’Impractical Jokers’ star Sal Vulcano goes solo at the Wheeler Opera House
IF YOU GO …
Who: Sal Vulcano
Where: Wheeler Opera House
When: Saturday, Jan. 5, 7:30 p.m.
How much: $39.50
Tickets: Wheeler box office; aspenshowtix.com
More info: Chris Distefano will open.
Sal Vulcano, of “Impractical Jokers,” is on one of the most popular shows on television. He and his comedy troupe, The Tenderloins, just wrapped their first movie and are soon to launch a new game show. The group’s ongoing comedy tour has super-fans road-tripping across the country.
It’s hard to imagine Vulcano has time to do anything else, but here he is headlining the Wheeler Opera House on Saturday night during a weekend solo stand-up swing through the mountain west that also includes shows in Denver and Salt Lake City.
His stand-up act gives fans Vulcano unplugged from the absurd public humiliations and genius situational improv of “Impractical Jokers.”
“With solo stand-up, it’s just me and a mic, and I love it,” Vulcano said in a recent phone interview from his home in New York. “I get to do all the things I don’t get to do with the guys.”
The “guys” are James “Murr” Murray, Brian “Q” Quinn and Joe Gatto, who’ve been torturing one other for comedy gold since they met as high school freshmen in Staten Island in 1990, later harnessing their oddball comedic tendencies as The Tenderloins and on “Impractical Jokers.”
So most fans know Vulcano as part of the whole. But pretty much any weekend that he’s not performing with the Tenderloin crew, he’s out on the road doing stand-up. And whenever they’re filming in New York, he makes the rounds at Manhattan comedy clubs like the Comedy Cellar and The Stand to work on new material.
“I love stand-up so much, it’s more of a challenge,” he said. “The guys and I have so much history of performing together that it’s a well-oiled machine.”
The foursome knows one another so well, he explained, that during their ongoing “Cranjis McBasketball World Comedy Tour” they can carry each other through their wildly popular shows that blend crowd participation, video bits and stand-up.
“So it’s fun to do that alone, when it’s just about me and the crowd,” Vulcano said. “It’s testing different muscles, but it’s satisfying in a different way.”
The friendly hazing and shenanigans on “Impractical Jokers” have forced Vulcano to get a bad tattoo and sing onstage at an Imagine Dragons concert — often prompting him to yell “I will never forgive you!” A recent episode had him pitching unsuspecting parents on some odd new educational initiatives for their students, like using emojis instead of letter grades, using recently deceased teachers for dissection in science class and subjecting kids to something called the “vanilla clown reality drill.”
The group is about to start production on its eighth season of “Impractical Jokers,” which has logged more than 200 episodes and grown a rabid and loyal fanbase over the past seven years. The TruTv franchise consistently ranks as the most-watched cable comedy series, counting some 96 million viewers last season.
“Every year we say, ‘OK, how can we evolve the show, become more innovative?” Vulcano said. “You think you’ve done it all after 200 episodes and then it’s so exciting to have a breakthrough and say, ‘Oh, we’ve never done something like this!’”
Some of the Jokers’ rabid fans have been to upward of 70 live shows by the group.
“Our fans are avid and loyal to a degree that’s pretty insane,” Vulcano said with a laugh. “It’s a thing. They follow us around like we’re the Grateful Dead.”
Along with the new “Impractical Jokers” season, the new year will see the the release of the “Impractical Jokers” movie and the launch of their new game show, “Misery Index,” on TBS, which will pair the Jokers with contestants ranking embarrassing real-world events.
“There’s a lot in the hopper,” Vulcano said. “I hope in 2019 they all converge for us and it’s a swell for us creatively.”
Some of Vulcano’s past trips to ski country sound like punishments doled out on “Impractical Jokers.” His first time skiing, before a New Year’s Eve 2005 gig, he flung himself downhill and took such a wild spill that he couldn’t walk for a week, Vulcano recalled. Last winter, touring through Vail, he took a more responsible approach during a day on the hill with fellow comics.
“This time I took lessons,” he said, “and by the end of the day I had a video of myself that could prove I did it.”
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