America’s favorite “meatball” on Jersey Shore, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, and TV Land’s Younger, Nico Tortorella, host MTV’s show, How Far Is Tattoo Far?. At 9pm on Thursdays, better known to Jersey Shore fans as “Jerzdays,” you can watch Nicole drink wine and Nico tease guests under the needle, fueling the anticipation for blindfolded “victims” to wait out the surprise tattoo-choice that friends, couples, family members, and frenemies pick for one another. The U.S. adaptation is based off of the the UK’s hit show, Just Tattoo of Us, and is already currently casting for a possible second season.
The two bond over coming from big Italian families, loving tattoo culture, and the opportunity to be able to share the intimacy of two people picking surprise tattoos for one another. The perfect pair even finishes each other's sentences. As Tortorella said, “Nicole and I together is the perfect combination of drag queen and Jersey Shore.”
Polizzi started her tattoo journey on her 18th birthday, when her dad let her get wings on her lower back. Polizzi loves, what she fondly calls, her “tramp stamp.” Nine tattoos later, she regrets none of them. All of them, of course, were done while drunk.
“They hurt so bad, I have to be drunk or I cry,” Polizzi said.
While many of the the Jersey Shore cast’s tattoos are religious, a majority of Nicole’s art is done in the name of motherhood. She has a squirrel for her son, Lorenzo, whom she called “squirrel” when he was little, as well as a “mommy tattoo” on her right arm, and her children’s initials, “G” and “L”.
On Younger, Nico Tortorella plays Josh, a tattoo artist, and says that there is some overlap in playing that character and hosting How Far is Tattoo Far?
“I feel like a lot of me is in Josh and obviously all of me is in what I’m doing on the show,” Tortorella said. “Hosting a show like this requires it to be all you and is just our hearts across the board.”
Tortorella was first called to be the host of How Far is Tattoo Far?
“We started floating names around for the co-host and Nicole’s name came up,” Tortorella said. “I’ve been just a huge fan of hers for forever and it was a no brainer,” he said.
Polizzi adds, “It’s like we’ve known each other our entire lifetime if not more.”
Tortorella’s first tattoo is on their back, and while they has plans to get it covered up, they doesn’t have any regrets. Tortorella does, however, admit that they wish they had spent more time looking for an artist.
“At the end of the day our bodies have been really important journals to us,” Tortorella said.
Having no say in the tattoo artist for participants, let alone the tattoo itself, on How Far is Tattoo Far, Polizzi and Tortorella feel a sense of relief for the guests, as the show’s team of tattoo artists are all extremely talented. The team of tattoo artists include: Courtney Raimondi, Tiffany Perez, Melody Mitchell, Dollarz Tatu, Kevin Laroy, and Travis Ross.
“They always make the tattoos beautiful,” Polizzi said. “Even if it’s something grotesque, they always make it look pretty good.”
“A beautiful penis,” Tortorella adds.
For both Tortorella and Polizzi, the most impressing part of hosting the How Far is Tattoo Far, is “learning more about trust than tattoos” and how the connection between two people going through this experience, can be just as permanent as the ink on their bodies.
Tortorella said, “I learned more about the way people operate as a whole, shooting this show for two weeks, than anything else I’ve ever worked on.”
Polizzi adds, “There are so many personalities and so many different ways to react to a situation.”
Being put through the ringer of trust is something theses hosts don’t even think they could undergo. However, if having to pick a co-star that could choose the surprise tattoo, Nicole, without hesitation, elects Jenni “JWoww” Farley.
“We are best friends. We would tease each other that it’s terrible, but I think we would do something very motherly and nice to represent our children,” Polizzi said.
“Imagine fucking Ron picking a tattoo for you,” Tortorella teased.
“You know it’d be a horse penis coming out of my butt,” Polizzi said. “I’m not kidding. He would massacre me.”
As for a Younger co-star that could pick a blindfolded-surprise tattoo for Tortorella, Nico praises Molly Barnard, who plays Lauren Heller on the show.
“She’s just hyper intelligent and really sweet, and would pick something political, and spiritual, and sentimental all at the same time,” they said.
