Chris Farley: True Tales of the Classic Sad Clown

December 18, 1997 was a sad, sad day in the world of comedy. Farley was only 33 when he passed away, leaving family members, friends and countless fans longing to see him just one more time. What would the ‘90s have been without him, really? He basically dominated Saturday Night Live and stole the show in every comedic film he was in. Nobody mastered physical comedy the way Farley did.

Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and David Spade
Source: Getty Images

Tragically, he left the world way too soon, before he could ever meet his full potential. What might be even more heartbreaking is that many of us only learned about the turmoil he was dealing with internally after he died. Since it’s never too late to learn about someone important, this is the life story of a comedy legend gone too soon.

The Archetypal Sad Clown

He shouted, sweated, laughed, and fell down in the funniest way humanly possible. Chris Farley was the greatest physical comedian of his generation – a manic, Tasmanian devil of sorts who was surprisingly athletic while also clumsy as can be. He could make people laugh just by walking into a room.

Chris Farley on the phone in a scene from Black Sheep 1996
Photo by Paramount Pictures / Getty Images

But the thing is that it was all an act. As hilarious and wacky as his public persona was, he was – in many ways – the classic sad clown. While he made people laugh, he was dealing with a lot of internal pain. So what was it that made him suffer so much? And what led to his untimely death at such a young age?

A Boy From Madison, Wisconsin

Christopher Crosby Farley was born on February 15, 1964, to an oil contractor father and homemaker mother in Madison, Wisconsin. He was one of five children raised in an Irish-American household. Farley and his family would go to church, and he went to parochial schools, including Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart.

Chris Farley in a middle school yearbook photograph
Source: Twitter

Growing up, many of his summers were spent as a camp-goer and counselor at Red Arrow Camp, near Minocqua, Wisconsin. By the time he reached his senior year of high school, he stood at 5’9” and 230 pounds. He was often mocked by his classmates because of his size, which was the beginning of a tactic that he would use for the rest of his brief life.

A Defense Mechanism Against the Bullying

From an early age, Farley found a way to overcome any embarrassment from bullying: He would ridicule himself before anyone else could. He found that it would make people laugh and show them that he was in on the joke, too. Farley was always on the heavier side, and in an interview with Rolling Stone’s Erik Hedegaard, he confessed that it wasn’t easy for him.

Chris Farley on the rugby field in high school
Source: Pinterest

Farley revealed that his childhood was full of bullying. He gave a sad list of all the names he was called as a kid, including “Tubby.” And, “of course, Fatso was standard,” he said. The way he handled it was by using his natural talent for comedy as a “defense mechanism.”

He Was Remarkably Graceful and Athletic

Farley, who was always a big guy, was remarkably graceful and athletic in his movements. It had a lot to do with his early years in sports. When he was a kid, he took up swimming. His brother Tom recalled Farley getting up on the blocks “as a 10-year-old and kids would start snickering at him.”

Chris Farley in a football uniform
Source: Twitter

Once he hit the water “with those big, broad shoulders of his,” he would go into the butterfly stroke, “kicking up this rooster tail, and leave those kids in the dust.” Farley had the traditional build of a football player, and in high school, he made the all-city team as a defensive lineman.

Comedy Became His New Contact Sport

His dream was to go pro after school, but even at his size, he realized he still wasn’t big enough to be an effective NFL player. Farley eventually graduated from Marquette University in 1986, majoring in both communications and theater. In college, he played rugby and discovered his love for comedy.

Chris Farley on the red carpet
Photo by SGranitz / WireImage / Getty Images

Since professional football was no longer an option, he had to find another way to make sense of his life. He drew inspiration from his hero John Belushi and made comedy his new “contact sport.” His future boss, SNL’s Lorne Michaels, described Farley as an athlete who “knew how to use his body” and “could play hurt.”

Joining the Second City Comedy Troupe

After graduating college, Farley moved to Chicago and joined the Second City comedy troupe (apparently on the same day as Stephen Colbert), which served as the training ground for comedic legends like Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Gilda Radner and John Belushi. At Second City, he learned that his physical comedy drew big laughs.

Chris Farley with a friend in college
Source: Tumblr

By 1989, he was promoted to the Mainstage and was a cast member of three shows: The Gods Must Be Lazy, It Was Thirty Years Ago Today, and Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only. A year later, he got the gig of a lifetime – one that would establish him in the world of comedy…

The New Guy at SNL

In 1990, on the day he arrived at New York’s NBC’s Studio 8H, he walked past all those pictures of Belushi and Aykroyd and Bill Murray on the wall. With his long hair and disheveled look, Farley burst into the scene announcing his presence, shouting, “F***ing Farley!”

