Impractical Jokers star recalls gag involving ex-Mets pitcher, and an upset mom

The co-star of the long-running show “Impractical Jokers,” James ‘Murr’ Murray, was the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s Toyota/SaveMart 350 and belted out a hearty, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” before the NASCAR Cup Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

“I heard somebody the other day say you won’t believe it when you get there, the absolute energy in the air, and gosh, I feel it,” Murray said before the race. “Walking out there among the fans and in the stands, it’s absolutely electric. You can feel the energy in the air.”

It was all business for the drivers on Sunday. But for his own line of work, Murray doled out some advice for when jokes go horribly wrong.

“You hope that security is not too far away,” Murray said.

Murray, co-stars Brian “Q” Quinn and Sal Vulcano, and comedy partner Joe Gatto had one such gag involving former MLB pitcher Noah Syndergaard when he was with the New York Mets. As customary for some MLB players, Syndergaard usually signed baseballs and tossed them to kids in the crowd before games.

This time, Syndergaard was signing baseballs, “but he was working with us, so he was only throwing the baseballs to (Gatto) in the show, and so the parents were getting furious. And then at one point we told Joe to pick up a baby and say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ll get the ball.’ Noah throws the ball to him and hands the baby back to the mother and keeps the baseball, and she lost her mind,” Murray said.

“It was great fun for me because I wasn’t the one getting punished. So, I did nothing but laugh. I was safe in the back.”

The next season of Impractical Jokers premiers on July 11 on TBS.

“I think you learn how far you can push people and we always try to stay on the right side of likability. So that’s part of it,” Murray said. “Look at me. I don’t look like a tough guy. To quote Colin Jost, I have a very punchable face.

“It helps that we really don’t look famous. I look like a pharmacist. People see me, and they say, ‘that guy looks familiar, are my taxes due.’ So we get away with a lot more than a typical tough guy might.”

Murray spoke with some drivers before Sunday’s race, including Todd Gilliland and Corey LaJoie. Asked what driver he would ‘punish’ — a feature of the show — Murray said Ross Chastain, who used a now notorious move in the final lap of the 2022 Xfinity 500 at Martinsville.

Chastain hit the gas on the final lap and deliberately smashed his car into the wall, using the energy to speed past his rivals.

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The move helped Chastain move past several other drivers and advanced him into NASCAR’s title-deciding final race on the final of the four spots. Fans loved it, but Chastain’s competitors felt it was dangerous and not in the spirit of fair competition. The move is now considered a penalty.

“I would steal his move,” Murray said of Chastain. “You know when he wrote along the wall. I would steal that move and make him watch as I did it better. Even though you can’t do much better than he did it. That was awesome.”

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