You might know him as a joker on television, but James Murray is a lot more than that. He’s also a newlywed, and an author, among other things. He’s teamed up with Darren Wearmouth a fifth time to release The Stowaway, which launches later this month. You can get tickets to the virtual launch (and a signed copy of the book) at Eventbrite.
We had a chance to talk to “Murr” about the new book and some other projects he has in the works. This is the fourth time we’ve interviewed Murr, so if you’d like to read those interviews to learn more about his earlier books, you can find those interviews HERE, HERE, and HERE.
Scott (GNN): So, since this is our fourth interview, we’ve covered all the basics, so let’s get to the reason we’re talking. And that is your new book The Stowaway. This is your fifth book with Darren [Wearmouth], correct?
James Murray (JM): This is my fifth book. I left the book at home, but I brought (shows picture of the cover on laptop) …there’s the cover art for The Stowaway. (Laughs)
GNN: The Stowaway. Very nice. So, tell us about it.
JM: The Stowaway is our first mystery, so it’s not horror, it’s not sci-fi, it’s a pure mystery that’s kind of like a, “who done did it,” page-turning novel. It will keep you guessing through the very end who the killer actually is. I think it’s my favorite one of all of them because the category is so broad.
It follows a woman named Maria Fontana. She’s one of the jurors on a serial killer case and it’s this guy that’s named Wyatt Butler who’s been accused of ritualistically murdering a number of children across several states and she can’t bring herself to find him guilty. He goes free. It’s a hung jury.
Fast-forward two years later, she’s on a transatlantic cruise three days in any direction from land, halfway across the Atlantic. She’s on the cruise with her two twin children and her fiancé and halfway across the Atlantic, she starts to notice the killer’s MO from the case two years earlier. Little details that only she knows from the case from two years prior and she starts to wonder whether or somebody’s messing with her? Whether history’s going to repeat itself? Is the killer on board? Did she make a mistake or is this a copycat or someone who knows her intimately well that’s messing with her? And sure enough, halfway across the Atlantic, people start disappearing onboard and the overwhelmed security force on the ship is not equipped to handle a serial killer that’s meticulous and calculating and only she can stop the murderer and solve the case before it’s too late before more people start dying on the cruise ship.
It’s a great, broad mystery. You’re going to love it. Broad category kind of story meant for people of all ages and races and ethnicities and so and so forth.
GNN: Not to kiss ass, but this is definitely the one I’m looking forward to the most. I’m a big fan of Michael Connolly and suspense and thriller novels, and this seems to go along with that kind of book, so I’m stoked. I have to get online and sign up for the online book launch. That’s September 21, correct?
JM: Yes, we’re doing a book launch. It’s a cool combination. So, we’re doing our online book launch. You go to, I think Eventbrite to get tickets for it. You get an autographed copy of the book, get to come to the book launch on Zoom, and there’ll be celebrities there, other guests, and all sorts of fun.
But then I’m also in-person book signings, too. Finally, in-person book signings have come back. So that entire first week of on-sale, I’ll be appearing at bookstores around the New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia area signing books, meeting fans, reading chapters from the book, all that kind of fun stuff that we used to do that we finally can do again. And for those, you can go to MeetMurr.com and it has a list of all my live book signings.
GNN: On MeetMurr.com, can they also find your appearances, like your recent performance in Naples? That kind of stuff?
JM: Yes, it’s all on MeetMurr.com and it all redirects to my site that it’ll give you my live shows as well. I think we have a show coming up…oh, gosh. This weekend, I’m in Iowa. I’m in Cedar Rapids, then Des Moines, then Dubuque, then the quad cities this weekend. Then in two weeks, I’m in Salt Lake City at Comicon. Then in four weeks, I’m in Huntsville, Alabama performing live and so and so forth. And then I’ll be at Rhode Island Comicon. And then the guys are back on tour in November for the Scoopski Potatoes Tour. (Laughs)
GNN: Yeah, I’ll be attending your Jacksonville show in February. It’s been moved a time a two, but I’m looking forward to it. Now, speaking of tours, and your book…you like to include references in your books for fans. Is this an Impractical Jokers Tour boat cruise she’s going on?
JM: You know, it’s inspired by the Impractical Jokers cruise, but I’m not saying it is the Jokers’ Cruise. The Jokers Cruise does not go across the Atlantic, of course. It’s in the Caribbean with nice weather! (Laugh). But there might be inspiration from the Jokers’ cruise. I think I was on the cruise last year and it struck me that when you’re in the middle of the ocean on a cruise ship and it’s nice and there’s no full moon, it is terrifying. You know what I mean?
