The Tenderloins, or as they’re more commonly known, the Impractical Jokers, have been making TV audiences laugh ‘til they cry and cringe in equal measure since 2011. If you don’t already know, The Tenderloins are a live comedy troupe from New York, consisting of four life-long friends (who compete to embarrass each other). The group has been together for almost 20 years, performing to audiences of all sizes throughout their journey. Now, in 2017, with colossal sold-out stadium shows under their belts, we caught up with James ‘Murr’ Murray to discuss humble beginnings, writing his thriller novel, sexy accents, and White Castle!
AMBY: Hey I’m Sophie from AMBY and I’m here with Impractical Jokers’ very own Murr! How’re you doing today?
Murr: I’m doing lovely, thank you!
AMBY: Good, good. What brings you to London today?
Murr: Well, mostly to talk to you! Well they have me here doing press all day today for our tour in a couple of weeks so…
AMBY: Ooh I’m excited, we’ll be there at the Manchester gig! Let’s talk Madison Square Garden; how did you feel when you found out you’d be performing there?
Murr: Yea it’s pretty wild. Well I mean look, you know, we are a live comedy troupe,called The Tenderloins. We’ve been performing live together for many years, and – we actually tell this story on stage – 10 years ago we did a show in Manhattan and two people, TWO people, came to see us perform. So to go from that to this year we’ve done 5 shows at the O2, in total, the ‘Garden of course, and Manchester Arena is huge. So to be doing venues like this now is really humbling. It’s a dream come true, it’s the best part of my job. It really is.
AMBY: So, I saw that you’ve been filming the season 6 finale recently.
Murr: We did, we filmed the season 6 finale just about two days ago back in New York. Now we start filming season 7, gosh, on Monday! I’ve gotta go back to work!
AMBY: When do you leave London?
Murr: I leave Sunday.
AMBY: Have you been doing any press for your book AWAKENED while you’ve been here?
Murr: Ah, very good! That’s my first thriller I wrote. No, but next year I’m doing a full UK tour, a book signing tour!
AMBY: Ah fantastic!
Murr: It’s going to be very exciting! I’ll talk about that more, you know, when that comes up next year. I’m really excited about that. It’s the first novel I ever wrote – the presale in the UK just began, so you can order the hardcover on Amazon now. The fans have really responded to it. It’s scary as hell the book, I’m very excited. You know, a lot of monsters, a lot of laser beams, laser guns, you know, all good fun!
AMBY: It’ll be awesome! I did wonder, ‘cause you worked with Darren [Wearmouth] on the book as well didn’t you – but you wrote it originally, right?
Murr: I did, I did! You know, this is a book I wrote literally 13 years ago and because I wasn’t on TV I didn’t have an agent or a manager, I couldn’t get anybody to read it! I spent a year writing the book, and I was like, darn it, this is a good book! You know! It’s really scary, and, well, fast-forward to now, publishers paid good attention to me finally – I brought it in to Harper Collins and they loved it, so I hired Darren to basically whip it into shape. He’s a much more handsome much, MUCH smarter man than I am, and he’s also a Jokers fan – so you know he’s a smart guy. And we got along famously, honestly, he’s just such a great guy, an excellent writer. He’s actually on his way here today. We’re signing posters for the book, but his train got cancelled because of [the attack] on the tube, so he’s coming by on Sunday now.
AMBY: Ah that’ll be brilliant. You didn’t get caught up in any of the trouble on the tube today did you?
Murr: Ah I did not, I was at the network at the time. So no, BUT my thoughts go out to everybody who was involved. As a New Yorker – oh that’s actually something I ought to mention too you know; the tour, being the second tour in the UK this year, we played the O2 earlier in the year, we played Manchester, and we played a bunch of venues. And we’re starting off the entire tour at the Manchester Arena. I gotta tell you, from back in January, Manchester was I think the best show we had in all of the UK. I mean, it’s a massive venue, amazing, the fan response we got was unbelievable. You see it on [Impractical Jokers], Q wears Manchester United shirts all the time on the show. So the place is really near our hearts, so as a New Yorker, when [the attack at the Arena] happened, our hearts broke for you guys and we were, you know, standing there with you. 100% of all the proceeds, everything, from the first night of the tour at the Manchester Arena, goes to the We Love Manchester fund, which raises money for the victims and the families of the victims of the terrorist attack.
