The Joy of Joe


It’s been said that a mob movie without Joe Pesci is like Christmas without Santa Claus. In one of those nice churns of a metaphor, last Christmas I discovered a little Yuletide recording by Pesci, a very special cover of ‘If It Doesn’t Snow on Christmas.’  There are some sample lyrics below, but really, on the page they do little justice; the pleasure, as especially with Pesci, is all in the delivery. Do yourself a favour!

Santa’s just as nice as he could be

There’s just one fuckin thing that worries me:

If it doesn’t snow on Christmas

How’s fatass use that sleigh?

I love the bit just before the fade where he riffs with the children after their chorus. Aye, nice kids. Where the fuck you get em from, a jail?   Oh, Joe Pesci. What a beautiful animal you are.

One of the greatest people I know used to see a shrink; a proper psychoanalyst. In the naughties. Rare, no? Anyway, after years of talking to the wall that faced his sofa, she decided to see a different kind of therapist. Maybe a CBT type? You know the type. ‘Imagine your anger as a tangible character.’ ‘A character?’ ‘Yeah, something you can relate to, but also a flat character. A caricature, if you will.’ My friend subsequently began to imagine her anger as Donald Duck and, lo and behold, her elevated contempt for humanity descended to a manageable level.

What is it, to smile at our own rage?

I think the thought experiment worked because Donald Duck is allowed to get angry. Perhaps that’s why so many children, deep  in their uncorrupt hearts, prefer him to his more iconic counterpart because, unlike Mickey, Donald actually expresses himself. Perhaps the price for this permission is his incomprehensibility – that cacophony of quacks as he stomps on his sailor’s hat. Despite, or perhaps because of his unintelligibility, Donald successfully registers injustice, humiliation, rejection, resentment: all writ large, in technicolor. An animated foreign correspondent, his tantrums transmit news direct from the frontline. The frontline of Disneyland. You know it kids: you don’t really get what you want. No one is listening. Shit isn’t fair. Yep, life blows. 

Ever watch a child’s eyes when you’re bullshitting them? The glazing, the cloud of disappointment that blows over as they watch you? It’s something shameful. Kids long for the truth, maybe even more than Disneyland.

I took my child to Japan the other day. We actually went to Tokyo Disney, and I was surprised by the fact that after a couple of hours of rides and caramel popcorn I really wanted to stay, and he, a newly minted six year old (it was the day of his birthday), asked to go back to the apartment. Anyway, during our stay in Japan we spent a lot of time with a very sweaty, very sweary, and a very brutally honest young man, who, as an aside, joked (sort of) about founding a support group for people that can’t help speak their mind. Assholes Anonymous.

My son has always loved him, but the platonic crush deepened over the holiday. Sample conversation starter: ‘Hey,’ pressing him into a vending machine at Koenji station. ‘Will you say the F-word. Please?’ It’s quite possible that this exact phrasing has never been formulated in the history of the English language. Say the f-word, please?

As unprecedented, or at least, unusual as this formulation may sound, isn’t it really what we are all saying when our faces light up at the sight of Joe Pesci losing his shit on Scorsese’s mob flicks? I just watched Casino, in which he squeezes a troublesome mick’s head in a vice until his eyeball bursts. The mick finally gives up the name of the protected person in question. CHARLIE M? YOU MADE ME POP YOUR FUCKIN EYE OUT FOR CHARLIE M?! Nobody does it better. Pesci is my Donald Duck. Say the f-word, Pesci. Please?

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