The merch stand at the Borgata’s Music Box theater in Atlantic City, New Jersey is buzzing. Fans—some of whom drove four hours up the East Coast to get here—are pushing towards the booth, trying to get their hands on T-shirts and hoodies. Despite what the scene resembles, neither Kanye West nor Drake just finished performing. These people are here trying to score swag because of four unlikely celebrities, a comedy quartet from Staten Island, New York better known as the Impractical Jokers. Joe Gatto, James Murray, Sal Vulcano, and Brian Quinn may not be household names, but they’ve turned into truTV’s golden boys thanks to their self-titled hit show. Deep into its fifth season (the finale, and a two-hour live special with Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus, air on Nov. 3 starting at 8 p.m.), Impractical Jokers is the network’s highest rated series. The four men, lifelong friends who also go by the alias “The Tenderloins,” are delivering a throwback kind of humor far removed from comedy’s current penchant for irony. And while the group may never be labeled “cool,” the numbers don’t lie: people are digging the Impractical Jokers.  

For those who haven’t seen the show, the premise is simple: One of the guys is sent out into the streets with an earpiece, while the other three watch from afar and flood their friend’s ear with challenges. While innocent bystanders look on, the victim is forced to do ridiculous, hilarious things; if he chickens out, he’s subjected to even more awkward (and sometimes painful) “punishment” at the end of an episode. In season 3, Murray had to get his nipples pierced. Eleven episodes later, Vulcano had to get a picture of Jaden Smith’s face tattooed on his thigh.

The thing about Impractical Jokers is at first glance, it shouldn’t be your favorite show. There’s no A-list celebrity talent, no good-looking reality TV stars flush with scandals. These four guys, in their dad jeans and nondescript button-ups, definitely aren’t looking to go viral, but their appeal is undeniable. The group’s chemistry and lived-in camaraderie is magnetic; the warm feeling you get watching them mess with each other makes the show that much funnier. As these guys put their friends in impossibly awkward situations, you feel like you’re in the booth watching with them. In a world where high-minded dramas and scripted reality shows are king, the Jokers’ low-brow, on-the-spot humor is a winning formula. And if you were ever skeptical of just how authentic the comedy is, spend any time talking with them in person, and it quickly becomes clear that they make themselves laugh even harder than their viewers are.