The most memorable gangster movies (and certain gangster television shows) often benefit from breaking up some of their understandably bleak murder montages with tactical pepperings of character-based comedy.
Along these lines, one of the greatest comic performances ever arrives in the form of Joe Pesci's Oscar-winning turn as Tommy DeVito in Goodfellas (1990). Short in stature but big in confidence, Tommy is a web of contradictions. A crack-up at dinners with an itchy trigger finger, Tommy can go from mother-appreciating jokester to friend-murdering maniac within seconds. "You're a funny guy," his comrade Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) tells him in perhaps Tommy's most memorable moment. Henry and Tommy are enjoying some adult beverages in smart suits with their mob cohorts in a preferred haunt, the Bamboo Lounge, and had been chuckling about one of Tommy's many entertaining anecdotes. Tommy suddenly flips to deadly serious mode. "Funny how? I mean, what's funny about it?"
Suddenly, the laughter percolating around Tommy's story disappears completely. The mood has shifted. Everyone knows what this line of inquiry could lead to. "I mean, I'm funny how? I'm funny like a clown? Like I'm here to amuse you?" Tommy continues to berate Henry, who tries to defend his compliment, explaining that he enjoys the way Tommy tells his tales. Things get tense.
There is a pregnant pause.
Henry calls his friend's bluff, and the mood lifts. Tommy was trying to freak Henry out. But we certainly know that Tommy, a fount of barely contained rage in his better moments, is capable of doing anything to almost anyone, friend or not. We later witness similar instances of Tommy's wrath against supposed allies (and a few foes he perhaps shouldn't cross) in several memorable subsequent scenes.