Monday, September 9, 2013

Funny How? I Amuse You, Like A Clown?: The Funniest-Scariest Scene In 'Goodfellas'

John Semley at Esquire offers a piece on the funniest-scariest scene in the classic crime film Goodfellas.

Take Joe Pesci's hot-head mobster, Tommy DeVito. After cracking up a table of career criminals with a violent anecdote, Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) tells him he's "a funny guy." The mood immediately drops. Tommy begins interrogating his friend about the comment. "Like a clown? Like I make you laugh? How am I funny?" Scorsese invites the viewer to enjoy his character's good humor, then, on a dime, shifts to tense throat-in-the-chest anxiety — and back again. In one scene, Scorsese demonstrates how totally seductive a sharpened sense of humor can be, and how we so often use our appreciation of that quality to skate over the larger fissures in a character's personality.

You can read the piece and watch a clip of the Martin Scorsese film via the below link:

In one of my Crime Beat columns, Goddfellas Don't Sue Goddfellas, I noted that I grew up in South Philly with guys like the Joe Pesci character.

Over the years I've heard from a number of law enforcement officials who complain that The Godfather and the other mob books and movies glamorize crime. When I was a producer and on-air host on Inside Government, a public affairs radio program that aired on WPEN AM and WMGK FM on Sunday mornings a few years ago, I interviewed the assistant U.S. attorney in charge of organized crime in the Philadelphia area

He did not agree with my assessment of Goodfellas, which I said was the most realistic film portrayal of organized crime. He felt that audiences liked the actor Joe Pesci in the film because he was funny and charming, but they failed to realize that he and the other criminals in the film were vicious and murderous.

I countered by saying that I’ve found some of the real mob guys to be funny, charming and even generous. And I’ve also seen them quickly turn vicious, cold and heartless – just as Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro portrayed them on the screen. They can be good friends and good company - unless you owe them money or you have something they want. Serial killers and con artists have also been known to be quite charming.

You can read the rest of my column via the below lnk:

Note: I read somewhere that Joe Pesci suggested the scene to director Martin Scorsese, as he was on the other end of this kind of situation when he worked in a restaurant and he told a real goodfella that he thought the guy was funny. The mob guy responded like the character Pesci portrays in Goodfellas. 

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