Tribute: Bruno Kirby

1069__bruno_lCharacter actor Bruno Kirby has died, and “Babyfishmouth!” is what I remember best about him. The man has dozens of credits, most of them supporting roles, but what sticks with me is that game of Pictionary from When Harry Met Sally. Billy Crystal has the punchline, but Kirby’s setup is what makes it priceless. His two teamings with Crystal — as the latter’s best pal in both WHMS and City Slickers — are probably Kirby’s most indelible work. (I’ll always thank him for steering clear of City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curley’s Gold.)

This is the usual refrain when a character actor dies, but it’s true: It takes a special sort of performer to back the lead, blah blah, enriching a scene without stealing the focus. Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s also true. Kirby will always be remembered as that perfect pal, the faithful retainer — a fate that may have been sealed early on, when he made his big breakthrough playing young Peter Clemenza in The Godfather Part II. Kirby had subordination down to a science — yet he was never any kind of pushover or patsy. He even had the stones to play up his second banana-ness with a hilarious recurring arc playing himself on The Larry Sanders Show, culminating in the ultimate second-tier celeb indignity: getting bumped from the sign-off show.

Jeez, he was just on Entourage! (Though mostly in bed, if I recall.) Poor Bruno Kirby. We’ll miss you, sir. Everything you were in, you made it better. How many can say that?

addCredit(“Bruno Kirby: Robert C. Mora/”)

Comments (123 total) Add your comment
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  • Ed

    Oh my god! for two reasons.
    I can’t believe he WAS just on Entourage this season. I also can’t believe that the only think I’ll remember him for is losing his Shrek Doll!

  • Ned

    I loved him in When Harry Met Sally, so much so I almost wished he was the lead character. He also has a funny part in an Albert Brooks movie, Modern Romance.
    I wasn’t really a fan of City Slickers, but he was good in it, you will be missed Mr. Kirby.

  • Cliff

    One of my favorite Kirby performances was in Good Morning Vietnam, where he had to not only be straight man to Robin Williams, but had to play genuinely UN-funny when he substituted as a DJ. A genuinely funny person playing unfunny stuff while thinking it was hilarious–all of this years before morning-radio “zoo shows” made it the norm. God bless, Bruno Kirby.

  • jmg

    I loved him in City Slickers. His classic line from that movie: “No, it means I like your ass and I want to wear it for a hat.” Hilarious!
    RIP Bruno.

  • Lora

    “Oh and Babyfishmouth is sweeping the nation.”
    He will be missed.

  • kenny k

    Oh my.
    I loved CITY SLICKERS; he was superb in it.
    God bless ya, Mr. Kirby.

  • Dave

    Thank you for the tribute to Bruno Kirby. I had already heard he passed away when I logged onto, and my first thought was, I hope they have a tribute. He was in great movies (The Godfather Part II, Good Morning Vietnam, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers, Donnie Brasco) and also did some great work on TV (The Larry Sanders Show, Entourage). Supporting players such as him truly enrich film and television and he will be missed.

  • Shawn Burke

    Good actor, but really the role I can remember him best from is Basketball Diaries, for obvious purposes. Made me afraid to see him if I would be walking down a dark alley. RIP Swifty

  • idolatry

    He was Spinal Tap’s limo driver. I love when he meets them at the airport holding the sign that says “Spinal Pap”

  • newbie

    Great tribute.Amen.RIP,Mr. Kirby!

  • cRAIG

    don’t forget Kirby in The Freshman
    w/Matthew Broderick and Marlon Brando…

  • Joel

    Bruno was great. He will be missed!

  • KitchenMaus

    I’m going out today to buy a stupid, wagon-wheel, Roy-Rogers, garage-sale coffee table in Bruno’s honor.

  • mark in nyc

    From “Mr. Zero knew before you?” to “hello I ‘d like to wear your ass as a hat”. Bruno Kirby played every part well.
    He will be sorely missed.

  • Michelle

    All I could think of this morning? “Draw something…resembling anything!”

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