AMBY: It’s absolutely amazing that you guys are doing that. Me and my partner will be at the Manchester gig!
MURR: Oh right! Excited to see you there.
AMBY: Yea! Second time seeing you for me now.
MURR: Oh you were there in January? No way!
AMBY: I’m from Manchester! We’re looking forward to having you back. Not long now.
MURR: I’m looking forward to coming back!
AMBY: It’s gonna be awesome. Well I have a couple more questions that I wanted to ask; you are always keeping Impractical Jokers nice and fresh, I don’t know how – I did my degree in TV and Radio production and coming up with fresh and unique ideas could be incredibly difficult! With a production like yours, I can imagine you have a big team. Can you tell us about the process of writing a challenge or a punishment, and is it getting difficult to come up with new ideas?
MURR: You know, we made a promise to each other at the end of season 1 – we said if we ever feel like we’re not advancing the format of the show, if we’re ever not pushing it in new directions, if we ever stop having fun and laughing, we would stop doing the show. You know? I gotta tell you, the season that has just started airing here in the UK, it’s finishing in the United States in about a month, and I think it’s our best season yet! Because what we try to do is, we try to really push the format of the show, the show has to constantly evolve. If it’s the same thing again and again then it won’t work and the audience will get bored with it.
If you notice, especially in these later seasons, we’ve pushed a lot more into our actual real lives where we don’t realise we’re on the TV show. Well here is a fun new thing we’ve started this season of Jokers; we’ve done this in the past a few times where something bad happening in your life, isn’t real. You’ve no idea. You think it’s a real thing happening in your life, but it’s actually part of the TV show. In the new season, for the first time ever, something amazing, something great that’s happening in one of our lives, is not real either. And one of us doesn’t know it! [laughs] It’s great fun!
Oh my god, I can’t wait for this to air. I can’t tell you any more than that! Something amazing happening to one of us right now, is not real! It’s for the TV show! And one of us doesn’t know! Stuff like that, I think it’s so, so different and unique, you know? And it only works because we’re best friends and we know everything about each other, you know what I mean? So that’s how, I feel, we’re still coming up with great fresh new ideas. We’ve got a team of writers that are our best friends, we’ve known some of them since high school. They’ve been with us since day one. They keep pitching us new ideas and we keep spinning them into bigger crazier ideas, it’s really a well-oiled machine. We’re still having a lot of fun.
AMBY: That’s amazing, I love seeing the behind the scenes clips on YouTube of the whole team interacting. It’s like a little family, isn’t it?
MURR: That’s exactly what it is. That’s exactly what it is. I spend more time with these people than my family, you know. If you ever come to New York, you let me know! You can come and hang out.
AMBY: I’d love that. That would be awesome! From a producing a show point of view, how do you make sure the people recruited for focus groups or waiting room challenges haven’t heard of the show? ‘Cause that must be difficult, to make sure that it’s genuine.
MURR: Oh, yea! It’s gotten more challenging. It’s certainly gotten more challenging as the show has gotten more popular. We’ve all sorts of cool little tricks to make sure that people don’t know who we are. The show has to be real. 100% of what we do is real – it always has been and it always will be. And I think you can tell that it’s real because we are squirming at these events. So we do all sorts of tricks like, let’s say there was a room full of people waiting to come into a focus group. We’ll have producers in that room secretly watching the people, and one of us will walk through the room in the distance, walking through, and the producers are watching those people to see if any of them have any kind of recognition on their face when they see us. If they do, they pull them out of the room before they tell other people about the show. You know. And then those people will never get on to TV. That way, the group of people that actually come into a focus group, have been pre-screened and do not know the show or network. So little tricks like that go a long way. We also don’t film, if you notice, we don’t film in certain places anymore because we can’t. We don’t film in stadiums, we don’t film on boardwalks, or on the beach – it’s very hard, it spreads very, very quickly that we’re there. So we also change locations every season. We don’t go back to the same park every season, we don’t go back to the same malls every season, and we keep switching it up. What we found was that people will know that we’re filming at a certain mall and they will just show up when word would spread that we are there. So we keep moving. Basically. They chase us but we keep running!
