Joe Viterelli

Joe Viterelli
Born Joseph Viterelli
(1937-03-10)March 10, 1937[1][2]
New York City, New York, U.S.[1][2]
Died January 28, 2004(2004-01-28) (aged 66)[1]
Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S.
Occupation Actor
Years active 1990-2004
Spouse(s) Catherine Brennan (1960[3]–2004; his death)

Joseph "Joe" Viterelli (March 10, 1937 January 28, 2004) was an American actor best known for portraying Jelly in Analyze This (1999) and Analyze That (2002).[4][5][6][7][8][9]

Early life

Joseph Viterelli[1][2] was born in New York City and grew up in a tough neighborhood on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He played classical guitar but did not tell his friends about it. "They woulda thought I was a sissy," he said. "I used to save my hard-robbed money and sneak off to Carnegie Hall and Broadway theaters."[3][4][5][8][9]

Although he played numerous such roles during his career, Viterelli was never associated with the Italian Mob in real life.[10]

Early career

While in his 20s, he inherited four music schools in Queens that had been started by his family. "I actually taught classical guitar. But things went wrong. Then I opened a few bars. I drove a truck. I owned a cleaning service. I even had a job drilling holes in bowling balls to feed my five kids."[3][4][5][8][11][12][13]

Viterelli moved to Los Angeles in the late 1970s. While living in Malibu, Viterelli became friends with director Leo Penn, who saw the screen possibilities in Viterelli's tough-guy visage.[4][11] Penn thought Viterelli's tough-guy features would play well in the movies and on television.[5][6]

Viterelli told Larry King that before he acted, "I had a couple of beer joints that I sold in New York and I came out here (in California) and I was looking around."[10]


"(Leo Penn) asked me to be in some movies and TV, but I always declined," said Viterelli. "I said, 'For half my life, I've been keeping a low profile and now you want to put my mug on a 40-foot screen?'"[4][8][9]

Years later, Viterelli got a call from Penn's actor son, Sean, who was in New York City to make the 1990 gangster melodrama State of Grace.[10][11] Viterelli recalled: "(Sean) said, 'Joe, we're looking for a character that's from your neighborhood. We've seen about 50 to 60 people and nobody's right.' He said the key words, 'Would you do me a favor?'" Viterelli did and, proving to be a natural actor, launched his new career.[4][5][8][9][10] Viterelli later appeared in Penn's The Crossing Guard (1995).[6]

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Viterelli had appeared in more than 40 movies, playing guys with such names as Nick Valenti (Bullets over Broadway; 1994), Joe Profaci (Mobsters; 1991), Fat Tommy Carducci (What She Doesn't Know; 1992), Vinnie "The Shrimp" (Mickey Blue Eyes; 1999) and Fat Tony Ragoni (The Cure for Boredom; 2001). He also had a supporting role in Shallow Hal (2001) and played Joseph Valachi in Ruby (1992).[4][5][14][15] He has also appeared in Eraser (1996).[6]

A year before his death, Viterelli was considered for a role as former Governor of Illinois George Ryan in a biopic Abby Mann attempted to make.[16][17]


In 1999, he played Jelly, the menacing yet lovable henchman-confidant to Robert De Niro's anxiety-prone mob boss in Analyze This (1999), costarring Billy Crystal as De Niro's reluctant psychiatrist.[4][6]

Viterelli was able to convince De Niro and director Harold Ramis to cast him as Jelly after almost losing the role to a much younger actor.[18]

When he described Viterelli's Jelly character patiently padding about "trying to deal with the disturbing news that his boss is cracking up and seeing a shrink," critic Roger Ebert wrote, "He lends a subtle dimension to the movie; he gives [De Niro's mob boss] a context, and someone who understands him. The comedy here isn't all on the surface, and Viterelli is one reason why."[4][19]

The sequel, Analyze That, which Viterelli reprised his role, was his final film.[6]

In a Larry King Live interview, Viterelli said that De Niro was the "(e)asiest man to work with in the world," and that Crystal was "the funniest guy I ever met in my life."[10]

Staples commercial

Viterelli can be seen in a Staples television commercial in which he provides mob-style "muscle" for an office worker who is having a problem dealing with a manager who demands doughnuts and pastry bribes in exchange for dispensing office supplies. The humorous spot, which debuted during Super Bowl XXXVIII, was Viterelli's only commercial.[4][6][7][8][9][11]

Personal life and death

"Ninety percent of my fan mail is from kids 6 through 19," he told the New York Daily News in 2000. "They send me graduation pictures and report cards. Look at me, I'm a role model."[3][4][7][8][9]

Viterelli never had an agent or a manager.[3]

Viterelli participated in a roast of Magic Johnson, during which he told a joke about finding the former NBA star handcuffed to a tree naked, just after he had gotten robbed.[20][21]

Viterelli, a West Los Angeles resident, died on January 29, 2004 of complications from heart surgery at Valley Hospital in Las Vegas. He is survived by his wife, Catherine, and five children, including his son, the film composer Joseph Vitarelli, who spells his last name differently.[1][4][5][6][7][8][9][11][12][13][22][23] One of his children is a lawyer.[3]

Partial filmography


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 "JOE VITERELLI". Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  2. 1 2 3 Joe Viterelli at The New York Times
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Hamill, Denis (17 September 2000). "A ROLE MODEL DON'T MESS WITH Actor Joe Viterelli ain't just a pretty face". Daily News. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 McLellan, Dennis (23 February 2004). "Joe Viterelli, 66; Actor's Mobster Look Won Him More Than 40 Film Roles". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 "Joe Viterelli, 66, Actor Who Played Lovable Tough Guys". The New York Times. 25 February 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Simith, Barad (24 February 2004). "Joe Viterelli, Jelly From 'Analyze This,' Dies". Democratic Underground. Retrieved 11 April 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 4 "Joe Viterelli, 66: Character actor known for playing mobsters". Chicago Tribune. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 McLellan, Dennis (24 February 2004). "Joe Viterelli, 66; actor was the muscles in mobster movies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 McLellan, Dennis (24 February 2004). "Joe Viterelli: Actor typecast in mob roles". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  10. 1 2 3 4 5 "Interviews With Sela Ward, Kevin Kline, Joe Viterelli". 14 December 2002. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Kattak, Ed (24 February 2004). "Joe Viterelli-RIP". Film Score Monthly. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  12. 1 2 "Obituaries in the News". The Washington Post. 23 February 2004. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  13. 1 2 "Murió actor Joe Viterelli, mafioso de "Analízame"". El Mercurio. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 11 July 2015.
  14. "Joe Viterelli Movies". Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  15. "Joe Viterelli". The Times. 27 February 2004. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  16. Kass, John (14 March 2003). "Nominations, please, for cast of `About Ryan'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  17. Kass, John (16 March 2003). "Movie magic, TV tomfoolery and fine whine". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  18. Dretzka, Gary (9 March 1999). "Jelly Role: Who's Joe Viterelli? You Won't Forget After Seeing `Analyze This'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  19. "Gangster, shrink hit it off in `Analyze This'". The Augusta Chronicle. 5 March 1999. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  20. Katz, Jesse (1 October 2003). "Master of Illusion". Los Angeles. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  21. Katz, Jesse (1 October 2003). "Master of Illusion". Los Angeles. Retrieved 14 July 2015.
  22. "Actor Joe Viterelli dies". Amarillo Globe-News. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2015.
  23. "Joe Viterelli". Variety. 24 February 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2015.

External links

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