Jim Breuer’s “The Joe Pesci Show” sketch on SNL often included that week’s guest star playing Robert De Niro. The big recurring joke about the legendary actor was that he always said, “Little bit….little bit,” a great reference to Goodfellas. I don’t know why, but I think about that sketch every time I see Robert De Niro in anything. But only now is it clear to me that they went with the wrong catchphrase for him. He should have said, “What’s a-matter witchu?” instead, because as this hilarious montage highlights, he doesn’t say that a little bit.
He says it a lot.
The Twitter account All The Right Movies put together a special celebration for the actor’s 77th birthday. It features the many, many times Robert De Niro has asked/yelled a version of “What’s a-matter withchu?” The montages include him saying the incredulous sentence—which is equal parts interrogative and exclamatory—in 1973’s Mean Streets, 1980’s Raging Bull, 1995’s Casino, 2000’s Meet the Parents, 2004’s Shark Tale (LOL), and 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook. That’s almost 40 years of yelling!
But obviously his f***ing pièce de résistance came in 1990’s Goodfellas, where he managed to turn that one simple phrase into an acting tour de force. Watch as he uses it first for humor when praising Spider for standing up for himself, then as angry scolding after Tommy shoots the poor kid. The range!
And yet, that’s not even his best scene saying it. That came after the Lufthansa heist, when Johnny thought it was smart to buy his wife a pink Cadillac. As though putting it in his mother’s name would through the FBI of the scent. What’s a-matter witchu, indeed.
Robert De Niro’s place in Hollywood history is unassailable. And clearly a little bit of that has to do with how he asks people what’s a-matter with them.
Featured Image: Warner Bros.