Comedian Joe Gatto brings laughter and wisdom to SU

Comedian Joe Gatto stops by Syracuse University

The Impractical Joker made an appearance on campus on Monday night for an event hosted by University Union.

Joe Gatto speaks at Syracuse University, March 4, 2024.
Caroline Stevenson
Joe Gatto hands posters to students after his comedy special “A Comedy Show with Joe Gatto” at Syracuse University on Monday night.

Comedian and actor Joe Gatto paid a visit to a nearly sold-out crowd of SU students on Monday night. Hosted by the University Union, the event, titled “A Comedy Show with Joe Gatto” was held in Goldstein Auditorium – featuring laughs, cheers and plush teddy bear keepsakes.

Gatto is most known for his role as one of the “core four” in the hit television series “Impractical Jokers.” The show depicts four friends taking on challenges independently, in teams or against one another, in which the loser is then met with a punishment that is typically embarrassing or difficult. Gatto appeared on the series for nine seasons before announcing his exit from the show midway through season nine in Dec. 2021.

Performing arts director Kristin Moffitt and co-director Ruby Mendelson opened the performance with the introduction of the opening act, Mark Jigarjian, better known as Jiggy. The New York City-based comedian opened by relating to the SU-filled crowd, surveying the room based on students’ majors and hometowns. While he received a variety of answers, Jiggy knew the crowd had one thing in common – a common dislike for Duke University. As the school’s motto is “Suos Cultores Scientia Coronat,” he joked “…which is Latin for ‘Thank god I didn’t go to Duke.’”

It wasn’t long before Jiggy announced the main act, which was met by a room full of cheers and applause as Joe Gatto himself ran onto the stage, a bag of candy in hand. Tossing the candy to the crowd, the energy in the room was only building before nearly an hour of laughs. 

Gatto addressed the crowd, saying “I hear some of you watched Impractical Jokers” in which the crowd erupted in cheers once again. Recalling some of his most memorable – and most embarrassing – punishments, Gatto discussed the time his costars wrapped his house, floor to ceiling, with wrapping paper. Even down to the individual pickles in the pickle jar, Gatto said.

Joe Gatto speaks at Syracuse University, March 4, 2024.
Caroline Stevenson
“A Comedy show with Joe Gatto” at Syracuse University.

For one of his worst punishments, Gatto recalls when he was forced to steal baseballs from children at Citi Field, place them in his fanny pack, and tell the kids they could buy them on eBay.

Contrarily, the comedian reminisced on the times he did enjoy. He brought up a memory of when he used his body as a “comedic weapon,” and was instructed to act as a manager at a restaurant, jumping on tables while serving guests with hopes of finding the fake, breakaway tables.

Gatto continued, with stories from his time in Greek life, as president of his fraternity which he and his friends formed, and times he’s been recognized (and times he hasn’t). “Yeah, I get recognized,” Gatto said. “People don’t know from where. But I look familiar.”

As well as jokes, Gatto made sure to share some pieces of wisdom with the crowd. “Don’t worry about the whole school stuff – mess with people.” He included examples like keeping your eyes open at the dentist, being off-putting in elevators – or as Gatto puts them “little boxes of awkwardness”– and collecting business cards to give out later, amongst other pieces of advice. 

For one of his last anecdotes, Gatto shared some stories with the Impractical Jokers themselves – Sal Vulcano,  Brian “Q” Quinn and James “Murr” Murray. For his first account, Gatto shared an experience with Sal in Cincinnati, Ohio, nine years ago when the group first began touring. Gatto described Vulcano as “the perfect mix of neurotic and gullible,” which came in handy when two were offered massages by the owner of the establishment where they were performing.

The second story involved Gatto, Q and Sal, in which Gatto found himself as the designated driver following a 21st birthday celebration and the three were pulled over by the police. Gatto followed these stories by saying “I like to see how far I can take it,” before telling a third story of the time he and Murr found themselves sneaking around an A-lister celebrity party at Comic-Con. “The takeaway is fake it until you make it” Gatto concluded.

With a crowd full of Impractical Joker fans, many students enjoyed the experience of seeing one of the biggest pranksters being so candid and comical with the crowd. As a long-time fan of the show, senior TRF major Lauren Eschenbrenner greatly enjoyed the experience of attending the comedy set.

“It wasn’t all scripted – he interacted with the crowd, he interacted with the interpreters – it felt natural,” Eschenbrenner said.

Before concluding the night, Gatto took a moment to bring some light to the room. He encouraged the audience to lean on each other, reminding the crowd that they were all good people. “Life sucks – just suck harder,” Gatto said, “Don’t mess this up.”