Tortorella reflects on being thrown into the emotional whirlwind that the participants go through. “I’ve never seen one person go through so many emotions in one day, than the people that come onto the show,” he said. “And ourselves included, Nicole and I are hardcore empaths; we feel everything and absorb everything.”
Polizzi adds that they cried and laughed “more than some of the people on the show.”
The hosts note that if the emotional rollercoaster does turn south, security is on set. Tortorello and Polizzi also make sure to separate themselves from the “tattoo blame” when it comes time for the reveal.
“Every time, we’re like, ‘just remember this wasn’t us, your friend picked this for you, and we’re just here to host the show’,” Polizzi said. “I feel like we have to remind everyone, like, I’m not apart of this--”
”--Even with ourselves,” Tortorella adds. “Because, I’m a theater-trained actor. Like what am I doing? I’m like fucking signing off on all of these tattoos, saying, ‘how did I get here?’”
However, even with the separation that the hosts happily impose, there is a part of the intimacy that the two do share with the guests.
“Honestly… this show serves such an important sense of humility, especially in my own life, that I think that we need in 2018, given this political and social landscape,” Tortorella said. “And, we get to show up to work and be ridiculous with each other, and put silly tattoos on people, and share that with the world. People may think it’s low brow, but it’s really important to get some of that in every once in a while.”
For Tortorella, as How Far is Tattoo Far serves more value than just filling a slot on MTV’s schedule, they are thankful for the show’s strong “representation and visibility of the queer community.”
As the show is a fun and uplifting break from TV drama, Polizzi also feels it’s stressless mood has helped her transition from reality TV star to tattoo show host, seamlessly.
“It’s loose. It’s not like you’re hosting the news, you know?” Polizzi said. “It’s not like it has to be structured a certain way. We get to be ourselves and we get to be goofy. It’s so natural and easy.”
Tortorella agrees. “We are celebrating life and it’s really a study on humanity and psychology,” he said.
While the duo help foster the spontaneity in tattoos on the show, Polizzi feels that tattoos should always tell a story. “I feel like there should always be a meaning, not just, ‘oh, I just got this flower to get the flower’,” she said. “Obviously the tattoos on the show are a customized telling of a story, and how people feel about each other. These tattoos are like telling secrets, getting stuff off their chest that they can’t normally communicate.”
As for upcoming tattoos, Tortorella wants to keep working on his sleeve, and wants to get his legs and stomach done. He also has a big back-piece planned.
Most of Tortorella’s work is done by tattoo artist Po “Po Po” Zhang at Inked HQ. His left-arm sleeve is dedicated to his family, whether the art is conceptual or actual portraits. On his inner bicep, Tortorella has a mother lion holding a lion cub for his own mom. Tortorella also cherishes his portrait of his grandmother on his forearm.
“She’s a fucking asshole, but I love her so much. She’s still alive, ninety-three,” he said.
Polizzi says she definitely wants to add to her leopard and zebra galaxy tattoos that run all the way around her back, but jokes that for any more tattoos, she has to get them approved by her husband.
Both Tortorella and Polizzi come from big Italian families, and love spending the holidays with them.
“In my household, people were always cooking,” Tortorella said. A main holiday tradition for the Tortorella family include playing poker every Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“My uncle would show up with $100 in singles for each person. We would play poker all night long until somebody would win it all. Good old Italian family. Lots of alcohol and cigarettes,” Tortorella said.
While Polizzi’s family doesn’t do any traditions, she says they do the holidays huge. “At my house, there’s tons of food, tons of presents, and a lot of people,” Pilozzi said. “My mother-in-law does the Seven Fishes, unlike me. I’d do, like, pizza.”
Tortorella, in a heavy Italian accent, jumps in: “I’m gonna get like seven pieces of fucking Sushi, and call it a fucking day, okay?”
Pilozzi laughs, “Yeah, here’s your fish.”
Being pregnant with her first child, Lorenzo, around Christmas-time had added to the holiday magic for Pilozzi.
“I think it was New Year’s Eve I conceived,” Polizzi laughed. “Wasted.”