‘Impractical Jokers’ offers schadenfreude

Take four lifelong best friends from Staten Island, put them on the streets of Manhattan, have them do or say stupid things to strangers, and you’ve got television gold.
TruTv’s “Impractical Jokers,” now in its second season, is the most entertaining show that’s been on in a while. The first time I watched it, I wound up sitting in front of the TV for two hours straight. It’s addicting.

TruTv’s ‘Impractical Jokers’ guarantees laughs with embarrassing competitions. (AP Photo)

Joseph “Joe” Gatto, James “Murr” Murray, Salvatore “Sal” Vulcano and Brian “Q” Quinn compete to embarrass each other on the show. Each episode has three to five rounds of tasks. If the joker does not do or say what he is told or cannot complete the task, he loses. The joker that loses the most rounds loses the entire game. As punishment to show you how embarrassing the loser’s task is, Murr once had to take a polygraph test, written by the other three jokers, in front of the faculty and students of their old Catholic high school.

The priests discovered that Murr lied during confession, his Spanish teacher found out that he used to have a crush on her, and the students learned that he secretly enjoys boy bands.

For another punishment, Sal had to pick up dog poop in a park and hold it for 20 seconds. In a more recent episode, he had to search (this time sans gloves) through elephant excrement for his car keys. Through tears and dry heaving, he searched, but with no success. Joe had actually been holding them the whole time. Oh, and did I mention that Sal is the biggest germaphobe ever?

Sounds like any other prank show, right? Wrong. What sets “Impractical Jokers” apart from other hidden camera shows is the connection between the four contestants. Because they are best friends, they know how to push each others’ buttons and boundaries. While one of them is out trying to complete the challenge, the other three are watching, listening and telling the joker what to say.

Watching the contestants complete the challenge is only half the fun though. The reactions of the other jokers are possibly even funnier. As a challenge is taking place, the camera cuts to the three other jokers in another room, cracking up and crying or falling on the floor from laughter.

There are a variety of challenges, which keeps the show fresh. The guys have to receive a tip from a customer, convince someone to make a donation to a fake charity, see how many items they can take off patrons’ plates at a buffet, get someone to give them directions to a fake place and convince  as many people as possible to stay at the dance classes they lead. And because the guys are telling the joker what to say and do throughout each challenge, something unexpected is bound to happen each time.

The four men are extremely likeable, funny individuals. Joe is the kind of guy who will wear a lavender shirt to play up his eyes, Murr is the thinker and planner, Sal is the personable charmer, and Q is the one who looks homeless.

It’s pretty difficult to find words for such hilarity. Do yourself a favor and watch the show. Just be sure to go to the bathroom beforehand.

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