Chris Farley with the cast of SNL
Photo by Mitchell Gerber / Corbis / VCG / Getty Images

The SNL veterans glanced up, and one of them even said, “F***ing new guy.” Years later, Farley recalled how he “stuck out like a sore fucking thumb” during his start at SNL. Farley joined a cast that many to this day say was one of the best ever, including Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, Tim Meadows and David Spade.

All Good Things Come to an End

Farley indeed stuck out in more ways than one. When he first came on the show, Lorne Michaels and other cast members would say, “if Belushi and Aykroyd had a child, it would have been Chris.” He was on SNL for four years, and during that (relatively) short stint, he became one of the show’s biggest stars.

Robert Smigel, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, and Joe Mantegna sitting around a sports bar in Bears hats and uniforms in a scene from SNL
Source: / Copyright: NBC

You surely remember his motivational speaker character Matt Foley, Cindy the Gap Girl, big-little Andrew Giuliani, and, of course, his Chippendales dancer character. Then, in 1994, after Farley made some small but promising cameos in movies like Wayne’s World, Wayne’s World 2 and Coneheads, Michaels had an idea.

The Opening Night of Tommy Boy

Michaels came up with the bright idea to pair Farley with his emotional and physical opposite: David Spade. Tommy Boy was the first Farley/Spade project, and on its debut night, Michaels talked to Farley on the phone. “He was frightened,” Michaels remembered.

Chris Farley playing with a toy truck with David Spade looks shocked and uncomfortable in a scene from Tommy Boy
Source: / Copyright: Warner Bros

“He’s a sensitive and emotional guy, and he wanted it so badly to succeed, and it was not [critically] well received.” Then, the box-office results came in, and all was forgotten. The public simply loved him. “And that mattered,” Michaels stated. “What people thought of him mattered a great deal.”

The Origin of “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”

It goes without saying that one of Farley’s most memorable bits is “Fat Guy in a Little Coat” from Tommy Boy. When Spade’s character Richard grows tired of the buffoonish antics of Farley’s Tommy, Tommy puts on Richard’s tiny blazer and chants “fat guy in a little coat.” He starts singing that line, swinging his arms around, and ultimately ripping the jacket right down the back.

David Spade and Chris Farley driving a convertible in a scene from Tommy Boy
Source: / Copyright: Warner Bros

“Chris was always doing that bit to me at work,” Spade revealed in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session. He described how Farley would say, “Davey… turn around,” and Spade would say, “If this is Fat Guy in a Little Coat, I’m not turning around; it’s not funny anymore.” Farley would say, “No, I’ve got a whole new thing I’m doing,” and when Spade turned around, he would see Farley in his jacket, going, “Fat guy in little coat! Don’t you give up on it!”

A Man and His Van Down by the River

Bob Odenkirk (from Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul) was once a writer on SNL. During the summer of 1990, he went to his hometown of Chicago to work with Second City, where he met Farley, who was polishing up his skills before joining the cast of SNL. It was for the Second City stage that Odenkirk and Farley created the character of Matt Foley, the ineffective and constantly-screaming motivational speaker.

Chris Farley as Matt Foley yelling at David Spade and Christina Applegate as teenagers in a scene from SNL
Source: / Copyright: NBC

You know, the guy who tries to scare kids by warning them they could wind up like him in “a van down by the river” before falling into and breaking something. There’s a real Matt Foley, by the way, and he was a close friend of Farley’s. The two played rugby together at college. Foley became a priest in Chicago and led Farley’s funeral service in 1997.

The Regrettable Addition to the Bit

Foley’s catchphrase of “living in a van down by the river” didn’t take long to enter the pop cultural lexicon. Before Matt Foley popped up on national television, the sketch was given a new twist with the whole tripping over and flinging himself face down onto a coffee table. Sure, it was both shocking and funny and earned the laughs from Farley’s castmates in the skit who couldn’t hide their own laughter.

Chris Farley with Melanie Hutsell and Nancy Kerrigan sitting in the area you receive a figure skating score in an SNL sketch
Source: / Copyright: NBC

SNL writer Robert Smigel said he regretted adding that part to the sketch. “It worked really well,” he admitted, “but it inaugurated this trend of Chris being really clumsy and falling down a lot.” He added that this clumsiness “was actually the opposite of what Chris’s talents as a physical comedian were.”

