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Pencilstorm Hall of Fame Nominee: Goodfella’s “What the f#@* is so funny about me?” Scene

By Pencilstorm contributor: Wal Ozello

When I was in college, I lived with four other Italians.  Guys with last names like Colina, Ciarico, and Macharoni. It was like our own Little Italy at OSU. We cooked pasta meals together, ate real Sicilian pizza from Adriatico’s, went to the bars and parties together, and watched out for each other. My roommate even had a Dalmatian who’s name was Cassanova.

Early in the year, one of us had permanently "borrowed" a VHS of Goodfellas from the local campus video store. We played it all the time. When the movie was over, we rewound it and started it over again.

When you came to our house for party, you didn’t hear AC/DC, REM, or the Violent Femmes. You heard Goodfellas blasting because I had hooked the TV up to my stereo (this was pre-theatre surround sound, I spent a lot of time at Radio Shack and doing some fancy wiring). What freaked people out even more, is my roommates and I would walk around the party quoting lines from the movie. We had the whole movie memorized.

Lunch was a special time at our house.  Everyone had serendipitously scheduled their classes with a Noon break so we ended up eating lunch together. We only had time to watch three scenes from the movie.  Sometimes we watched the beginning (“From now on, any letters to the kid from his school come directly here.”), sometimes we watched the pistol whipping scene (Henry hits him 10 times – we counted), other times the wedding scene, the meal in the jail, or the late night dinner at Tommy's mom’s house scene (this happens in real life by the way, if I were to show up at my 80 year old mom’s house tonight at 2 am, she’d wake up and try to cook a meal for me).

No matter which scenes we watched during lunch, one of them was always the Bamboo Lounge scene more affectionately known as the “What the fuck is so funny about me?” scene. This is a one of the most brilliant scenes in one of the most brilliant movies.  

As we watched, each of us would chime in with one of the character's lines. The expressions, the pacing, we had all it down. At this point in the story, you’re not totally sure about Tommy and Henry’s relationship.  So when Tommy (Joe Pesci’s character) starts messing with Henry (Ray Liotta) you’re not quite sure if he's really mad at Henry or if he's joking around. Each of us knew what was really going on. It's part of the Italian culture. Our Dads and Uncles teased us like that. And in turn, we teased each other and today I tease my sons like that. What we knew as we watched this scene, it is that it was a depiction of our lives. And it was funny as all hell.

It’s amazing how Pesci begins the story about a bust in Secaucus and it just slips into messing with Henry. Tommy tries to get Henry to explain himself. Some guy Anthony tries to help out, and Tommy brushes him aside. He goes deeper and at one time angrily pleads, “Am I a clown? Do I amuse you? What the fuck is so funny about me?”

Just when you think Henry is going cave, he calls Tommy on it and they all laugh it off.

Two minutes of cinematic magic.

And ready for this? 

It was totally unscripted. That means Pesci, Liotta, and Scorcese come up with it on the spot.

Genius.

Here’s the clip.  Warning: This is Rated R. Might not want to watch this in mixed company.

Wal Ozello is a science fiction techno-thriller novelist and the author of Assignment 1989 ,  Revolution 1990, and Sacrifice 2086. He' was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He's currently a resident of Upper Arlington, Ohio and a frequent customer at Colin's Coffee.