‘Impractical Joker’ Sal Vulcano Has Always Been the Class Clown

Was he pranking us with his love for ‘The Jeffersons’?
‘Impractical Joker’ Sal Vulcano Has Always Been the Class Clown

Sal Vulcano, the stand-up comedian who many fans know from his long-running prank show Impractical Jokers, is scared. Or at least, that’s what his jokes tell us. “A lot of my material is fear-based stuff, stories from my adult life and childhood,” he explains. Hence the name of his new comedy special, Terrified.

As Terrified cracks one million views on YouTube, Vulcano is back on his solo tour doing the comedy he loves. He recently talked to Cracked about his sitcom influences, the pros and cons of the comedy boom and the epic pranks he pulled as a seven-year-old. 

“I was like the class clown guy. That’s what I was, I was voted Class Clown.” 

“When I was young, my favorite show was The Jeffersons. I used to watch it with my grandparents, and I loved it so much. I used to memorize it. I remember in the third grade, the teacher would let me get up in front of everybody and do little scenes from The Jeffersons. I was obsessed. I used to write lines in a notebook so I could remember them.”

“In my special, I actually thanked Sherman Hemsley. He’s George Jefferson. He’s one of the few people I wish I would have met. He was such a larger-than-life character. Back then when they filmed in front of a live audience, it wasn’t canned laughs. Sitcoms when I was younger, it almost felt like you were watching plays. My whole family would howl laughing.”

It’s a wild thing to think about, but I’ve only had four jobs my whole life. I started working at 14 at a deli near my house. At 19, I went to college and delivered pizza. Then out of college, I got a finance degree. I worked at Prudential Securities in Manhattan for about four years. Then I wanted to do comedy, so I needed a job with a flexible schedule and I started bartending. 

“I ended up buying a bar until the end of that run and right around that time, I got Impractical Jokers. So outside of being a comedian, I’ve had four jobs.”

“If anything, I got (comedy) from my dad’s dad, my grandpa Eddie. He led every conversation off with a joke. Every time. A waiter or a person at the register at the supermarket. He was always trying to get a laugh, it was the way he ingratiated himself with people. I picked up on that and ran with it.” 

“I wasn’t really a prank guy, you know? I did improv and sketch, and then I was doing stand-up and acting. Everyone asks, ‘You guys, you met when you were 13, and you guys were probably the pranksters.’ But really, this was just an idea for a show.”

“There’s one thing when I was pretty young. I got my mom for an entire summer. Do you remember how the kitchen sink used to have that spray nozzle that you could pull up? I used to tape that down with Scotch tape so that when my mom would turn on the sink, it would just shoot and spray her. The hack is to not use a rubber band, which is visual. You want Scotch tape, completely transparent. You’d be surprised how many times she completely forgot that I was going to do that.”

“Comedy is more mainstream than ever. It’s having a renaissance, a boom, whatever you want to call it. There are more comedians than ever. There are more people trying to be comics, there are more theater comedians, there are more arena acts than ever, more specials than ever.” 

“Back in the day, if you got a special, there were only a handful a year. Now, more comics can showcase themselves. You can put your stuff out there, let it find an audience and let the jokes work for you as opposed to waiting for some gatekeeper to pass you through, which is kind of amazing.” 

“The one thing as the landscape became this big, though, is that it ironically became more flooded and things have saturated. Even the streamers, they’ll put out like 50 specials, 100 specials a year combined with YouTube and this and that.”

“As a comedy fan, it’s glorious. When I was young, when I used to say, ‘I want to be a comic,’ you really were in the minority. That was some kind of foreign thing. Everyone I know knows a comedian now, which is wild.” 

“It’s just different entering comedy in this day and age. It’s a fully different experience. It’s good for old comics as well because you have to adapt and adjust. With comedy, you have to stay hungry. You have to stay motivated. You have to evolve. You only thrive off of competition. The fact that there’s this much going on, it’s a great motivator.”

“Comics are like musicians right now. They’re filling the same type of venues as musicians. They’re as popular as musicians or actors. Finally, comedians are getting the same type of respect.”


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