Tribute to Chris Farley

Homage to the tenth anniversary of the death of a memorable SNL comic from the 1990s.
December 10, 2007

Christopher Crosby Farley, best known as Chris Farley, was born in Madison, Wisconsin on Febraury 15, 1964. He idolized comedian John Belushi and went on to study communications and theatre at Marquette University. He graduated in 1986. Following his graduation, he was in the Second City Theatre where he was eventually discovered by Lorne Michaels, the producer of Saturday Night Live.

Along with Chris Rock, he was introduced in the SNL pantheon in 1990. These two, together with David Spade, Rob Schneider and Adam Sandler, became known as the "Bad Boys of SNL". Some of his more memorable skits included Matt Foley the inspirational speaker, Todd O'Connor of Bill Swerski's Superfans, one of the "Gap Girls", a stereotypical lunch lady and a Chippendale's dancer.

While working under his Saturday Night Live contract for five years, Chris Farley started to branch out into major Hollywood films. He started out appearing usually as a minor, quick joke character in comedy films such as Wayne's World (1992), Billy Madison (1993), Coneheads (1993), Wayne's World 2 (1993) and Airheads (1994). Once he had fulfilled his contract for SNL, he started to fully emphasize his movie career.

His first major film role was the central character Tommy Callahan in the cult favorite comedy Tommy Boy (1995). Often considered by his fans as his personal Citizen Kane, it told the story of a ne'er do well ex-college student turned auto parts factory heir who, together his friend/dad's former yes-man Richard Hayden (David Spade), needed to travel across the US selling brake pads in order to secure a loan from the bank, while there may be more to his new stepmother and her son than there may seem. My brother and I saw it in its original theatrical release and we laughed our asses off. While not an immediate multi-million dollar success (it only grossed $35 million initally), it still continues to appeal to people everywhere; continuing to sell copies on video and earning high ratings on TV. Not to mention it's a very quotable film,(ie. butcher vs. chicken wings, the 'other guy's' brake pads, motor oil can causing the car accident, 'fat guy in a little coat', the 'pretty little pet', etc. are only a few of the movie's quotable lines). It was his only movie that received any degree of critical acclaim and became one of my personal favorite comedies.

They both went on to star as Mike Donnelly and Steve Dodds in Black Sheep (1996). It was about Mike wanting to do whatever he could to help his brother Al win the governor's election. This movie bore many similarities to Tommy Boy, in the sense Chris Farley again was playing a lovable oaf and David Spade was his wise-ass acquaintance. Unlike Tommy Boy however, which got some praise and the humor seemed to come naturally, this movie was panned to crap and most of its humor felt forced. While the movie was about as successful as his prior film, one main problem was this movie seemed to emphasize his bad traits; he was a great comedian, but he was never much of an actor. This movie is often looked at as an attempt to capitalize on Tommy Boy but while it has the same brand of humor, it failed to recapture its heart. It is also known as the first film the deceased film critic Gene Siskel (who couldn't stand him) had ever walked out on in 25 years.

Afterwards, he appeared in a movie with Chris Rock and Robin Shou in place of David Spade called Beverly Hills Ninja (1997). This movie was about him playing Haru, a Caucasian man raised by ninjas who travels to Beverly Hills to investigate a murder mystery. It had its moments of humor but one couldn't help but think that this film didn't feel very substantial. Reportedly, Chris Farley himself even said he hated this movie seeing it for the first time, justifying his statement as it arguably attributed to the exploitation of his manic, physical humor by dumbing it down and playing it out to an almost tiring and foolish degree and never wanted to appear in a movie like this again.

I believe that his dissatisfaction with Beverly Hills Ninja made him want to start seeking roles other than "the fat guy who falls down". He was considering appearing in a tribute to comedian Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle, and rumors were floating around that he was originally chosen by Dan Akyroyd to play a new Ghostbuster in Ghostbusters 3 (which may have contributed to its status in development limbo).

He even provided voice samples for Shrek. I can hear it now:

"Oh my pretty little pet. I love you! So I stroke it, and I pet it, massage it...and I love ittttt, I love my little naughty pet you're naughty! So then I take my naughty pet then I just go *CHHK!!* *CHHK!* Ohhhhh! I KILLED IT!!! I killed my sale! That's when I blow it."

While still considered to be a fairly bankable star, he started to have some personal problems. During the filming of his final movie, 1998's Almost Heroes, where he played alongside Friends star Matthew Perry as a pair of explorers who wanted to beat Lewis and Clark to the Pacific Ocean, he needed constant treatment for his drug use and relapses. On December 18, 1997, he was found dead in his Chicago apartment due to an accidental drug overdose at age 33, in a similar style of his idol John Belushi. Almost Heroes and another film he cameoed in, 1998's Norm McDonald comedy Dirty Work, failed to garner much revenue at the box office.

I hated hearing the news of Chris Farley's death; he was a really funny guy and made some funny products. If he was still around in the 2000s however, I think he would have been suffering some serious heart conditions if drugs were not a contribution. In any case, he is referenced in many forms of media, indicating that we will all remember Chris Farley, a very funny 1990s comedian.

Christopher Crosby Farley
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