You all know Joe Gatto from the hilarious show called Impractical Jokers on truTV that he does with his closest and best friends. Now in watching the show, you might not have known that Joe is actually against bullying and a big advocate for the cause.
I decided to reach out to Joe after I saw that he appeared at New York City Comic Con on a panel discussing the serious epidemic we face with bullying and hate. He was more than happy to chat and provide his insight on the topic.
It was a pleasure for us to do this interview and get Joe’s perspective and feelings on the matter. I think you will all very much agree with what he has to say.
Q&A with Joe Gatto
Dana Jacoviello: I would like to start of thanking you for taking the time out of your schedule to do an interview with Bullies Keep Out and supporting the cause. I saw that you recently attended New York City Comic Con and were involved in a bullying panel. What did the panel entail as far as areas you touched based on in relation to bullying? Was the response positive?
Joe Gatto: Those panels are always great. The attendance was amazing and the room was filled with strangers with a common enemy — bullying. We touched on how to deal with it day to day as it happens and years later after being scarred by the experience. The panel put together by @SuperHeroIRL is always stellar, and I am honored to be part of it. The feedback was great, both in person at the convention and the days following on social media.
DJ: Panels can get pretty intense at comic cons. I like to incorporate humor into my chats, speaking engagements, or podcasts. I think it is important to make the audience laugh. I am sure being in your line of work you did so as well? Also, if there was a Q&A, what type of questions did you receive?
JG: Yes, I always do. Life is funny, even if it is super messed up. There can be humor found in anything, and I like to always remind people that laughter still exists, even if your current situation is void of humor. At the panel, we had a kid say that he thinks of killing himself often and doesn’t know what to do. The environment that room created made that child strong enough to cry for help and support, and he got it right there. It is important work.
DJ: What inspires you to be a voice against bullying and hate?
JG: It’s two-fold. Growing up I was bullied and a loner with not that many true friends. So I can relate on a personal level. The other side of it is with my little bit of fame, people have reached out to me and shared their experiences about how I made them laugh through the worst of times. So I felt like it was important to let people know my personal journey to where I am right now in my life, and my message is simple. I am proof that it does get better.
DJ: Sometimes people are surprised to learn that comedians can be advocates for bullying. Some say they can step over the lines at times and use their profession as an excuse. Have you ever encountered this being a jokester/prankster or any form of bullying in personal life as well?
JG: The rule is simple. If both people are laughing and having a good time, it’s not bullying. Attacking someone with wit or speed because your brain just works that way is not comedy in my opinion. Sure, I ride that line all the time. Even more so because I am aware of bullying, and it is very much in front of my mind.
DJ: People can be cruel and judgmental on social media. Have you ever received any type of negative feedback like that on Twitter or Facebook? If so, how do you deal with it or how would you if you came across it?
JG: Plenty. Most of the time I let the words of those cowards roll off my back. Everyone has opinions, and even if they express them in hateful ways, I really don’t care. But I do not hesitate to step in when I see a fan get harassed. I also have a responsibility there, because if something upsets me and I say something, a big percentage of my 500K followers will chime in, and it just results in the original bully getting bullied. So I try not to address it at all.
DJ: Some feel that it isn’t a public figures responsibility to know one’s mental state on social media when answering fans or giving them advice or that they need to walk on eggshells, and then some feel it is up to them to respond and be aware. Do you ever hold back or worry that you might say the wrong thing? Do you feel that celebrities do have a responsibility on Social Media when interacting with their fans in this manner?
JG: Fans are the reason I have a job. So I am thankful for all of them, even the ones that say something stupid. I am a comedian, people know that, or at least I give them the benefit of the doubt that they are smart enough to see when I am joking. I think celebrities responsibility is to speak their mind, whatever they see fit, but just remember that what they say will be out there for the world to see forever. And if judged on it, stand up for what you said. There has been times I deleted a draft of a tweet because I thought it might be taken the wrong way. There is also times I’ve tweeted something because it made me laugh, and I hoped the majority of the folks out there would see the humor in it too.
DJ: There is always a great deal of talk about social media not having the manpower to address many cyber-bullying situations and offline schools do not take it seriously enough. Some schools employ programs & such, but several do not. There are so many of us out there fighting the fight & making a difference, but there is still so much work to be done. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in ages 15-24. What is it that you think could be done better that isn’t being done or ideas you might have that could be integrated into what is being done by organizations already?
JG: I think support is a big thing. A lot of these kids feel “alone.” That makes me sad, because the truth is at their funerals after they kill themselves, there is not an empty room. It is a room full of people hurting and wishing they could have helped. So I think giving these kids the tools they need to realize who these people are or reach out for help could be improved on. As far as cyber-bullying, I think flagging and removing videos or pictures that harass or bully these kids is extremely important. The victims in these videos have a reminder at the push of the button, and the mortification of these events are amplified through the power of the web. That needs to be enforced everywhere, by every parent and teacher.
DJ: What would be some words of advice you say out there to those dealing with bullying and other hate issues for kids, teens, and adults?
JG: I promise there is someone in your life that wants to help you. You just need to find them, and don’t be afraid of being alone. Sometimes you need to clear the roster of people in your life so you can get some new people in there that will end up being your family.
Interview by Founder Dana Jacoviello
You can follow Joe Gatto on Twitter at: @Joe_Gatto and his show @truTVJokers.
Make sure to watch Impractical Jokers truTV Thursdays at 10 pm. You can also visit their Facebook page: HERE