Other Side Drive

Film Fix – Chris Farley

todayDecember 19, 2014 34

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By Daniel Fickman
Segment Producer

Chris Farley
Chris Farley. Courtesy photo.

Now today I want to focus on another performer. I use the term performer because at the bottom of it all that’s what he truly was. One of the bravest to ever step foot onto the “Saturday Night Live” stage, and possibly my favorite comedic actor of all time. Chris Farley would have turned 50 this year, and I am dedicating this week’s episode to him.

Farley was the Marlon Brando of improv/sketch comedy. Basically, Farley was a naturally gifted performer whose unwavering commitment to character and unparalleled energy would always leave the audience gasping for more between heavy breaths of laughter. As his biography states, “For Farley, comedy was not a craft or a career. It was a way of life. He could not enter a room unnoticed or let a conversation pass without making someone laugh.” Alec Baldwin, who was friends with Farley, once said, “Whenever I was watching Chris perform I would think, ‘How do I get where he’s at? How do I get to be as funny and as honest and as warm?’”

Before he landed his gig on “SNL,” Farley worked his way up the ranks through Chicago’s legendary improv/sketch comedy theater The Second City. And he moved up the ranks pretty quick. It was there that Farley honed his craft and created quite possibly the most notable character of his career.

Farley had been toying around with the idea of a motivational speaker named Matt Foley who exhibits all the wrong traits that a motivational speaker should have: he’s loud, clumsy and his personal life is a disaster. Comedian and fellow Second City cast member Bob Odenkirk took this idea and fleshed a sketch. The skit Farley would perform to high acclaim on “SNL” involved a family who hired Foley to come talk to their kids. Foley is thrice divorced, enjoys a steady diet of government cheese and lives (say it with me) “IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER!” Odenkirk remembers watching Farley perform it for the first time. “I handed it to Chris, and watching where he took it was insane,” Odenkirk said.

Here’s a clip of when Farley first performed this sketch on “SNL”:

God, I love this skit, and there’s really so many other great ones. Once he got to “SNL” he was basically the funniest person on the show. Conan O’ Brien, who at the time was a writer for “SNL,” spoke about Farley’s arrival: “He had this energy,” said O’Brien. “Even when he was sitting there waiting for his meeting, rocking back and forth in his ill-fitting sports jacket with his tie pulled off to the side. He seemed really earnest about doing the show. You just had the feeling that he was going to be a lot of fun and he belonged here.”

Aside from Matt Foley, ya know, if I really had to think about what my other favorite Farley character is I would really have to go with the character of the classic skit, “The Chris Farley Show.” In the skit Farley plays himself interviewing popular guests. But instead of asking prominent questions he would ask, for instance, Paul McCartney, “Remember when you were in the Beatles?” with no follow up question of any kind.

Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney for his "Chris Farley Show."
Chris Farley interviewing Paul McCartney for “The Chris Farley Show.”

Fellow cast member and friend Tim Meadows said, “That’s how he acted whenever he was around someone he admired. Until he got to know you, he really was that guy — shy and asking a lot of dumb questions but not wanting to be too intrusive. It was a very endearing quality.” I really love that skit too because it shows a softer, less manic sensitive side to Farley. And obviously it’s absolutely hysterical.

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