Impractical Jokers is a reality TV show wherein four born-and-bred New Yorkers, with all of their brashness and neuroses, challenge each other to potentially humiliating tasks. Every episode is a slow build to an ultimate humiliation focused on one or more of the quartet, and unlike most “prank” shows, none of their actions ever harm another human being. Their only targets are each other, and it’s all done out of deep love and affection for one another. Often, should a challenge even possibly insult another person, they make the choice to fail. It’s probably the most authentic thing on TV. And let’s face it, most people need a little bit of TV just to get through the week without killing themselves. Let this be the small way you stave off your deathwish.
The wonderful, insular world that formed around Impractical Jokers is unlikely, honest, and unexpectedly deep. It’s replete with ridiculous catch phrases, years of running in-jokes that spawn from moments of unscripted spontaneity, and it usually showcases the best of humanity in and around New York City. So, how (and why) does a half-hour reality TV show about self-humiliation get its own tour, cruise, embarrassingly lusty female Facebook fans, and action figures? And with this level of fame, how can they still go into public with semi-anonymity and continue to film their show?
Jokers fans are nothing if not obsessively dedicated. Full disclosure: as a pretty dedicated fan myself, I once went to the Palisades Mall (where they often film) in the hopes of running into them. They weren’t there, but Inside Jokes was filming that day, and my girlfriend and I ended up in a quiz segment on the show with host Casey Jost. We got all but one right. And it was pretty much the best birthday I’ve ever had.
So, when EMCE Toys came out with a set of 4.5″ action figures of Q, Murr, Joe, and Sal, I had to hunt them down. And later, when 7″ dolls of the guys were made under the recently-reborn Mego brand, I once again had no choice but to find a set. In my world, action figures are how you demonstrate your appreciation for something, and like many people who watch the show, watching Impractical Jokers helped me through some difficult times.
The thing about Jokers is that even a terrible action figure wouldn’t be totally out of line with the spirit of the show; in many challenges, they create terrible products that someone else has to successfully market to a test group, or suffer the consequences. Flip-flops strapped to bricks, tires with baby doll parts glued to them, and video games about dragons who also happen to be Nazi sympathizers are just a few. So, an off-brand action figure of Joe Gatto dressed as a chunky superhero? Off-brand is almost definitely on-brand in the world of Jokers. It’s very, very hard to go wrong. So… how do these 4.5″ figures go wrong?
EMCE Toys, a brand owned by Fourth Castle, produced the Spencer’s exclusive set of four 4.5″ scaled action figures in 2017, and the suggested retail price for each is $20, with Q being an exception at $25 due to his “deluxe” wheelchair accessory. Most figures at this scale retail for $10, but given that these are more niche than your average Stormtrooper, it’s understandable that they might cost a little more. (I bought them on sale.) Ultimately, this is not an $85 collection of figures by any stretch, and for that reason, at the time of this writing, every figure but Joe is still available to purchase from Spencer’s.
If you approach these as if the Jokers were trying to sell the idea of terrible action figures at a doomed focus group, these are gold. Legs that bend the wrong way, bizarre likenesses, cheap rubber parts that are destined to disintegrate… it’s all there in a mash of show references that are more or less satisfying to fans of the show, but deeply dissatisfying to fans of action figures.
Murr’s mostly-nude figure, Ferret Boy, is wonderfully weird. Specific to Season 4, episode 6, “The Blunder Years”, Murr’s punishment was being subjected to a surprise interview with Danica McKellar, his childhood crush… even though he thought he was walking into a bodybuilding competition that he was also ill-equipped for. EMCE gets a ton of bonus points for making this figure look appropriately oily, and giving Murr his signature pronounced nipples. But they also lose some points here; because the figure is so cheaply made, one of Murr’s forearms is cast in a completely different plastic, making it lighter than the rest of his body for no reason. The final detail, EMCE actually reveals a continuity blunder that the show never explained; Murr’s ‘crydiving ferret’ tattoo happen until episode 16, though it’s definitely there in episode 6.
His accessory is a ferret strapped to a huge parachute. But be warned; the parachute leeched its colors into the packaging, and it’ll do the same to any other toy you store it next to.