The Chippendales Sketch

The famous SNL Chippendales sketch from October 1990 was during Farley’s first season on the show. He played an aspiring dancer, competing against Patrick Swayze for the last spot in the male dancer show.

Patrick Swayze and Chris Farley dancing on a Chippendale’s stage
Source: / Copyright: NBC

Dancing to Loverboy’s hit Working for the Weekend, Farley gave it that 110% that Michaels said he always gave (for the better or worse). The audience – in the studio and at home – couldn’t have been more entertained. The joke of the sketch came in the final moments, when the panel of judges confirmed that Swayze was indeed the obvious choice. But they did state that the Farley had the “sexiest moves.”

Laughing With Him, Not at Him

The I Am Chris Farley documentary framed that sketch as an “unqualified triumph,” and the moment Farley became a national star. But in The Chris Farley Show book, Tanner Colby and Farley’s older brother Tom sourced that sketch as controversial.

Phil Hartman and Chris Farley posing together at an SNL party
Photo by Barry King / WireImage / Getty Images

Jim Downey, who wrote the sketch, kept insisting that it was Farley’s dancing ability that elevated it. In his opinion, the audience was celebrating his bold and daring performance rather than just mocking his appearance. In other words, people were laughing WITH him and not AT him. (I happen to agree.)

Others Believe It Ruined Him

That distinction was actually a constant pull throughout his career. And while the sketch was downright hilarious and seen as a triumph by some, there are others who strongly disagree. If you ask Odenkirk, the entire thing was “weak bull****.” He said Farley “never should have done it.”

Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and David Spade laughing together
Chris Farley, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and David Spade. Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

Chris Rock, an SNL cast member at the time, felt it was a dangerous turning point for Farley. “That was a weird moment in Chris’s life,” Rock said. “As funny as that sketch was, and as many accolades, as he got for it, it’s one of the things that killed him. It really is. Something happened right then.”

The Shortcut to a Sure Laugh

The writers at SNL discovered the shortcut to a sure laugh, and so, as the years went on, Farley was doing more and more falls and other physical comedy, which became more and more a form of self-beating. Whenever he would pretend to be angry with himself for saying or doing something inappropriate, he would slap his face and aggressively pull his hair.

Chris Farley pouring milk over his face while he wears a floral wreath
Photo by KMazur / WireImage / Getty Images

When he did one of his recurring falls onstage, he did it for real with nothing but his own body to soften the blow. It only proved his willingness to do just about anything and everything for the good of a joke – to get the biggest laugh possible.

Did He Get Fired or Did He Quit?

As it turns out, both Farley and his co-star and best friend Adam Sandler were “let go” from SNL in 1995. In a 2017 interview with The Daily Beast, Sandler revealed that they were fired. He remembers that day in 1995, saying that they “kind of quit at the same time as being fired.”

Adam Sandler and Chris Farley walking up to an event together
Photo by SGranitz / WireImage / Getty Images

“It was the end of the run for us,” Sandler stated. After SNL, Farley made two more movies: Black Sheep, also co-starring Spade, and Beverly Hills Ninja, on his own. While both films bombed with the critics, they still made tons of money and brought him lots of fan love.

Riddled by Insecurity

Farley was riddled by insecurity. He was never comfortable with his weight and secretly feared that if he lost it and his addictions that he might lose his comedic edge. Farley admitted to Rolling Stone that he was “always terrified.”

David Spade and Chris Farley pretending to argue over a microphone on stage
Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

According to Farley, his overbearing behavior was a reaction to his fear of people. He was also deeply fearful of his movies not doing well and that he wouldn’t be hired for acting work. He also spoke about when the roar of laughter died down, “the most terrifying silence you’ve ever heard” followed.

He Longed for Love

All the love he got from his friends and audience just wasn’t enough for Farley. Who knows? Maybe he didn’t believe that he deserved the love he got. “This notion of love is something that would be a wonderful thing,” Farley once said. “I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it, other than the love of my family.”

Chris Farley on the red carpet / Lorri Bagley on the red carpet
Photo by Ron Galella Ltd, Ron Galella Collection, Getty Images / SGranitz, WireImage, Getty Images

Farley admitted that the concept of love was something beyond his grasp. “But I can imagine it, and longing for it makes me sad,” he honestly admitted. Farley did have a girlfriend, Lorri Bagley. The two met during one of Farley’s sober periods.

