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Fusilli you crazy bastard

This is a cartoon from the New Yorker, which I understand is pretty famous, but I never understood what it means. Can someone please explain?

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  1. Fusilli is a corkScrewy pasta, hence 'you crazy bastard'. The Rigatoni is the cardigan sweater of the pasta world.

    1. There's already a thread with this cartoon: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9205...

      Fu-SILLY. As in the Seinfeld episode wherein Kramer makes a pasta sculpture of "Fusilli Jerry", onto which Frank takes a painful tumble.

      1 Reply
      1. re: greygarious

        One of my favorite episodes of Seinfield - LOL!

      2. I think you didn't get it because you were looking for more than what's there. Like mcsheridan says, the lines of the fusilli are all wavy, so he's wild and crazy to the rigatoni which is all straight lines. And most people know some goofy man who likes to say things like "You crazy bastard!" to other, only marginally more interesting men, because it makes him feel less less interesting to think he has crazy friends and to use the word 'bastard' in a jolly, devil-may-care way.

        I think this is one of those New Yorker cartoons that's supposed to be funny precisely because it's a little lame. They do a lot of those.

        Have you seen any of these? http://www.newyorker.com/humor/polls/... . Every now and then the New Yorker runs the "I don't get it" cartoon I.Q. test, sort of mocking their own tendency to run cartoons that are a bit obscure.

        14 Replies
        1. re: ninrn

          There was a 60 Minutes segment on the New Yorker cartoons last night. Bringing it back to Seinfeld, there was an episode with the use of terms like you crazy bastard with George when he worked with the Yankees. A marathon runner picked up the phrases from George and ended up in hot water because of it.

          1. re: JAB

            Yes, there are a lot of New Yorker cartoon references in Seinfeld. They must be one of Larry David's many pet peeves. I think there was even one whole episode where the theme is that no one, not even the editor of the New Yorker, understands the New Yorker cartoons. I think it's the same one in which Elaine comes up with a cartoon of a pig at the complaints counter and later finds she accidentally plagiarized it from Ziggy. Fusilli Jerry and George saying "you crazy bastard" have to be references to this one that the OP is talking about.

            1. re: ninrn

              This now-famous one was the one Elaine didn't understand. The caption is "On the internet, no one knows you're a dog."

              1. re: greygarious

                The dog is one of my favorite cartoons of all time, and I've been following New Yorker cartoons all my life.

              2. re: ninrn

                The secret punch line of that Seinfeld episode is that it was written by Bruce Eric Kaplan, who is better known for his day job...as a cartoonist for the New Yorker.

            2. re: ninrn

              LOL, I know a goofy man just like that! He'll call me up and say, "What's going on, you crazy bitch?" To which, I'm supposed to reply, "Not much, you crazy bastard!"

              As to cardigan sweater of the pasta world, oh, c'mon now. At least rigatoni have lines, however straight, to keep them interesting. Plain penne (not rigate), they'll put ya right to sleep. ;) And campanelle--well, I mean LOOK AT THEM. Can there be any doubt they're a little out there?

              1. re: kattyeyes

                Rigatoni are actually quite risqué. Apparently the word can have a phallic double entendre. You can find it on YouTube by searching Fellini and Barilla -- Fellini directed a commercial for Barilla pasta in the 1980s in which an elegant woman goes to a restaurant, and the waiters practically stand on their heads enumerating all the fancy foods, to which she responds sensuously and slowly "rigatoni." I had to have it explained to me, but the double entendre was why everybody found it hysterically funny.

                1. re: mbfant

                  Of course, I had to look it up:

                  I didn't know about the double entendre, but it's not surprising. Is the punch line that it should be served al dente?! ;)

                  1. re: kattyeyes

                    Reminds me of a Saturday Night Live sketch where the entire male staff at a restaurant fawns over a female customer.

                  2. re: mbfant

                    That increases the bigotry level in the Barilla owner's more recent comments about it being a family-oriented company, so that they would never consider doing a commercial with a same-sex component. Fellini's take on the product isn't exactly G-rated (G-spot notwithstanding).

                    1. re: kattyeyes

                      Well, Rigatoni (my very favorite pasta, btw) is all straight up and down, and ribbed. Reliable and sturdy.

                      Pet peeve: not enough restaurants offer it, yielding to the lamer penne instead.

                      1. re: mcsheridan

                        I can't read your post and not snicker after what mbfant said. Every once in a while this site has still got it! ;)

                        1. re: mcsheridan

                          If ever there was an incentive for us foreigners to work on pronouncing those Italian double consonants correctly ...