GNN: Yeah, 100%. We live in Florida, and we take cruises all the time…before the pandemic. I mean, you’d be silly not to. It’s an hour for us to drive and get on a boat. And, yeah, at nighttime, you can’t even tell where the ocean ends and the sky begins on a dark night.
JM: You really feel how tiny you are and the vastness of the ocean. And the thing that always struck me is how easy it is to fall overboard and you’re just gone. They’ll never find you in the Atlantic. They’ll never find you. And by the time they stop the ship, launch a search party, you’re long gone, right?
So, that kind of existential fear always struck me on the Jokers Cruise or on any cruise, for that matter, as just being something that I think is a universal feeling people are terrified of…the darkness of the abyss, if you will, how tiny and insignificant you feel compared to the vastness of the ocean and the strength of the ocean. And I think that’s a perfect, perfect existential fear setting for a horror mystery.
GNN: Oh, 100%. It’s funny you say that. On one cruise my wife and I had, a guy fell overboard. They were calling him all day, and finally the next morning we had a paper under our door that said the guy was seen on a security camera at like 2:30 and he went to a spot with no cameras, and he never came back on a camera. So, it’s a thing. It’s a thing that happens, and you’re right, it seems terrifying.
JM: Yeah. It is a thing, and it happens more often than you think. And one of my favorite scenes from the book…and we’ve talked about this before…I think a good book has great “movie moments” in it. These are moments that stick with you that you will not be able to forget, that you think about long after you’re done with the book.
One of our movie moments in this book is a really terrifying scene where this child…he’s 10, 11, 12 years old. It’s 11:00 at night. And you think you’re safe on a cruise ship. And he’s out there playing basketball on the court by himself. And this stranger comes up to him and befriends him and then picks the kid up and just tosses him overboard and as parents…it’s one of those scenes that’s very, very, very simple. But the consequences are dramatic. And they stop the ship. It’s just one of those scenes that you won’t stop thinking about long after you’re done with the book.
Next time you go on a cruise, you’re going to be thinking about that scene and how terrifying it is.
GNN: 100%. I’m totally stoked to get that book and give it a look. So, we mentioned that this is your fifth book with Darren. So now you basically have three marriages: you’re married to The Jokers, you’re married to Melyssa, and now you’re married to Darren.
JM: Basically, basically. Yeah, you’re exactly right. (Laughs) I also have three more books coming out next year. They’re children’s books and they’re not with Darren…
GNN: Really? Are you working with anyone else or is it just you?
JM: My employee Carsen Smith who just got a job as a writer on The Daily Show.
GNN: Oh, wow.
JM: She and I sold three books…children’s books…called Area 51 Interns. The first one comes out next March. The idea is there’s a bunch of kids in Nevada, the summer between their 8th grade and freshman year of high school. Their parents just happen to work at Area 51, invite them to bring their kids to the workday. And of course, the day they go to Area 51, everything goes haywire. And it’s up to the kids to save the day. And of course, they do. And then, the parents invite them to have a summer internship at Area 51, which is in each subsequent book, something crazy. You have everything from faster-than-light travel and a journey to the center of the earth, prehistoric creatures. You’ve got aliens. You’ve got the Chupacabra. You have every kind of fictional great thing you think happens in Area 51 happens in these books. It’s comedy, sci-fi, fun adventure for children.
GNN: That is awesome. All right. So yeah, that’s good. And again, we’ve talked about it. So, marriages can go one of…well, a million ways. The marriage with Darren still on the upswing? Everything still good with him?
JM: On the upswing. He and I are coming out this fall with another book. We’re going to write together another serial killer book that you’ll love. It’s got a twist ending you’ll never see coming.
GNN: Excellent. And for those who don’t know and haven’t read any of the other interviews, we’ve been talking about Darren Wearmouth, who is your writing partner on these books. Folks can go look him up on the interwebs.
In addition to all your books, I guess you’re still working on Impractical Jokers. Nine seasons now, right?
