Kathie Lee: James Gandolfini was 'hysterically funny'

Like the rest of the country, Hoda and Kathie Lee mourned the unexpected death of actor James Gandolfini on Thursday. The women praised his acting, particularly in the role that made him a household name.

James Ilya S. Savenok / Getty Images

“His character on ‘The Sopranos,’ he murdered people, he cheated on his wife, he dumped his friends – and you loved him. He had this way,” Hoda said.

Kathie Lee said that as harsh as he came across on the screen as a mob king, Gandolfini was equally as tender on stage in the play, “Gods of Carnage,” in which he played one of two sets of parents trying to settle a playground fight between their children.

“I was so surprised to see him so funny. He was hysterically funny in that,” KLG said.

“His timing was perfect,” Hoda agreed. Neither woman had met Gandolfini but those who did noted he was understated, even reserved.

“Matt (Lauer) said when they interviewed him that he actually came off as shy, which is interesting because he has such a big personality on screen,” Hoda said.

“What surprising and just sad news,” she said.