Roberto Benigni – the funniest man in Italy

Roberto Benigni – the funniest man in Italy

Monday, November 1st, 2010

If that name doesn’t seem familiar to you perhaps you might remember the movie “Life Is Beautiful” that won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 1998. He also won the Oscar for Best Actor in any film. He gave one of the more memorable walks to the stage and acceptance speeches ever at the Oscars. I wanted to show a high quality film clip of that occurrence but the Oscar folks don’t seem to allow it ( although you can go see if on YouTube if you’d like). However I did find a lesser quality one that you can see right here.

I liked that film but even more I liked a film that probably few people saw called “Johnny Stecchino”. I first saw it in Italy without subtitles and that was quite a challenge although a lot of his humor is so physical that it gets the point across. A few years later I saw it here with subtitles and I must say that did improve the experience.

I found a lot of stuff with Roberto on YouTube. He seems to be quite an institution in Italy with pages of video offerings including the complete Johnny Stecchino with and without subtitles – of course you must watch them in 10 or 15 minute chunks on a tiny screen – argh. He seems to appear a lot on Italian TV and there are also interviews with late night TV hosts David Letterman and and Conan O’Brien. Here is a classic from 1986.

I can’t resist posting this clip with Benigni. It is all in Italian and I can understand very little of it but at the same time I find it often hilarious. The woman is a very popular entertainer by the name of Raffaella Carrà. I’m not sure of who an equivalent American TV personality might be but maybe someone like Ellen Degeneres but with obviously more flash – Cher or Madona?  Actually Ellen and Roberto would be pretty cool together. If you do watch this, hang in there. During the last half his gestures and facial expressions are just priceless. He’s truly irrepressible.

In looking for more information about Roberto I found a truly amazing thing. He knows Dante’s Divine Comedy (Divina Commedia) by memory. He has toured extensively in Italy with a one-man show called TuttoDante (“Everything About Dante”). Somehow not what I would expect given the antics of Roberto!

6 Responses to “Roberto Benigni – the funniest man in Italy”

  1. Jamie Says:

    Roberto is hilarious! I haven’t seen his films yet, but I’d seen some of his public appearances (Oscars, Letterman) and knew just by seeing him that he’s a genius. When you mentioned that he’s done the Dante work… I suspect he’d be fabulous doing “commedia dell’arte” – one of my favorite things to see in the theater.

    As always, thanks for the morning’s entertainment, Joe.

  2. Joe Says:


    If you ever get a chance I think that you’d really like “Johnny Stecchino”. Someone in my Italian class said that they had also seen it and loved it. It’s pretty hard to find though. I don’t know if you watched that final video that was all in Italian. I do wish that I could understand the language adequately since he is clearly cracking everyone up. Wouldn’t you like to know what he’s saying when he is doing those crazy gestures with the wild facial expressions?


  3. paola Says:

    If you want to see a REALLY good film with Benigni, try to get a hold of “Non ci resta che piangere”. He and Massimo Troisi travel back in time…a classic in Italy. Practically impossible to find in the States, but in Italy they’ve recently come out with an anniversary edition dvd. I’ve seen all of his films and this is my favorite.
    “Il Mostro” is a close second for me.

  4. Joe Says:


    That sounds good. Sometimes I know that some films are available on DVD but not with the right code for playing on American DVD players – at least that is true for Johnny Stecchino. Perhaps I will buy one that plays all country codes. A friend of mine (Massimiliano from Torino) also mentioned Il Mostro and I checked and it is available, at least from Amazon – late flash – “Non ci resta che piangere” is also available from the. I will see if I can find it for rental somewhere.

    Thanks for the comment.


  5. Brenda Buxton Says:

    He’s also in Down By Law ( 1986 Jim Jarmusch movie). I still remember the hilarious scene with the rabbit after 20 years…

  6. Joe Says:


    I saw a video clip of that on YouTube when I was researching the post. It looked pretty interesting. It was in a jail cell with a couple of other guys. Roberto had little or no English language knowledge but they all started singing “you scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream” and after a while had the whole prison doing it. I’ll look around for that one. It probably is available for DVD rental.


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