JM: Yeah. We go back to work tomorrow! (Laughs) We’re in the office writing all of the new challenges for the new episodes. We have to finish shooting season nine this fall. And then, we roll right into shooting season 10 in January only with a break for Christmas and performing. And we go right into shooting the season 10 with no breaks. So, we’re back at it starting tomorrow through June of next year, so…
GNN: In past interviews, you keep modestly rebuffing me when I ask, “When are you guys going to take over the world?” You always say, “Not everyone knows the practical jokers.”
GNN: You have to stop with that! You’re writing books, performing all over the country, and I saw you on some bar revamp show…
JM: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Well, of course, we also do Misery Index. And we just sold an animated show about our childhood that you’ll hear about soon. And now we have our development company. I love the offices in Manhattan now. We are cranking our new TV show.
GNN: You know, in all our interviews, I’ve never asked how the four of you got together. I know you met in high school, but how did you actually become friends?
JM: I met them on the first day of high school. I think we all met probably at the same moment. It was either religion class in our freshman year of high school, or it might have been in the cafeteria. But we met, became friends, and then we all did improv together, so we bonded in that in high school.
Then we went to different colleges, but then we were all…after college, we were all commuters in the city. And I was on the ferry one day and ran into Sal and I said, “Oh, my gosh. We should do comedy together again. We loved doing it in high school.” And then we called our friends, and we started rehearsing, and that formed the Tenderloins.
GNN: Was there ever a fifth Joker that got booted out for being an ass bag? Or is this the original lineup?
JM: Nobody was ever booted out! (Laughs) The original troupe was the four of us. It was Sal, Joe, me, and our dear friend, Mike Boccio, who’s still our dear friend. He was the original member of the troupe for many years. Then we had another member, a fifth member, that joined for a few years. And then eventually, our friend Gideon left, and Mike left to have a very good career on his own doing what he loves, and has a lovely wife and child now, who’s adorable. And she’s been on Jokers as well. And right around that time, Q was always guest performing with us. But around that time, Q came on as a full-time member, and then we just had a…everything kind of went on the upswing after that.
So, nobody was ever booted out. It was always their free will, and with nothing but love and respect, you know?
GNN: You never had a Shemp in the group?
JM: There was no Shemp in the group. I think I’m the Shemp of the group! (Laughs) But, contractually, they can’t get rid of us, so they’re screwed!
GNN: Nice. All right. And people can read about you. They can go a few different places online, right? Like, there’s a Tenderloins website they can read about The Impractical Jokers, correct?
JM: Yes, they can go there and see all of our tour dates. And that’s easy to find.
GNN: I know we’ve covered that before, but I have to put these in the interview for the sake of people who are too lazy to read the other interviews, which drives me insane, but what are you going to do? So, let’s see. You’ve got the Scoopski Potatoes Tour; you’ve got the book, which is launching on September 21; you still have the show; you’ve got the Dinner Party show…actually, is Dinner Party still going to be a thing?
JM: I don’t know. Season one ended with a cliffhanger. I think Dinner Party was a perfect moment in time. Right? It was because everyone was stuck at home. We were, too. The network just shipped us equipment to our homes, and we had to learn. I mean, Joe and I are pretty savvy when it comes to this stuff, but I literally had to teach Sal and Q how to set up all these things and mics and lights and everything. And we recorded on our own, you know?
JM: And we did the whole thing remotely. So, I think it was a perfect moment in time. I love the series. Whether we come back for season two, I don’t know. We’ll see. Right now, between Jokers and Misery Index, and the tour, and the other shows we’re creating, I don’t know. I would love for it to come back, you know?
We’d have to change the show fundamentally because I think we would want to do it in person, but doing it remotely gave us the ability to have mega-stars that we never would be able to get on Jokers. Right? Because of schedule and geography, what have you? So, we had Jeff Daniels on the show.
GNN: Oh, dude. Ed Harris was bonkers.
JM: Ed Harris was epic. And he just dialed in on Zoom, so it works really well. I think it was a very magical moment in time that if we go again, another season, we would have to kind of re-envision what the show is to make it continue to push the boundaries of what it is, what we already achieved, and what we would want it to be in the future.
GNN: That makes sense. I also just remembered that you’re streaming. The Jokers are streaming on…where can they get old episodes?
JM: HBO Max. I think they have every season. HBO Max is part of the Warner family, so soon to be Discovery family, too, so.
GNN: Well, Murr, thank you for the time. I got you out just in time. Good luck with the book launch!
JM: I appreciate it.
GNN: All right, brother. Have a good one.
JM: All right. Take care, buddy.