Joe Gatto’s figure, aka Captain Fatbelly, is drawn from Season 4, episode 16 (appropriately titled “Captain Fatbelly”) – a punishment in which Joe had to ride on top of a tram headed for Staten Island. While Joe’s expression is excellent, the figure’s head has sloppy, thick paint. The hip joints don’t turn more than a couple of degrees, and the red, rubber cape is a kind of material that will eventually dry and crack. Points again to EMCE, though, for giving each figure a unique body, which isn’t cheap. No repeated parts across the series means that Joe has an appropriately portly form.
His accessory is a box of Scoopski Potatoes, referencing Season 2, episode 22. It’s just a plastic square with stickers on it, but there it is.
Sal is depicted as the Bog Monster from Season 4, episode 22 – “The Big Uneasy”. It’s hard to choose a favorite Sal punishment, as he handles them all so poorly, but Bog Monster is a pretty solid choice, and appropriate when you consider that this line of action figures is also supposed to depict some kind of superhero team. It’s uncertain whether this superhero thing was a conceptual choice by TruTV, EMCE, or the guys themselves, but Bog Monster fits in well enough. Sal has a removable “helmet”, but it was sculpted too large, as there’s a piece of foam wrapped around the inside to keep it in place, and yes, that foam will eventually disintegrate too. There’s a little bit of creative license here as well, since Sal’s face was also painted green during the whole challenge, and his arms were uncovered… but as far as “these are like crappy 70s Star Wars action figures that were made without seeing the film” go, it’s all fine.
He comes with a plastic square with a bingo sticker on it. Season 3, episode 29, if you want to see the challenge.
Finally, we have Q, dressed as he appeared in Season 3, Episode 22, “Everything’s Just Rosie”, when he introduces, as a surprise to himself, a “clone” of himself played by Rosie O’Donnell. Everything about this is a bit of a mess, but maybe only a purist would notice. The entire point of that specific punishment was to reinforce to Q that he, at the time, looked like Rosie O’Donnell; but this Q has the facial hair that he grew in later seasons. His labcoat is another piece of thin, delicate rubber, but it’s not removable; his arms are painted white, though his shirt is red. Add to this the wheelchair that’s used in multiple challenges by all the guys, which bumps this up in price by another $5… except the wheelchair also is terribly inaccurate. Still, it’s the overall impression of these that counts, and they’re recognizable as what they’re supposed to be, if not totally accurate.
So no, this probably isn’t a case where you’d want your Luke Skywalker to have a screen-accurate lightsaber for his tiny plastic hands, but there’s also a case to be made for where easy details have been missed… including where the company spelled their own town’s name wrong on the packaging. Seriously. It’s a fine line between ‘designer’ and ‘dollar store’.
Figures that are an amalgamation of different episodes, and of the real people and the characters that they play for challenges, are fair enough. And I’m still left hoping for more 4,5″ figures of these guys in different personas; Prison Sal, Joe in drag, Centaur Murr, Firefighter Q. But you can’t help but look at a Bog Monster with a happy, pink face and not notice that something is a little off. It’s not enough to be terrible… but it’s also not enough to keep these at the $20 asking price. This is an action figure collector talking, but these are made for fans of the show. And for them, they’re perfect.
But the ultimate question is why you would bring these into your home. The Jokers are a force of positive energy, and it’s hard to not have a favorite. A disproportionate amount of people found the show during a time when their lives weren’t the best; it’s hard to miss it when TruTV shows it almost 24 hours a day. This is four real people who have given others a great deal of comfort by being themselves, which isn’t something that can be said about a lot of action figures. Toys depicting real, living people as themselves are a bit of a rarity, unless you’re talking sports stars or the occasional well-known movie creator. And you know I have action figures of Stan Lee, Peter Jackson, and Jim Henson.
Fans of Impractical Jokers and/or good people, these are for you. Toy collectors, you should leave these in the package.
C. David is a writer and artist living in the Hudson Valley, NY. He loves pinball, Wazmo Nariz, Rem Lezar, MODOK, pogs, Ultra Monsters, 80s horror, and is secretly very enthusiastic about everything else not listed here.