Impractical Jokers is a hidden-camera series from TruTV, featuring four friends (Q, Murr, Sal, and Joe) challenging each other to act outrageously in public. You refuse, you lose. The show is presented as a sort of reality competition, where whoever fails the most challenges in an episode is forced to undergo a non-negotiable punishment of greater humiliation than normal.
This show provides examples of:
Acrofatic: Sal, despite his girth, is a surprisingly good dancer.
Ain't No Rule says that, when challenged to shop out of other people's cart, you can't just walk away with the whole cart long enough to qualify.
Aside Glance: Happens frequently, especially when the challenge is ridiculous. Joe and Q are the worst offenders.
Black Comedy: The Flea Market challenge, where Sal, Murr, and Joe are forced to admit that their items were looted from dead bodies.
Bowties Are Cool: Murr often takes to wearing one of these during news interviews, working at a movie theater, etc. Count on Joe to humiliate Murr by quickly yanking the bowtie off and tossing it aside.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: Subverted because this is reality TV, although Q revealing to the woman in the elevator challenge that she was on a hidden camera show qualifies.
Brief Accent Imitation: In the shoe-store challenge, Murr is instructed to (and does, shamefacedly) put on a Jamaican accent to a Rastafarian customer.
Butt Monkey: All four of them take turns being this—it's essentially the premise of the show—but especially during the punishments. Murr and Sal have it the worst, though, as their punishments are usually more personal (i.e. exploiting Sal's fear of garbage and Murr's of skydiving).
Joe: "With a f*** f*** here and a f*** f*** there, here a f***, there a f***, everywhere a f*** f***."
Continuity Nod: In the ep The Truth Hurts, Murr was hooked up to a lie detector and forced to admit he had a crush on his Spanish teacher, Senora Lanza. When Joe and Sal get punished in the ep Enter The Dragons they have to pose as a rock group that Murr names...Senora Lanza!
Cringe Comedy: The entire show, although it's often turned Up to Eleven during the punishment rounds at the end of every episode.
Death Glare: Though this happens often enough when the guys say something truly insulting, nothing reached the levels of the Klepto Buffet.
Depraved Kids Book Author: In "Scarytales", Q has to pretend to be a children's book author with a story the other guys wrote for him, entitled: "Q, the Dung Beetle", which starts off normal but then involves marital problems, prostitution, swearing, and drinking.
Early Installment Weirdness: The first episode had more narration and attempted to really build up the suspense about who the big loser was going to be. It wore off over time (especially with the truTV previews that actually do reveal who the loser is) and currently there is little to no narration except to introduce the show and say what's coming up after the break.
In addition, the opening "Warning" monologue left out the word "lifelong" in the phrase "four lifelong friends." It was added on after the first few episodes to get a better idea about the guys knowing each other since high school.
Embarrassing Old Photo: Sal has an unfortunate one from a heavier time that keeps cropping up as Employee of the Year, or a background picture to a photo booth.
Don't forget the picture of a younger, hairy-chested Murr wearing nothing but his favorite blanket.
Establishing Character Moment: The entire first episode is this for all four Jokers, but especially the White Castle challenge (since it's the very first), establishing the Jokers' playing strategies and willingness to say lines to strangers, as well as their individual traits, such as Sal's germophobia and Joe's Fearless Fool status.
Everyone (Even Murr) Has Standards: He'll ask someone on their way to a funeral "Who kicked the bucket?", but he and the others have a hard time being outright degrading to women.
The boys have no problem saying stupid and embarrassing things but will usually refuse to outright insult people to their faces especially if the comment involves the person's looks or weight.
Fearless Fool: Joe is constantly described as being this, since the man apparently has no fear. The other guys added on this by saying that Joe does not have "a shameful bone in [his] body" when he publicly asked for toilet paper through an open bathroom door, with his pants around his ankles.
Gasshole: Sal during the boardwalk massage challenge.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: During one of the challenges of where the guys interview strangers to be potential roommates, look closely at the couch Murr and his Keet new roommate are jumping on - there's a dildo inserted between the cushions.
Hiding Behind the Language Barrier: The mission was to get people to comment on bogus news stories in Times Square, and when approached two women commented "We don't speak English." It was promptly lampshaded.