                    2. And there's more...
                      How many cartoons have had a dish named because of (and for) them?


                      1. Don't feel bad, even the editor in chief of the New Yorker admits often time after he "ok's" a cartoon for the magazine he realizes he doesn't get it either. (source 60 Minutes 3/23/14)

                        1. As the pasta that's talking is of the straight variety, his friend, Fusilli, is a "cork-screw" shape...hence the reference to being a "crazy bastard."

                          1. Hmmm... seems like this guy Barsotti does some recycling.

                            1. Ha my brother just got me a subscription to the New Yorker as a Xmas gift, and all I can think of is the Seinfeld episode where Elaine did a cartoon for them and nobody got it. She kept insisting it was hysterical but no one agreed. Now I know where their premise comes from, NONE of them make sense or are funny, unless you are smoking wacky weed. I guess it's their schtick.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: coll

                                Hmm, I've been a subscriber for more years than I can imagine, and many of the cartoons are very wry in humor. I guess one need's the wry gene. I am happy to admit I have that particular gene.

                                Everyone has their own sense of humor.

                                1. re: breadchick

                                  I've been reading it for nearly 50 years. The humor in the vast majority is quite clear, IME. My eye doctor and I have commiserated about how we think we've been robbed, when we both submitted entries to the caption contest that we think were better than the finalists they picked. Clearly, not everyone's funny bone is the same!

                                  1. re: greygarious

                                    Yup, I have to admit to submitting a caption or two. Sadly, I'm not up to snuff.

                                    Really, New Yorker? :) I am a laugh riot.

                                2. Hi tschang -

                                  The cartoon is great !

                                  One interpretation might be " Fusilli, You wild and crazy guy. "

                                  In the Youtube commercial by Fellini, the really funny comment .near the end.." . . . Sentire al dente " translates well into multiple meanings. " You make me feel " Al Dente " is one, or look, hear, or ( most suggestive ) taste.

                                  10 Replies
                                  1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                    I think the slogan was 'Barilla vi fa sentire sempre al dente' or 'Barilla makes you feel always al dente'. You're right, after a seductive lady rejects all the delicate French house specialties to order a thick cylindrical ribbed Italian pasta, it's pretty suggestive.

                                    Have to agree with greygarious that they were hypocritical to say that their disapproval of ad campaigns featuring same sex couples was simply because they like everything in Barilla ads to be G-rated, family-friendly material.

                                    1. re: ninrn

                                      The Fellini commercial aired in 1985, I believe, when Giulio Barilla had only recently started work at the family business. Times were different, and it is to its credit that the Barilla company entrusted a commercial to a director like Fellini. However, even then the company decided that the Maestro had really gone too far and pulled the spot. I read this in the comments on YouTube; I remember that it didn't last long. Also, reading the comments this morning, I discovered that in Emilia (and Fellini was from Romagna, right next door) the meaning of rigatoni is not generically phallic but very specific and refers to oral sex. In any case once you know that, the valedictory "al dente" becomes truly wild and crazy.

                                      1. re: mbfant

                                        Good History.

                                        I will try and keep a straight face the next time I have my pasta al Dente !

                                        1. re: mbfant

                                          Strong traits ( the music, nostalgic elegance, lighting ) in the commercial from the Fellini film " Amarcord. "

                                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                            Don't want to push this thread off track too far, but I thought you (SWISSAIRE and mbfant) might like this if you haven't seen it already: http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/si...

                                            1. re: ninrn

                                              Morgen !

                                              Up early and saw your post.

                                              I get an error message (Guru Meditation ?), so I will try back later this afternoon.

                                              Cheers & Ciao !

                                              1. re: SWISSAIRE

                                                Weird. Seems like the whole BFI site is generating this error message.

                                                Here's a similar article from Open Culture: http://www.openculture.com/2012/01/fe...

                                                1. re: ninrn

                                                  Grazie mille -

                                                  I took a look at your second link with Open Culture, and the Fellini commercials, which worked.

                                                  I thought that Nino Rota did the music in these, but not according to the article.

                                                  Much appreciated !

                                              2. re: ninrn

                                                Thank you very much. It's most interesting. I had no trouble with the link.

