For so many, Chris Farley helped define the comedy styles of the 1990s. From SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE to fan favorite films like TOMMY BOY and BLACK SHEEP, Farley was lauded for his comedic timing and his willingness to bounce around for a laugh. But he was a troubled guy, too, and unfortunately died 20 years ago today, way too young.
When you look at Farley’s filmography, it’s hard to believe how few projects he actually participated in, given how ubiquitous he seemed to be in the mid-1990s. He’s listed as participating in just 16 completed projects over on IMDb, with a number of those being uncredited appearances in movies and TV shows.
Growing up in Wisconsin, Farley got his first big break as a member of the Second City Theatre, both as a member of the touring group and eventually on its main stage. In 1990, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, where he became synonymous with guys like Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider and David Spade.
One of my favorite recurring Farley SNL bits was motivational speaker Matt Foley, who would inevitably crash his way through a family’s living room while trying to ensure that kids don’t end up LIVING IN A VAN! DOWN BY THE RIVER!
Another classic Farley moment from SNL was the skit he did with Patrick Swayze, as the duo auditioned to be Chippendales dancers.
Farley is perhaps best remembered for the movies he did with fellow SNL collaborator David Spade, TOMMY BOY in 1995 and BLACK SHEEP in 1996. Tommy Boy in particular cemented Farley as a generational comedic talent, and he was frequently compared to another former Saturday Night Live alum, John Belushi, who Farley considered an idol.
Unfortunately, Farley had more in common with Belushi than anyone really wanted. Farley struggled with addiction to drugs and alcohol for years, and he spent considerable time in the last years of his life seeking treatment both for booze and pills and with his weight problems. Farley was found dead in his Chicago home on Dec. 18, 1997 at the age of 33, the same age Belushi was when he died in 1982.
One of the most significant repercussions of Farley’s death was the need to recast the role of SHREK. Farley had apparently recorded about 85 percent of his part as the ogre in the animated film before he died. His SNL costar Mike Myers was eventually cast, giving us the character we know today.
What are your favorite Chris Farley moments? Share them in the comments.