Joke’s on you

TruTV’s “Impractical Jokers,” featuring the acclaimed comedy troupe The Tenderloins, will make an appearance in Williamsport, with shows at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. April 29 at the Community Arts Center, 220 W. Fourth St., for their critically praised “The TruTV Impractical Jokers ‘Where’s Larry?’ Tour starring The Tenderloins.”

“Impractical Jokers” is an American hidden camera-practical joke reality series filmed mainly in New York City and New Jersey that premiered on TruTV on December 15, 2011. It follows Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano, the four members of the live improv and sketch comedy troupe The Tenderloins.

As the creators, executive producers, writers and stars of “Impractical Jokers,” the troupe have toured steadily nationwide with their live show, which is a mix of stand-up, never-before-seen hidden camera videos, stories and insight. The highly successful tour has crisscrossed the country playing to 2,000-8,000 capacity theaters, including a recent three-night sold out run at New York’s historic Radio City Music Hall.

About to enter its fifth season, “Impractical Jokers” follows the Tenderloins’ four members, as they coerce one another into doing public pranks while being filmed by hidden cameras. With each new season, the show continues to take dares to outrageous levels with new over-the-top hijinks.

During its 4th season, the series celebrated 100 episodes in the U.S. with a live television event, “The Impractical Jokers Live Punishment Special.” Hosted by Howie Mandel, the special drew in three million viewers.

Natives of Staten Island, New York – Gatto, Murray, Quinn and Vulcano met while attending high school, and later formed The Tenderloins Comedy Troupe in 1999. After a long and successful history, including winning the $100,000 grand prize in NBC’s “It’s Your Show” competition, the group went into television. In 2008, they filmed a pilot episode for a scripted sitcom for Spike TV, but the show did not go to series. TruTV announced the series “Impractical Jokers,” originally slated to be named “Mission Uncomfortable” on April 12, 2011, eight months before the show’s debut.

After years of performing live improv and sketch comedy shows in theatres, clubs and festivals across the country, The Tenderloins crossed over to the web, garnering millions of views for their Internet sketches. After winning the NBC sketch comedy show, a single-camera, scripted sitcom pilot with Spike TV followed, based on the guys’ real lives. They also have had pilots with A&E, TBS, CMT and VH1, as well as their own independently produced sitcom pilot, which was an official New York Television Festival selection.

“Impractical Jokers” differs from other prank television programs in that the stars do not know the details of the prank until the moment they are performing it on strangers. While one or two castmembers performs the prank, the other comedians in the troupe are behind the scenes feeding lines to their friends via microphone with an earpiece. The lines fed to the pranksters are meant to create a humorous and awkward exchange between the pranksters and the stranger being pranked. In some instances, the jokers create PowerPoint presentations for each other, creating the same kind of humorous effect to trip each other up. They also sometimes have to present ridiculous books and products invented by the other jokers. The show holds a TV-14 rating due to strong language – although some of the words are bleeped out – suggestive dialogue/content, and crude humor.

Before every challenge, the guys explain where they are, what the challenge is, and what will happen if they fail. There is a mic placed on the cast member performing the prank. There are also hidden cameras near the area to capture the action. The location in which the challenge takes place is usually a public area such as a city park, or store. The criteria of each challenge are the same for each of the jokers competing in the round. If the joker cannot complete their task, they get a Thumbs-Down. At the end of the episode, the joker or jokers with the most thumbs down is punished, and the punishments are usually more embarrassing, humiliating, disgusting, painful or scary than any of the challenges. Punishments cannot be refused, or the joker is off the show.

While it has been compared to earlier hit prank shows such as Candid Camera and Jackass, critics have offered praise for its unique twist on the genre, wherein the stars’ reactions to the pranks are often equally as humorous as those of the innocent bystanders. Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times stated that “the gag pays off twice: once in the reaction of the unsuspecting passer-by, once in the discomfort of the fellow doing the asking.”

The series has been generally well received by TV audiences, garnering 1.5 million viewers during its December 15, 2011 premiere, and also very well-received by some critics, with Linda Stasi of the New York Post calling it “possibly the funniest, most ridiculous show I’ve seen in years.”

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