                                      2. Terry Gross did an interview with Bob Mankoff about his new memoir about his work at the New Yorker. He discusses the psychology of cartoon humor and they also talk about the fact that many people (myself included) often don't get the New Yorker cartoons. It seemed that even Terry didn't get a couple of the cartoons that he mentioned, so I didn't feel quite so dumb. I think we just tend to overthink them.


                                        7 Replies
                                        1. re: bear

                                          I get wry, I get ironic, I get dry humor. I also get good interviewers. Few New Yorker cartoons are funny and Terry Gross is dreadful.

                                          1. re: Chatsworth

                                            Aw, I love Terry Gross and her show. :)

                                            Edit: if it weren't for her show, I would never have found Sons of Anarchy...

                                            1. re: breadchick

                                              I know, and I'm sorry. I know lots of people love her but I just can't take her ums and errs and un-questions. Glad you like her and glad I can turn off the radio!

                                            2. re: Chatsworth

                                              Not funny to you. Millions of people disagree.

                                              1. re: jmckee

                                                And millions agree, so let's agree to disagree.

                                                1. re: coll

                                                  Was just about to say the same. Glad to be able to have civil discourse now TWoP is on its way out.

                                          2. Now that we've discussed the implications of rigatoni, shall we have a look at fusilli?

                                            Clearly Barsotti is referring to the tightly coiled industrial fusilli. But the word fusillli does not imply any sort of craziness. It derives from fuso, spindle, which has given us the names of various spindle-shaped objects -- think of the fuselage of an airplane. In fact in Naples fusilli (and the term is Neapolitan) were handmade on a spindle-shaped ferretto, tapered at the ends to help the finished pasta slide off. They have a very interesting story, recounted at length in "Encyclopedia of Pasta."

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: mbfant

                                              So the original fusili was more of a spring than a screw? Like spaghetti with a spiral perm? That's very interesting. I think I'd like that texture better.

                                              As I said in my comment above though, I thought the real humor of the cartoon was not so much in the fact that fusilli is "screwy", but, along with just the absurdity of pasta talking on the telephone, in making fun of the type of guy who says things like 'you crazy bastard' to his friends who aren't all that different from him, just so that he can feel like he's in with cool cats.

                                              I mean, come on, Rigatoni! In the end you and Fusili are both flour and water pushed through the same machines with slightly different die settings, like a million other pastas. There are noodles out there made of seaweed. There are hand-pulled noodles, and noodles black with squid ink. There are noodles who have traveled to outer space! -- http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/Jap...

                                              1. re: ninrn

                                                Here's what I have in my pantry, I don't buy this shape often so not sure of the variations. I just got it at the local store, nowhere fancy.

                                                My SIL used to refer to fusilli being related to certain people's hairstyles but I can't remember exactly how anymore. We're talking the 1980s here. Your mention of a spiral perm made me remember.

                                                Still don't like "jokes" that you have to overthink to this extent, not that I'm saying you shouldn't.

                                                1. re: ninrn


                                                  Edit: I cut this cartoon out of the NY'r when I read it and stuck it on the fridge. I still have it, a couple fridges since.

                                                2. re: mbfant

                                                  This longer Neapolitan fusilli is the only one we had--and may well have been the only one available under that name--growing up in NY. Usually labelled "fusilli col buco," or with a hole, they're still available industrially-made and from smaller pastifici, and the forms recall an old fashioned past--they're packaged bent in half, as if they'd just been draped to dry over a long rod. I love them--they cook quickly, broken by hand into normal 8" lengths, have great mouth appeal, and can be a perfect Sunday partner to a ragu. Another classic ragu match, ziti, used to be sold more commonly in the US as they are in Naples--in 8" tubes, to be cracked by half in hand and dropped into the pot of boiling water. Either works wonderfully for me, even if the cartoon might not.

                                                3. I was disappointed in the house-made fusilli at a local restaurant. They were not the long corkscrew spaghetti that I think of as fusilli. Nor the version of rotini sometimes labeled as fusilli (which Ronzoni calls rotelle although rotelle, a.k.a. fiore, usually refers to wagon-wheel pasta). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rotini

                                                  Instead, they were 2" long squares that had been rolled, Torah-like, on two very thin dowels until the two rolls meet in the middle. Like making palmiers (a.k.a. elephant ears) from puff pastry dough. Had they been thicker, they's have looked a lot like conch-shaped gnocchi.

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                    They might have been a version of "fileja", a traditional home made pasta from Calabria that also has different names; I've heard this general shape referred to as "fusilli". Some are longer than others, some rolled around a knitting needle or metal bar. They resemble the Tuscan pici.