It wasn’t that long ago that Joe Gatto was buying baby products for a living. In his spare time he would perform in The Tenderloins, an improv comedy troupe with his longtime Staten Island pals Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray and Sal Vulcano. They all had day jobs, in fact, while trying to pursue their dream of comedy stardom. After a few stops and starts involving failed pilots for Spike TV and A&E, the quartet found a home with truTV in 2011 when Impractical Jokers premiered.
But the day jobs are long gone now as Impractical Jokers gets ready for new episodes beginning Aug. 1. Gatto took time to answer our “7 Questions,” talking about the time he “nosed” an action star, and how fame has affected the group both onscreen and off.
1. You’re at a magazine rack and can only pick three titles. Which ones do you choose?
GQ to keep up with the latest styles, Maxim to look at beautiful women, and Better Homes & Gardens, just for something different.
2. Your DVR can only carry three shows. Besides Impractical Jokers, of course, which ones would you want?
Bates Motel, Saturday Night Live and you know what show I’ve been just watching and really appreciating for some odd reason? Family Feud with Steve Harvey. He’s doing a great job with that, and I just always loved that game-show format. There’s probably some nostalgia with that, too.
3. What has been your strangest fan encounter?
It was at a urinal actually. I’m always in an airport lately, and I was in JFK airport at the urinal and the guy walks up and recognizes me and proceeds to talk to me as we were both doing what you do at a urinal. It was very weird. Then at the end he went to shake my hand before we had washed hands, and I was like, “I’ll see you in a minute, buddy.”
4. Tell me about a time when you were starstruck.
I had a very interesting encounter with Jason Statham. I used to live in L.A. for a couple years back in ’03 to ’05, and I was in The Coffee Bean in The Grove and he was in front of me. It was literally like my third day there. He’s not that tall, and he was in front of me on line, so I was just like, “Hey, how you doing?” He was a really cool guy, I talked to him for a second. Then I said [to myself] this is probably the only opportunity in the world I’ll ever have to nose a celebrity. Then I dropped my nose right on Jason Statham.
5. Name three things you must have in your fridge or pantry.
Peanut butter, lemonade and Tagalong Girl Scout cookies. When I find Tagalongs, I actually buy them in bulk. A Girl Scout that I run into is a very wealthy Girl Scout. I got mad when my nieces were too old to be Girl Scouts, so now I have to hit the streets to find them.
6. A lot of the situations on your show depend on you guys being able to blend in. Is that more difficult now that you’re more well-known?
People do recognize us, but there’s so many people that we just mosey them along and get somebody else. That’s one of the good things about filming in New York City, there’s just so many people. People normally recognize us when all four of us are together, but during the challenges when you’re out there by yourself, it’s like, “Oh, that guy sorta looks like Joe.” But if the four of us are together, it’s “That guy looks like Joe! Wait, that guy looks like Q. Oh, there’s Murr.” It all comes together. So it’s a lot easier to blend in when you’re by yourself.
7. Who’s the biggest jerk now that you guys are famous?
I like to say that we split that 25 percent across the board. (laughs) The good thing about coming up with your friends is that your friends keep you in check. That’s a big thing for us. We’ll let each other know freely when we’re being jerks.
Photo: Credit: Jeremy Freeman