Known as Murr from the hit show “Impractical Jokers” and as a novelist, James S. Murray’s appearance at The Cranbury School caused quite a buzz for students seeking to high five, get an autograph, and meet the famed comedian and writer.
Murray, who is a Princeton resident and one of the three stars of Impractical Jokers, made the drive to The Cranbury School to talk to students about his book series Area 51 Interns, his latest work, entrepreneurship, and “not giving up on your dreams” on Nov. 1.
“If you love something do it and don’t stop doing it. Get better and better at it and don’t stop until you succeed in doing it,” he said.
The comedian and author said he did not get his first book published for 15 years. Murray, who also writes adult thrillers, wrote his first book in 2003 on a dare.
“I spent a year of my life writing it, but I wasn’t on TV and I was not famous, I did not know anybody, and I naively thought I could just send it into publishers, and they would just love it. The book just got rejected by all of them,” he said.
By the time he was on Impractical Jokers, he sent the same book he had written back in 2003 to publishers.
“They immediately bought the trilogy and that first book I wrote hit No. 1 on the International best sellers list. I guess the lesson there is perseverance and not giving up on your dream,” Murray said.
“That first book sparked seven more thrillers, three children’s books, two of the books being turned into movies, and Area 51 Interns is being developed into a live-action TV series.”
He further said that the lesson is “do not let other people limit or define your success for you.”
Arriving in the school’s parking lot, Murray was met by Cranbury School students and teachers.
Lined up along the sidewalk, students stood with handmade signs and drawings welcoming Murray from the outside steps of the auditorium all the way near the gymnasium entrance.
“What a rush. It was so cool,” Murray said of his welcoming. “We decided to write middle grade children’s books, so much of the ‘Impractical Jokers’ fan base is kids. To see the reaction from our younger fans is why we wrote the books.”
Students chanted “Murray, Murray, Murray” and screamed in excitement as Murray ran from his car giving high fives to all of the students lined up on the sidewalk, as well as taking photos and videos with the students that welcomed his arrival.
The Cranbury School Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) sponsored the school morning event and brought Murray to the school to talk with students about his latest work and his journey.
“The PTO is thrilled to help support our students’ love of reading and writing by bringing Murr to the Cranbury School for an author visit,” said Kellie Lavery, co-president of the Cranbury School PTO.
As part of the Area 51 Interns book series, Murray with co-author Carsen Smith had written a science fiction novel called “Area 51 Interns: Zoned Out,” which was published recently in October.
He talked about the novel that follows characters Viv Harlow and friends, Charlotte, Ray and Elijah at Area 51 and their quest to captured escaped mythical creatures at the base such as the Loch Ness monster and Yeti.
“Area 51 Interns: Zoned Out” is the second book in a three-book series so far of Area 51 Interns. The idea for Area 51 Interns started with a simple question.
“Do they offer internships for the summer at Area 51. The book came from what if there were four kids in eighth grade, whose parents just so happen to work at Area 51,” he said. “The first day of summer vacation is ‘Take Your Kids to Work Day.’ The kids go on their summer break and work with their parents.”
On the first day on the job all heck breaks loose, according to Murray.
“The parents and adults get kidnapped and it is up to these four best friends to save the day,” he added.
For the three-book series, the idea is that “every six months there will be a new Area 51 Interns book that comes out.” The Area 51 Interns books series has been 18 months in the making, Murray said.
“Area 51 Interns is about how we are better together than separate, and we can overcome any obstacle no matter how extreme or difficult. We can overcome it by relying on other people and our friends,” he said.
This first book had aliens, the second book featured the Chupacabra, Yeti, and abominable snowman.
The third book is planned to come out next Spring and that book is about “time travel.”
“The books are about friendship at its core and how our lead characters need to learn about themselves, what they are capable of and also rely on the people around them that they trust and love to overcome anything in their life,” Murray said.
The comedian and writer shared that more books are planned, but once the third book in the series is completed, he and Smith will start developing a script for the Area 51 Interns for the live-action kids’ TV series.
Before his time at The Cranbury School came to a close, students asked questions about his book and life, and some were selected to participate in a game where they had to show who had the best Australian accent.
At the very end, a joke performance with students was on display in the Cranbury School Main Office over the school’s speaker system.