In the midst of the Impractical Jokers” fame, Brian Quinn, second from left, has spoke openly about his personal struggles.
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This weekend, the Jokers – four Staten Island guys in their early 40s – will draw a pair of packed crowds to their two Saturday evening performances at Shea’s Performing Arts Center.
They’ll show video clips from their smash-hit TruTV series, which is based on pranks and punishments. They’ll tell stories behind the scenes — tales that could date back decades. The four Jokers – Brian “Q” Quinn, James “Murr” Murray, Sal Vulcano and Joe Gatto – have been friends since high school. And they manage to remain friends even as they bust each other through crazy-comedic social experiments and scarring, sometime permanent punishments.
Quinn, for example, had a prank failures that led to him being chained to a table as tarantulas crawled across his body. Another punishment: Having a labor simulation device attached to his lower abdomen during a birthing class for expectant women. And one he’ll always remember, because he can always see it: A tattoo on his right bicep that says: “38, Lives Alone, Has 3 Cats.”
The TV show, which premiered in 2011, is largely fun, not deep. So is the Jokers’ live show, which Quinn described as “stand-up-slash-hang-out” in a recent telephone interview.
Quinn, 41, originally wanted to be not a comic, but rather a firefighter for the Fire Department of New York. He joined the FDNY in 2005 and, in the midst of the Jokers’ success, retired a decade later. But conversations he had before his Jokers fame – in the firehouse, and as an unknown podcaster – are conversations he is still having today. Those are conversations about mental health, and about busting stereotypes to be open and happy and help people.
In our phone conversation, Quinn talked about his decision to speak openly about his battles with depression, and the benefits of the wide-open conversation about problems in America today.
Q: On “Impractical Jokers,” you guys go at each other relentlessly. Do you ever make each other angry because somebody goes too far?
A: No, we never do that. We know where can go and where we can’t go. We’ve been friends for 28 years at this point. I’d be a bad friend if I didn’t know what not to say to my boys. But the flip side of that is it’s obviously very difficult to offend one of us or upset one of us. We’re pretty thick-skinned.