HBO’s The Sopranos is a fan-favorite crime drama named after the family of New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano. While much of the show focuses on Tony, his kids, wife, and various other relatives, many of the best characters in the show are not related to him at all.
One particularly memorable character is Paulie Gualtieri, also known as “Paulie Walnuts.” A member of the Soprano crime family, he rises through the ranks from a soldier to an underboss. Of course, he is best known for his big mouth, short temper, and rudimentary intelligence. Here are ten of Paulie’s funniest moments:
Bears and Dinosaurs
This first example comes from later in the series, occurring at the start of the fifth season. After a bear appears earlier in the episode and scares AJ, Paulie comments on the incident over dinner. “As far as f*cking bears are concerned? I say get rid of them all. They had their turn, and now we got ours. That’s why dinosaurs don’t exist no more.”
When asked “wasn’t it a meteor” that killed the dinosaurs, he responds, “they’re all meat eaters.” One has to appreciate Paulie’s perspective on the life and death of wildlife.
There is a period in the show where Tony begins to read works of eastern philsophy after his girlfriend Gloria Trillo turns him onto them. He is clearly influenced by Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, as he passes this recommended reading onto Paulie.
When trying to reference the book, he cites “Sunta Zoo. The Chinese Machiavelli.” As Sun Tzu teaches one to know one’s enemies and oneself, Paulie might begin to learn the limits of his grasp on speaking Chinese. Thankfully, others help him find his way to knowledge, albeit while calling him “a f*cking *ss-kiss.”
Mikey Palmice is a soldier who works for Junior and is responsible for a number of major executions, including the assassination off Christopher’s friend and fellow conspirator Brendan Filone. Mikey is a less than savory individual, being both snide and cruel. Despite him being a smoker, he is also a jogger who seems to care about his health.
One day, Paulie and Christopher roll up in their car to Mikey Palmice when he is jogging. Mikey flees into the woods. As Paulie kills him, all Paulie can talk about is how he’s run through poison ivy – by far more significant to him than killing someone.
A particularly notable encounter occurs when Paulie consults with a psychic for help. Paulie has always been superstitious, but the encounter with the psychic is particularly noteworthy. What begins seeming like the psychic is merely doing a cold reading takes a turn into darker territory when the psychic begins talking to the ghosts of Paulie’s victims.
One of the ghosts apparently – Mikey Palmice – asks through the psychic if the poison ivy “still itches.” Upon being confronted with this very real psychic encounter, Paulie accuses the psychic of practicing “Satanic black magic.” That Paulie might be culpable for going to such a practitioner seems beyond his reckoning.
Paulie is not a moral man by anyone’s standards, but he is deeply religious and superstitious. He believes in God, is deeply offended at blasphemy, and pays his dues to the Catholic Church. He figures paying the Church gets him a pass from any spiritual repercussions.
Unfortunately for Paulie, that is not how the Catholic Church works. When he learns that his twenty-three years of donations do not protect him from being haunted by the spirits of those he has killed, he accuses his priest of slacking off and says he will never donate another cent to the church.
Paulie and Christopher try to kill a member of the Russian mob, but their target escapes, leading them on a chase through the snow-filled Pine Barrens of New Jersey. Paulie calls Tony, who tells him that the Russian “is some kind of ex-commando” who “killed sixteen Chechen rebels singlehanded.”
After the two hang up due to poor cellular reception, Paulie turns to Christopher and says, “You’re not going to believe this. He killed 16 Czechoslovakians. Guy was an interior decorator.” This shocks Christopher, who responds, “His house looked like sh*t.”
The Coffee Shop
Big corporate coffee chains have slowly infiltrated every layer of American society. Eventually, Paulie finds himself in one with his friend Pussy. After Pussy orders an espresso, Paulie, confused by all the fancy names on products, asks if the place has “just coffee.”
The barista taking his orders responds “the cafe du jour is a New Zealand peaberry.” After waving a hand in exasperation, he complains to Pussy, wondering how Italians missed out on the market for espresso, pointing out how it is just one of many Italian foods that non-Italians profit from.
Tony takes Paulie with him on a business trip to Italy. When they arrive at a hotel, Tony is called “commendatore,” a word which literally means commander, something Paulie picks up on and thinks is pretty cool.
At a dinner, Paulie is unable to appreciate the fine food and orders spaghetti with tomato sauce, or as he calls the sauce, “gravy.” The Italians who translate his wishes to the waiter comment on his lack of sophistication. Throughout the trip, he seems to reinforce this by addressing random strangers as “commendatore.”
This is not a singular incident so much as a habit Paulie has. He will say something in front of someone, then turn and repeat it to them as though they did not just hear it. In one example, Paulie asks Silvio “you remember your first blowjob?” Silvio says he does, prompting Paulie to ask “how long did it take for the guy to come?”
Immediately afterwards, Paulie turns to the table, all of whom are still laughing at the joke, and says, “you hear that? I said ‘do you remember your first blowjob?’ He said ‘yeah.’ I said ‘how long did it take for the guy to come.'” This habit of repeating jokes happens a number of times throughout the series.
Paulie bangs on Christopher’s door in the middle of the night and shakes the younger man down. Paulie takes shoes that Christopher had stolen for his fiancée Adriana, then while going through their bedroom, Paulie sniffs Adriana’s underwear.
Christopher tells Tony this, who chews out Paulie over this infringement of basic decency. Paulie refuses to apologize, even when Tony points out that such behavior is not okay when Christopher and Adriana are about to get married. Paulie responds, “as of her wedding date, anything that touches her p*ssy is off limits.”