The Sopranos is an incredibly well-thought-out and detailed show, but one of the series’ most iconic scenes was completely improvised, causing James Gandolfini to fully break character. Despite The Sopranos‘ dark story and tone, the series has its own unique sense of humor, somehow managing to make audiences laugh in the midst of all the mobster horror. One of The Sopranos‘ most iconic moments of levity, interestingly enough, was completely improvised by Steve Schirripa and James Gandolfini.
The Sopranos is one of the shows that put HBO on the map, with the beloved series following mob boss Tony Soprano as he attempts to balance his at-home family with his crime family. The series is known for its tense storylines, fleshed-out characters, and violence, with the show carrying on many of the tropes of the mobster movies of the 70s, 80s, and 90s. The Sopranos‘ writing is considered some of the best in TV history, even if one of the most iconic moments wasn’t in the script at all.
Bobby’s Pine Barrens Introduction Broke James Gandolfini
The Sopranos season 3, episode 11, “Pine Barrens” contains one of the funniest moments throughout the entire series, and it completely broke James Gandolfini. In the episode, Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano and Schirripa’s Bobby Baccaleri have to go into the snow-covered woods in order to rescue Christopher and Paulie. Bobby arrives at Tony’s house in a fully-fledged hunting outfit, causing Tony to burst out laughing. However, Tony’s laughter was actually an instance of Gandolfini breaking character due to Schirripa’s off-screen improvisation.
When filming the shot of Tony’s reaction to Bobby’s hunting gear, Steve Schirripa changed things up. The actor walked in wearing a strap-on dildo, to the surprise of James Gandolfini. The shot of Tony leaning on the sink and laughing was actually Gandolfini’s genuine reaction to seeing the dildo, with that take making it into the final episode.
How Bobby’s Walk-on Makes ‘Pine Barrens’ Even Better
“Pine Barrens” is often considered to be one of the best episodes of The Sopranos, and Bobby’s hunting outfit scene makes it even better. Although Gandolfini could have just fake laughed, Schirripa’s dildo improvisation got an actual reaction out of Gandolfini, making his performance more genuine and more comedic. Because of this, the joke hits harder, leading to it being one of the funniest moments in the series.
Steve Schirripa’s Bobby improvisation actually works perfectly for the tone of “Pine Barrens.” “Pine Barrens” is one of the more comedic episodes in The Sopranos‘ catalog, with the story of Christopher and Paulie getting lost in the woods being pretty humorous. So, while something as silly as wearing a dildo could have clashed with the tone of other The Sopranos episodes, it actually works perfectly here.