Large Ham: Q and Joe dip into this fairly frequently.
Laser-Guided Karma : What people who felt sorry for Murr during the Human Pinata ep and Sal during the Garbage Barge ep when Joe sent him to voicemail felt finally happened to Joe at the end of the ep Dog Days of Bummer.
The same people who felt sorry for Murr at the end of Look Out Below cheered when this happened to Joe again in No Escape and Sal in Field of Screams.
Look Behind You: Part of Murr's strategy in the Klepto Buffet is to tell a guy a tree almost fell in the parking lot. It worked.
Mr. Seahorse: A very funny variant. As punishment for one episode, Q, while obviously not capable of becoming pregnant, was forced to go through simulated labor pains. What's worse, he's doing it in a room full of women in various stages of pregnancy who were expecting a Lamaze class but instead got this joker experiencing the worst part in the process: delivery. Hilarity Ensues as Q succumbs to shouting out loud "I just want this baby out!" in front of them while busting apart a nearby divider screen.
Naked People Are Funny: The basic premise of the punishment in "Strip High Five." Joe and Murr, the two losers, must get a high-five from passersby or remove an article of clothing for every high five that they fail to pick up. Joe narrowly survived in his underwear, but Murr wound up naked in public.
Joe is the first to end up naked during Sal's Joker home invasion punishment in "Sweat the Small Things," with Q and Murr following suit as they start pelvic thrusting in the window, much to the horror of Sal's neighbors.
Murr becomes a victim of this trope once again in "Not Safe for Work," where he poses as a nude model.
Nerves of Steel: Joe got this label from the start, as the "shameless" one, but it got the display of a lifetime when he sat on a toilet in a cafe, threw the door open, and yelled for toilet paper for several minutes.
Nice Guy: Sal, who rejects dares more frequently than the others because he clearly wants to be a gentleman.
Nice Hat: It's downright weird to see Q without his flat cap.
No Indoor Voice: Joe does this in one White Castle challenge, provoking the customer to channel a deer in the headlights.
In the Texas special, the last challenge was Murr taking commands with the blinding glasses. He was told to say "You look like you remember The Alamo" to an elderly couple, and Q was so sure that he wouldn't say it that he would take the loss for the whole episode if he did. Murr did, causing him to lose instantly while Murr was in last place. Sal and Joe even called him out for making a needless bet when Murr was going to lose no matter what he did anyway.
In the episode "Tooth and Consequences", the last challenge of the episode was to get a selfie with a stranger. Before it could even get started, Murr had a front tooth fall out. He refused to play the challenge, and the loss caused him to lose the whole episode instantly. The challenge then became Murr's punishment on the spot, where he had to get multiple selfies with a tooth missing.
In "The Alliance", the final challenge was one where the task was selected by lottery, and the players could vote on who would have to do it. Every single time, Q was voted to play. When he learned that the other three conspired to have him do every one (which he succeeded), and when a particularly difficult challenge came up (upzip someone's pants zipper), he cut a deal with them: if he pulls it off, all three of them lose the whole show (it was a three-way tie for last that included Q at that point). He one-ups them by unbuttoning someone's jeans, which allowed Q to put them through his own punishment: a quiz about him on the precipice of a waterfall, where wrong answers put them one step closer to the edge.
Noodle Incident: How did Q's tooth get so jarred? All we know is that it involves a German police officer punching him in the face...
On Tell'Em Steve-Dave, Q said that he was over in Germany during Oktoberfest when he got in a fight. He felt someone grab his shoulder, and thinking it was one of the guy's friends, he punched him. Turns out that person was cop and then Q was relentlessly beaten and taken to jail, then quickly let out because of the ludicrous police brutality.
No Sense of Personal Space: Joe's common trick of "nosing" (touching his nose to someone without them noticing) is a variant, although sometimes they're just challenged to get as close as possible.
Oh, Crap: After losing an episode, Murray gets dressed as a pinata and hit with bats by the other Jokers until candy comes out. Unfortunately for Murr, they decide to bring in a ringer: Joe's brother-in-law, a muscular man who wasn't exactly pleased about Murr groping his wife, Joe's sister, during a raunchy political correctness video on a previous episode. Murray is understandably terrified when they hand him a bat and let him go to town.