AMBY: I was gonna say, you’ve got some passionate fans haven’t you!
MURR: Yes we do, yes we do.
AMBY: I imagine the White Castle [restaurant] has been getting a lot of tourism from the Impractical Jokers fans.
MURR: I would think so! Why we are not the face of White Castle yet I dunno. We should be the national spokespeople [laughs].
AMBY: They should put you on the front wall! They should!
MURR: I should have my face on a burger.
AMBY: The Murr burger. The Murr-ger!
AMBY: Well I wanted to ask you a few quick fun questions. Just tell me the first thing that comes to your head, just for a bit of a laugh. I’ll start off with something easy. What’s your favourite colour?
MURR: My favourite colour is purple. The colour of royalty. And passion!
AMBY: Good choice, I like that. I like it more lavender though, more pastel.
MURR: I’m a deep purple kinda guy. Deep purple.
AMBY: Deep purple! What about the band Deep Purple?
MURR: No! I don’t know them.
AMBY: Do you not? I think they’re British.
MURR: No but now I’ll look em up! I listen to a lot of pop music; I listen to Meat Loaf, I listen to musicals, I listen to everything and anything you can imagine. I listen to old music like, 1950s, 1960s, Frankie Valli, and the Four Seasons. I’m all over the map, man. I like everybody I guess, I’m all over the map.
AMBY: That’s a nice way to be though, liking a bit of everything and everyone. A very likable person! What’s your favourite accent?
MURR: Favourite accent? Good question! Well I think the guys sound like dumbasses – the guys with a thick New York accent sound like dumbasses to me. I’m the only one that doesn’t sound like he has a mouth full of marbles. That’s why you and I are on the phone, and not like, you know, you and Q or Sal or Joe. My favourite accent… You know, the British accent is sexy, I gotta tell ya! I will say it’s a sexy accent you guys have!
AMBY: Have you met many northerners yet? *Bad northern accent* When you’re from t’north y’talk like this!
MURR: Yes, yes, yes I have! We were on tour back in January, we met a fair amount then – that’s a unique accent! [laughs] I had an interview on the radio, a few months back, with somebody from up north. I could not understand a word he was saying. It was funny!
AMBY: I’ve got to be honest, I sound far more northern usually, when I’m up north, I’m visiting my uncle in London today, so I’ve got my posh voice on!
MURR: It’s like, when I go back to Staten Island I get that thick New York accent coming back to me too.
AMBY: It changes doesn’t it! It does.
MURR: It certainly does.
AMBY: Last question! What’s your favourite English slang word?
MURR: Ahhh, my favourite English Slang word. Okay, well okay! It’s not slang, but everybody here says two words that crack me up: ‘cheeky’, and the second word that cracks me up is ‘gutted’. People are like *British Accent* ‘Murr, Murr, I’m so gutted I can’t see you at the O2, you and your cheeky lads, you and your cheeky lads, I’m gutted that I can’t see you Murr, Murr.’ It’s so funny! ‘Gutted’ is never said in America, ‘cheeky’ is never said either. *British accent* ‘You and your cheeky friends! I’m gutted I can’t see you’ – that’s so funny to me! Anyway. There you go. ‘Gutted’ and ‘cheeky’.
AMBY: You did have a cheeky Nando’s too, I remember seeing that on Twitter.
MURR: I did, I did! I stole that thing, what is that… that little sign from Nando’s. Like a proper lad.
AMBY: Hashtag proper lad!
MURR: Hashtag proper lad [laughs].
AMBY: Anyway, it’s been an absolute pleasure to talk to you. Thank you very much for your time.
MURR: Likewise. Thank you for the time.
AMBY: I hope you have a lovely time in London.
MURR: Thank you so much.
AMBY: Speak to you soon Murr!
MURR: See you in Manchester, ok? You got it. Bye bye!
You can pre-order James’ book AWAKENED now through Amazon, due to be released next year. The Impractical Jokers are touring the US and the UK this Fall, which started on Sept 22nd. Grab your tickets now!
Interview by Sophie Stock | @ThisIsNotSoph