The Misery Index is a game on TBS hosted by Jameela Jamil, starring The Tenderloins, better known as the Impractical Jokers (Joe Gatto, Brian Quinn, James Murray, Sal Vulcano). You can read more about the format and style of the game on its Wikipedia page. They bring humor to the game to augment the humor of the subject matter; “miserable” events depicted in news, text, or video.
Each miserable incident is scored by a team of psychologists based on the “three pillars of misery” which are “physical pain, emotional trauma, and long-term psychological impact“. That boils it down to a numeric score between 0 and 100. After watching a few episodes I was curious how they compared… so I made a spreadsheet. Big surprise there, I know. The more I watched, the more metadata I started tracking ultimately having to re-watch some past episodes to pick out data I hadn’t originally collected. In doing so it brought fun rewards quickly.
For example, in S02E09, contesting Katherine says that Sal helped win the most money during first season (10 episodes) and Brian ‘Q’ Quinn came in second. In reality, Sal helped win $64,000 while Q helped bring in $71,000. Either way, sound choice as they bring in the most by a good margin over the other two Jokers up to that point. Even better that she watched the first 10 episodes with that data point in mind. But… how about getting to that final stage where the big money is? Knowing how miserable events are scored is what it takes. That’s where this data comes in.
If you want to get on this game show you now have everything you need to better understand scoring and be ready for events. Even knowing, for example, that no event has been scored lower than 11 can help immensely in the final stage. The data:
Tab 1, “Ep Metadata” includes the season/episode number, air date, contestants, the two Jokers paired with each, winner, winner’s gender, final stage Joker assistant, total won, and notes. By the end of the second season there were four “perfect games” where the contestant won the maximum amount ($33,000 during a normal game, $50,000 during the Christmas special). Finally, it includes a running total of the prize money to date, $607,500 by the end of season two.
Tab 2, “Misery Data” is the meat of it while containing relatively few columns, but representing the most work. It includes the episode number, the miserable incident as listed on the game board, the score, a VNTO designation, the reward, if the contestant won the money, and comments. The VNTO designation indicates the format of the event which is a video, news article, text, or ‘other’. The column with the reward is color coded green or red to indicate if they won or lost that money. The time-consuming part is in column B, that lists the miserable incident but also links to it. I actually spent the time finding the exact news article or video in most cases. More on that in a bit.
Tab 3, “Statistics” is where we get the fun digestible information and the bigger take-aways like there being a single miserable incident scored at 100 or the average score of all incidents across two seasons is 56.0. It also has joker pairings, types of media totals, contestant breakdowns, and more.
Tab 4, “Charts” is a set of visual representations of the statistics, because people like colors and shapes!
Jumping back to finding the exact news article or video, that effort made it very clear early on that the news article headlines they show are often not real. The show will take the headline and make minor edits to it presumably for readability and to convey the relevant points. That’s fine, I get it. But… the problem is that on rare occasion they actually leave out something specific that might drastically alter the misery score. What isn’t clear is if the panel that scored knew that detail. Let’s look at the biggest example:
In a video clip from ABC News, the show includes some of the audio recording and transcription as seen above. The contestants are asked to then score “Your Doctor Disses You During Surgery“. OK, based on that info you consider the three pillars and make your guess and maybe you got it right (51) or maybe you guessed lower because some people said mean things behind your back. The real question is, did the panelists score based on that or did they have knowledge that it resulted in a malpractice suit that yielded $500,000 for the victim? Pretty sure that would drop the misery quite a bit. These little omissions are interesting since they can impact the game, but a contestant has no way of knowing the missing details or if it was factored in on a score.
So, there we have it! Going into season three, hopefully contestants choose Sal (213k) or Q (190k) in the final round instead of Joe (144k) or Murr (60.5k). I know it seems like Murr doesn’t do well but he has only been selected four times as compared to Sal who was selected 11 times. With that factored in, that means Sal only averages $19,363 and Murr $15,125. But when you are playing for that kind of money, every dollar matters.
Hopefully this data will help future contestants! If you notice any errors in my data please leave a comment so I can fix it up. As time permits, I will continue to update the sheet if the show for future episodes. Enjoy!