Joe Pesci is funniest when he’s most terrifying

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By Webdesk

Still, it’s ironic that Tommy’s signature line from Good day — “I’m funny how? I mean, funny like I’m a clown? amuse you? I make you laugh? I’m here to amuse you?” — is essentially what Pesci does Home alone, unashamedly going for a big smile. He would do something much more advanced with it Good day, molding a mobster whose hair-trigger temper meant he could explode at any time and against anyone. And yet Tommy had that strange innocence—like he didn’t know what a nightmare man he was—that made him endlessly funny, even charming. Pesci is one of the reasons why Good day is so alluring and presents the gangster lifestyle as superficially inviting and intoxicating. We shouldn’t like Tommy, but deep down we do love him.

“What I do is think of someone I know very well who is the same type, and play him,” Pesci once explained. “I do Mine Tommy. I’m pretending to be Joe Pesci this murderer, this crazy, funny, smart person.

The way Tommy darts from dead-eyed sociopath to backslapping buddy is never alarming, but the staid Tommy seems oblivious to his Hyde-esque other half. That tension gives every scene a comedic wince, especially when there’s actually nothing terrifying going on. Now appreciated not only as a great mafia picture, but also as an extremely dark comedy, Good day is especially amusing when, after committing yet another gruesome murder, Tommy goes to visit his mother, played by Scorsese’s own mother Catherine. The scene has a creepy undertone – Tommy lies about why he needs a knife and why he has blood on his car – so their banter at the dinner table elicits loud laughter. His mom doesn’t know what’s funny about that moment, but we do. (By the way, this scene, like the “I’m funny how?” sequence, was improvised.)

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