Murr had an epic one after being told he has to jump out of a plane.
Only Known by Their Nickname: The only time Q (or Murr, for that matter) is referred to by his legal first name is during challenges.note It's Brian Quinn and James Murray.
Panty Thief: One of Murr's punishments was to go in to a laundromat, steal other people's underwear, and, ultimately, wear it on his head. It did not go unnoticed.
Pizza Boy Special Delivery: Doesn't happen in-show, but is referenced in Sal's past as a delivery boy, having a door answered by a topless woman.
Potty Emergency: Poor Q, having to beg for anti-diarrhea medicine to be poured directly into this mouth.
Precision F-Strike: Countless times, although the "f" words are beeped out, of course. Sal and Murr are probably the worst offenders.
Product Placement: Happens pretty obviously with Kellogg Granola Crunch in one challenge. Happens in season two with Dairy Queen.
In some episodes, the start of a commercial break has a special mini-challenge segment centered around a sponsored product, such as Cheez-It and Fiat. The challenges are otherwise identical to the normal ones, but they're not part of the episode proper.
Running Gag: If there's someone to be called for offscreen, it's Larry. If it's a woman, it's (that bitch) Irene.
Dalton is being mentioned quite frequently now.
Several other running gags, such as Sal and Murr's embarrassing pictures and Joe's "nosing" trick.
Scatting: Joe did this during the Diner challenge and when they referred to it in the Season 1 Clip Show.
Series Continuity Error: When they were trying to talk Murr into jumping out of a plane, despite the fact that he's terrified, Sal reminds him that they made a pact a long time ago that they would never back out of a punishment. How soon we forget the infamous Human Pinata episode when Joe DID back out of a punishment, Sal? Coincidentally Murr took the entire punishment in that as well!
Shout-Out: In the "Dino-mite" challenge, Q and Sal are dressed as John Hammond and Alan Grant from Jurassic Park. Joe and Murr are also both wearing different outfits from the Indiana Jones films.
Something Completely Different: Season 3's punishments are starting to become more outright brutal than humiliating, with Q hooked up to a device that simulates the stages of child labor, and Murr getting nipple piercings to the point of tears.
Special Guest: Q finally meets his long lost twin Rosie O'Donnell when the guys get her to appear during one of his punishments. Rosie, ever the good sport, even dressed like Q for the bit.
Another episode had Q call in N Sync star Joey Fatone to take his place during a challenge at a restaurant. He aced everything the guys threw at him.
Super OCD: Sal, so much. It's finally mentioned in the first episode of Jokers Wild!.
Toilet Humour: Shows up occasionally, but nothing reaches the level of Joe's punishment of opening up a public bathroom door while on the can, and asking for a little help with his paper shortage emergency.
Trailers Always Spoil: Thanks, TruTV, it's not like anyone minds being spoiled on who the loser is by a commercial airing during the episode.
When the preview at the beginning of an episode revealed that the punishment would involve a cage full of cats, it was quite obvious that the loser would be Sal since his fear of cats had been mentioned several times before at that point in the series.
Season 2 part 2 has been the worse so far in this category. They blatantly show who the loser is and what their punishment is right in the preview of at the beginning of the each episode. In the first two seasons they would at least blur out their faces so as not to give it away...but they're not even bothering keeping it a secret anymore.
Particularly egregious in "Not Safe For Work" commercials, where they prominently show Murr acting as a nude model, which is quite obviously the episode's punishment.
Right at the first ep of Season 2 part 3- Enter The Dragons- the entire week showed commercials for the show with Sal and Joe playing drums and guitar during a heavy metal concert...and by the time the episode aired that very scene was blurred when the narrator mentioned tonight's losers. Generally, this means that they've removed the in-episode spoiling, but seriously, unless you haven't seen Tru Tv or paid any attention to the commercials all week, you KNOW who the losers are and what their punishment is!
Transsexual: Sal is tasked with admitting to a woman that he's a woman trapped in a man's body, and in the nightclub challenge Joe asks a woman with fairly prominent cleavage "Male or female?" Her reaction was a pretty good Death Glare.