On Friday, Dec. 1, comedian Joe Gatto graced the stage of the State Theatre of Ithaca. That’s right, Joe Gatto formerly of the show Impractical Jokers, which famously advertises to contain “scenes of graphic stupidity among four lifelong friends who compete to embarrass each other,” has visited Ithaca on his Night of Comedy tour. Although Gatto left Impractical Jokers in 2021, the show is still his most well-known work.
I have been an Impractical Jokers fan for many years, so it was hard for me to imagine how Gatto would perform on his own, without the other members of the Tenderloins comedy troupe: Sal Vulcano, James “Murr” Murray and Brian “Q” Quinn. Since the show is based on the four of them daring each other to do ridiculous and embarrassing things, I was curious what stand-up would look like with Gatto.
Although the Tenderloins have made it clear that there is no bad blood between them after Gatto left, I still wondered how prominent Gatto’s time on Impractical Jokers would be in the content of his show. I was happily surprised to discover that stories from Impractical Jokers made up a large component of his show. He regaled the crowd with behind-the-scenes stories from when he was a Joker and of the four of them growing up together on Staten Island.
Gatto’s close connection with his identity as a Staten Islander makes him not only fun to watch, with his strong accent and attachment to the borough where Impractical Jokers was typically filmed, but also gave many New Yorker viewers a means of connecting with him and the other Jokers. This quality really came through during his live show. As a freshman in high school at the start of the pandemic, I watched a lot of Impractical Jokers. To see Gatto live, now, as a freshman in college, was a truly special experience, and reminded me of home.
My biggest takeaway from the show, however, was that no matter what the circumstances are, Joe Gatto truly is very, very funny. Not just onstage, or when he is on Impractical Jokers, but in his approach to life. As he told the crowd over and over, he is not afraid to make things awkward.
There was a common thread that ran throughout every joke he told: each of the stories he told, whether it be about his kids, his dogs or some other aspect of his everyday life, could have easily applied to anyone in the crowd. Many comedians struggle with this. When they are coming up with a bit, they often stray too far from reality, to the point where much of the audience is thinking, “There’s absolutely no way that really happened.” What makes the comedy of Joe Gatto so special is its relatability. His self-deprecating yet positive outlook on life makes you think, “Wow, he’s just like me.”
In times of darkness, like the height of Covid-19 or, dare I say, this finals season, making jokes can be a powerful way of pushing through. Joe Gatto reminds us that it’s okay to poke fun at the situation and at ourselves, and that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. As he joked at the end of the show, “Who the f*** is this!?” It’s Joe Gatto, and don’t you forget it.
Sydney Levinton is a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences. She can be reached at [email protected].