Joe Gatto, known for his work on Impractical Jokers, performs Sept. 14 an hour of stand-up about his Italian upbringing and his life as a dad | Credit: Provided

It might surprise you to learn that New York-born comedian Joe Gatto, best known for his work on the hidden camera show Impractical Jokers which appeared on TruTV for 10 seasons, is actually an introvert at heart.

Unlike a typical hidden camera show where innocent bystanders are the ones who get pranked, the genius of Impractical Jokers (which led to its cult following) is that Gatto and the other stars — Sal Vulcano, James Murray and Brian Quinn — are constantly trying to coax each other into embarrassing predicaments. In every episode, the four jokers dare one another to deliver ridiculous lines to strangers, straight-faced, or partake in competitions in the most unexpected of public settings.

The entire cast is extremely bold, enthusiastic and lovable, but Gatto especially embodies these traits.

He told the Charleston City Paper that his warm, disarming approach to social interactions is basically an extension of his parents’ old-school hospitality.

“I had awesome parents,” Gatto said. “My dad died young, which annoys me. But everybody loved to be around them both, and our Italian household was very popular when I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s because there was an open door policy and an extra plate at the table at all times.”

By high school, Gatto caught a glimpse of his gift. (If you’re an Impractical Jokers fan, you’ll recognize that the folks who inspired Gatto’s first foray into comedy turned out to be his long-time collaborators.)

“The switch really wasn’t flipped for me until my junior year at Monsignor Farrell High School in Staten Island, when Sal [Vulcano] made me try out for the improv club that he and Murr [James Murray] and Q [Brian Quinn] were already a part of, because I would always make them laugh at the lunch table just by being stupid. I went to the meeting, did the first scene and I made everyone there laugh, so I decided that this might just work for me after all.”

Gatto soon discovered that by employing absurdity he could also diffuse volatile situations.
“I used to get bullied a little bit, just because there was a lot of testosterone in the halls of our all-boys Catholic High School,” Gatto said.

“But I was able to be funny and turn things around with a couple of the football players by doing a bit where I would be the one bullying them. For example, I would come out of nowhere and knock all the books out of their big hands and jump on their backs saying things like, ‘You don’t want any of this,’ and they’d be like, ‘OK, Joe, I’m really sorry.’”

From pranks to stand-up

After graduation, Gatto parted ways with his improv pals and his bewildered jock acquaintances to pursue an accounting degree in college. “At a certain point, I realized that I wasn’t ever going to be happy sitting in a cubicle crunching numbers.”

To make ends meet, he tried his hand at sales, an endeavor he credits with building the powers of persuasion that served him so well when he regrouped with the rest of the gang that became known as the “Impractical Jokers.”

“I was doing that 9-to-5 gig when we got the pilot approved for Impractical Jokers, and by the time we got the first series order, I went ahead and quit the day-job to go for it. I was all in,” Gatto said.

“It was a truly great experience. I got to learn so many aspects of the entertainment business in the 10 years that I was involved with it,” he said of his time on the show.

Although it felt empowering to be affiliated with that devilishly dynamic team, he said, when his personal life changed abruptly a couple of years ago, it became clear to him that he needed to maintain a far-less-grueling schedule if he ever wanted to be fully present as a single father.
That’s when the idea of creating a solo stand-up act started to make a lot of sense to him.

“It was challenging at first because suddenly I was the only one up there on stage instead of being embedded in an ensemble,” Gatto said. “But I love this routine too. It’s special in its own way.”

These days, Joe Gatto’s Night of Comedy involves a pretty straightforward set of family-friendly joke sharing and storytelling that sheds light on Gatto’s hilarious Italian upbringing, his long friendship and professional journey with the other Impractical Jokers, and his endearing escapades with his two young kids and their surprisingly large number of rescue dogs.

“I’m not here to push boundaries or influence people. I live to make people laugh and have a good time.”

Catch Joe Gatto’s Night of Comedy Sept. 14 at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center. For tickets and details, visit northcharlestoncoliseumpac.com.


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