After slightly adjusting his black hat with “White Castle” printed on the front, Joe Gatto expertly takes the order from an anxious customer. On the outside, he is an employee of a fast food restaurant, peculiarly incapable of looking directly at the customer’s face. Behind-the-scenes, he is a professional comedian playing out a deliberate scripted prank on clueless customers, while filming a hidden-camera TV show “Impractical Jokers.” Looking into the camera is the man who spun his life from working for a financial consulting firm to being a noteworthy part of the entertainment industry. “After I made my first short film, I just didn’t see myself in the corporate world anymore,” said Gatto.
Initially studying to be an accountant and spending years working in the business world, Gatto chose to work in the entertainment industry and is only now getting his first taste of a new lifestyle as a successful comedian in front of the camera. Currently his days are packed with promotional events filled with fans desperate for attention and a chance to impress, taxi ads, trailers, YouTube previews, subway ads and other public advertisements for the TV show, dressing rooms with spas and open bars, Lexus cars and Beamers sent out to drive the four stars of the show around town. All of this seems surreal to Gatto, who, it seems only yesterday, was packing his bags to move to Los Angeles to chase his dream of becoming a screenwriter.
His laugh and bold sense of humor fill the room with exuberance. Listening to Gatto’s hysterical anecdotes, it’s almost impossible to imagine him involved in any other industry other than entertainment. Having gone to Long Island University C.W. Post Campus majoring in accounting, this comedian has in fact once held a position at Accenture Consulting, a prestigious consulting firm in New York. Consequently, having gone through volunteering in the film industry, personally creating and editing short films, traveling across America to pursue a screenwriter’s dream and eventually starring on a comedy show premiering on TruTV in December. The only remaining link connecting Gatto to the corporate world is his current residence in the Financial District.
Cameras capturing four best friends daring each other to do the most shocking pranks in an array of settings is the main idea behind “Impractical Jokers”: a TV show catapulting Gatto into the heart of the entertainment industry.
Straight out of college, Gatto and his friends formed an Improv group called the Tenderloins, which became inactive for several years until Gatto’s return from L.A. “The Tenderloins picked up again and we started doing more shows at comedy clubs in New York. And then the Internet happened. And viral videos happened. And we started doing a viral video contest called ‘It’s Your Show’, which was run by NBC,” said Gatto. Winning contest after contest, the four friends got noticed by production companies and acquired an agent.
The idea of creating a show portraying their vibrant dynamic was only a natural next step to take. “So we made a sales tape about some pranks, which was basically our pitch for the show. In the end, MTV wanted it and TruTV wanted it. We decided to go with Tru,” said Gatto, casually shrugging his shoulders.
“If I could use one word to describe Joe, it would probably be ‘genuine’,” said James Murray, Gatto’s best friend and costar on Impractical Jokers. Gatto doesn’t claim to be an actor. He doesn’t pretend to be one. He doesn’t memorize scripts. Nor does he forcefully repeat lines into the camera. “The thing that works for me in our show is that I’m just trying to make my friends laugh. I just do what I do,” Gatto said with a humble smile on his face.
Nonetheless, a celebrity in the making, Gatto’s education never reflected his dreams. “To be honest, the only reason why I even got an accounting degree is because my father said every company needs an accountant and you can work anywhere and I was also really good with math,” confessed Gatto. His first job for Accenture Consulting relocated him to Philadelphia, where he immediately got a full taste of an energetic fast-paced corporate lifestyle, which seemed to satisfy him at the time.
After the 9/11 attacks, Accenture gave Gatto several months off to allow him to pursue different career paths. During this time, he created ‘Penny’, a short comedic film consisting of an inner monologue of what girls and guys think when they’re dating. The short film shifted his ambitions from succeeding in financial consulting to succeeding in the film industry.
Investing a tremendous amount of time and energy into networking in this industry through his volunteer position at IFC, Gatto soon decided to pack his bags for Los Angeles, where he would go after fulfilling the promise he made to his mother: to spend three years trying to make a name for himself as a screenwriter and come back if nothing worked out. “Overall, my family was slightly skeptical, but none the less extremely supportive,” said Gatto sitting in front of an impressive collage of family photographs on the wall in his apartment.
The photographs fully captured a pleasant friendly dynamic between the members of Gatto’s large Italian family. He’s the youngest of three children; he has two older sisters, Gina and Carla, whom he maintains ‘best friend’ relationships with. “I’m also the youngest of 15 cousins in my generation. And then there’s 20 first cousins once removed under me. I’m the youngest older cousin and the oldest younger cousin,” said Gatto.
Taking on the role of an “older brother” adds yet another one to the many hats Gatto already wears. “At this point, I’m aiming to put out a quality product that makes people laugh. I want to make sure that the show stays true to the one thing that I’ve always been trying to do, which is to make people forget about life and laugh a little,” he said. With less and less time left until the premiere of “Impractical Jokers” and more and more positive reviews appearing on blogs and websites, Gatto is on a fast-track to stardom. And to think that his childhood dream was to simply become an architect.