jericho, Jillian Bell and David Cross. 

Even if the absence of Gatto in the upcoming episodes leaves a bad taste in the mouths of viewers like myself, knowing I can always turn to reruns with him on truTV and HBO Max is a comforting thought. 

If the new episodes are anything like the special that aired, however, I think we’ll be seeing new “Impractical Jokers” episodes for as long as the Jokers want to keep creating them.