On Friday, the world lost another Sopranos legend: Tony Sirico, who played Paulie “Walnuts” Gualtieri, the soldier-turned-capo with the best hair in the DiMeo crime family. He was 79 years old. Sirico led a colorful life. He started out in crime himself, and even served a relatively short sentence in Sing Sing, which is where he caught the acting bug. The Sopranos made him a star, and it led to all manner of gigs. Some paid tribute to his most famous role.
For instance, one time he — along with Steve Schirripa, aka Bobby Baccalieri — invaded Sesame Street. In 2013, the two reunited for Christmas Special sketch, in which they played no less than Bert and Ernie. Sirico even wore a unibrow. Hey, kids have to learn about The Sopranos at some point.
The sketch is a meta one, with Bert and Ernie directing the two small screen mobsters to do a version of their banana-in-the-ear bit, with a holiday twist. Alas, Sirico and Schirripa’s performances are not to their liking. First they screw up the main joke. Then neither can duplicate their distinctive laughs. Eventually chaos reigns, and the two actors try to find a way to split.
It’s one of the many Sirico clips, stories, and tributes that have been made their way through social media in the wake of Sirico’s passing. And it happens as the show has repeatedly come under fire by, of all people, super fun guy Ted Cruz, who’s mad that they’re trying to keep kids safe during an ongoing pandemic.