Some say laughter is the safest alternative to tears, while others say it has the power to keep sickness at bay. But really, laughing is just fun and it's most fun when you get to laugh at someone who's totally OK with you doing so.
Take Joe Gatto, for instance, a Staten Island native who discovered at an early age that making people laugh is not only something rewarding, but can also save him from a beating or two from bullies. His passion for comedy both saved him from the unwanted wedgies and swirlies as a kid, but also proved to be quite worthwhile later in life.
After college, Gatto formed a comedy troupe with his old high school buddies Brian "Q" Quinn, James "Murr" Murray, and Sal Vulcano, called The Tenderloins. Fast forward a few years and the foursome have their very own prank comedy show on truTV, Impractical Jokers.
The pork-loving troupe will be in town Wednesday night to open their tour and we chatted with Gatto about his comedy, why talking to adult in a baby voice never works, and, of course, Miami.
New Times: How did you first get into comedy, or rather, when did you first realize you were funny?
Joe Gatto: I first realized I was funny in high school as a defense mechanism. I was really geeky and got picked on a lot, and then I found out that if I make the bullies laugh, they'll leave me alone. So I quickly decided to 'become funny' (laughs). High school is actually where I met my friends who are in the show with me -- Sal, Murr, and Q -- we all went to high school together in Staten Island and met freshman year.
I also started doing improv in high school and I really enjoyed making people laugh and I was always a fan of comedy growing up -- I always liked Mel Brooks' movies and watching comedies and I was a student of comedy, so I really just enjoyed everything that was comedy. Plus, laughing is fun, so I tried to do it as much as I could. And then to make other people laugh just made me feel good, so I liked doing it a lot and I got the opportunity to do it with my comedy troupe. Me and the guys formed our troupe, The Tenderloins, after we got back home from college and we've been doing comedy ever since.
How exactly did you guys come up with the name The Tenderloins? I feel as if a lot of people get the strange craving for pork when they hear the name.
That's exactly right, that's what we wanted to do. We wanted to really boost pork sales. Actually, back in high school, Sal kept a list of words. The title [of the list] was 'words you'd be slightly embarrassed to say in a large group of people,' and one of them was 'tenderloin.' Also on the list was like 'nougat' and 'Carpaccio' (laughs) and I think they were just really weird words. So when it was time to name the troupe, he pulled that list out and 'tenderloin' was the first name we said and we loved it."
Back when you four were in high school -- and avoiding bullies -- did you ever think you'd be living the dream doing comedy for a living?
No way -- I had an accounting degree coming out of college. Sal went into finance and everybody just went their own way. Basically, we have the dream job -- if you ask anybody in the world what their dream job would be, it'd be to get paid to make their best friends laugh, and that's what we do. We're super fortunate that we ended up here. Before this, I had like three different careers: I was a baby store salesman (laughs), I was an accountant, I was even a consultant, but then I finally ended up doing this and I'm happier than ever. Though, I did have a lot of fun when I was selling high-end baby strollers as well.
Can you tell us a bit about what guests can expect from the touring show? Will it be anything like Impractical Jokers?
It is a...it's a hoot. People should just come down and get ready to laugh their pants off. We're really just having a lot of fun. What we like about the tour is it's basically a mix of stand up comedy show and multimedia where we show like clips from the show -- stuff that was too hot for TV -- and we filmed specific challenges just for the tour. We like to have a feel of getting to hang out with the crowd. My favorite part of touring is really the fans. You know, we go to all these towns that we've never been to and we get to meet these fans; we just get to hang out and talk with them and have some jokes. We share stories from the road [with our audiences] and get to share some good jokes that couldn't make it to TV.
The first stop of the tour is here in Miami and then you guys go back to your hometown of New York City. How did you decided to make Miami your first stop?
It's getting cold up here in New York...but really, who doesn't love Miami, first of all. Miami's great! We all actually vacation there. Me and Murr went there for his birthday last year. It's [sort of like our] vacation stop, so we're like 'hey, you know, it should be some warm weather, let's get down there to Miami.' We also get a lot of requests from fans like on social media and stuff to come down to that area, so we're happy to oblige."
You guys have performed in Miami before -- during the Miami Improv Festival one year, right?
Yes, Miami Improv Festival was when we were doing our improv troupe back in the day, so that was a real long time ago. That was like in 2004 or 2005 or something like that, I think. We were performing as a live improv troupe, it wasn't like this type of show where we're a lot more...we're in a very different lighting, you know.
Are you guys planning anything special for Miami since it's the opening show, and also, because: Miami?
(Laughs) I mean everything in Miami is special, we all know that! You go to Miami and it's automatically special. We might be a little more sunburnt. We'll have a lot of fun, I'm sure, because the people in Miami are just great -- they're always down to have a good time and we love that. It's one of those cities that just has an energy about it. It's like New York that way where people are there and you can just feel their presence and that always makes for a great show so we're really excited.
Tell me about your show Impractical Jokers on truTV.
It's basically an inverted prank show where we embarrass each other instead of the general public. We're four friends from high school who have known each other -- forever at this point! We met in 1990, so we've known each other almost 25 years now. And on the show, we basically take turns to embarrass each other in front of the public. We have to try and win challenges and whoever loses the most challenges an episode gets punished. And by that I mean they have to do something on their own that's completely embarrassing that the other three friends get to devise.
So, you know, it's been a lot of fun. We're in our third season right now, our fourth season starts up in January of next year, which we start filming for in a couple of weeks. It's a really, really cool experience to be able to make this TV show and have people respond to it the way they do. We're going on our 80th episode to film, which is insane that we have so many episodes. It's just really great."
Since you guys do a lot of pranking, has there ever been a prank that has gone wrong?
Oh yeah, we've had a couple that has gone wrong (laughs). We had some...you know, some ideas look really good on paper and then you try them and it's not good. Like we had this one where we decided to baby talk to adults and you know when you see a baby you're like (in baby voice) 'oh, hi, baby, you're so cute, look at the baby.' And then you have to transition that talk to somebody and go 'do you know where the train is, do you know what time it is?' and talk to adults. We decided to do it someplace where there are kids, so we went to a kid park and started baby talking to the babies and then the adults. But, the problem is we're four mid-to-late thirty-year-old men without children at a kid's park so the cops get called pretty quick (laughs). Yeah, that didn't work out too well for us -- on paper it was funny, but in practice it was trouble.
Okay, last question for you: in your opinion, why should people go out and see The Tenderloins perform live?
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Because life is short and you need to do something fun so get off your asses and come out and laugh - how about that? It's funny because people don't know what to expect from us because of the show and when they leave [the live performance], it's different and people tell us, 'oh it was so much better than I thought it was going to be' and we're like 'thank you?' (laughs) People just don't know what to expect and they end up having a really fun time. It's a lot of energy and we're just having fun up there and we like to have fun with our fans. So come on out and have some fun. I mean what else are you doing on a Wednesday night in Miami, right?
Impractical Jokers Featuring The Tenderloins will be at The Fillmore at Miami Beach (1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach) Wednesday, November 5th. The show begins at 8 p.m. and ticket costs $62.50. Visit fillmoremb.com.