“I Know I Can Do It. We All Can Do It.”

It’s no secret that Farley dealt with addiction during his life. In fact, he entered rehab several times during his time at SNL. In June of 1994, he gave a moving speech at a facility in Center City, Minnesota, in which he announced to a room full of addicts that he had been sober for over a year.

Chris Farley with Jon Lovitz, Dana Carvey, and two other men
Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FIlmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

He finished off the speech with, “I know I can do it. We all can do it.” And he did… for three years. He was sober when he filmed Tommy Boy, which could be why he met Lorri. She had a part in the movie.

A Glutton of Overconsumption

Do you remember the woman Spade spied on as she stripped down and dove into the hotel swimming pool? That was Lorri. After months of friendship and flirting, she became Farley’s girlfriend. Eventually, though, he fell off the wagon and relapsed.

Chris Farley fooling around backstage
Photo by KMazur / WireImage / Getty Images

Lorri was devastated. Before she broke it off with him, he cried and drank vodka all night, pleading with her, “How do I turn off the voices in my head?!” Farley was constantly struggling with his inner turmoil and became a glutton for booze, drugs, and food. Overconsumption was the only way he knew.

A Man of Vice and Self-Awareness

Farley was a man with vices, but he was also very self-aware. He went to Overeaters Anonymous as well as Alcoholics Anonymous and did stints at rehab and weight loss centers. He was still at a point where he felt he had a lot to lose, and he truly wanted to get better.

Chris Farley and David Spade looking at their arm muscles
Photo by SGranitz / WireImage / Getty Images

During his last two years, Farley made over 17 trips to rehab. He went to one detox center in Hazelden so often that his friend said, “they should’ve named a wing after him.” Unfortunately, none of his – or his friends’ – attempts did any good.

The Only Thing That Worked Was Work

Farley’s friends and family were painfully aware of his troubles. Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, David Spade, Tom Arnold, and Farley’s own manager tried to get him to cut down on his excesses. One thing that people around him discovered was that the only thing that really worked was work.

David Spade and Chris Farley on the red carpet together
Photo by Ron Galella / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

Farley was aware that whenever he made movies, he had no choice but to stay clean. After all, the studios wanted to protect their investment, and so they made sure he was always on his best behavior. When he was making Almost Heroes, for instance, daily AA meetings were a requirement.

He Could Have Been Shrek

Before he passed away in late 1997, two projects were in the works. One was a biopic about the silent film star Fatty Arbuckle, which would have been his first drama. The other was Shrek. Farley actually recorded about 85% of his lines, but it was a version that was very different than the film we now know.

Chris Farley on the red carpet / Mike Myers posing with a lifesize Shrek doll
Photo by Jeff Kravitz, FilmMagic Inc, Getty Images / Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

When he was recording his lines, the studio was stricter than usual, and he was being watched around the clock. Of course, Mike Myers took over the role after Farley’s death, but the film’s screenwriter Terry Rossio explained that the whole characterization of the big, green ogre was indeed heavily inspired by Farley.

Mike Meyers Asked to Have It Rewritten

Rossio explained how in the Farley version of Shrek, he was unhappy to be cast as the villain, and Farley’s comedic persona was key to the creation of the Shrek— a character “who rejected the world because the world rejected him.” When Farley died, there were talks of having an impersonator record the remaining lines, but that idea was ultimately scrapped.

Mike Myers holding hands with a lifesized Shrek statue
Photo by Lester Cohen / WireImage / Getty Images

According to the director Andrew Adamson they spent a year banging their heads against the wall until Mike Myers came on board. Once he did, he asked that the script be rewritten entirely. He didn’t want to star in “the Chris Farley version of the film.” (He had a point, and boy did he nail it.)

A Hazardous Combination

Speaking of Mike Meyers, in the documentary I Am Chris Farley, he spoke about doing improv with Farley at Second City and noted Farley’s reputation as a near-hazardous coworker. “I was scared to death because he had already knocked someone’s tooth out and gave someone else a scar just from being so crazy.”

Chris Farley acting intoxicated in front of the press while an officer stands by
Photo by KMazur / WireImage / Getty Images

It’s no surprise that someone with such inner struggles, in combination with addiction, can potentially go into fits of rage and be psychically aggressive. Farley was no exception. In 2016, Adam Sandler revealed that Farley had once threatened to punch David Spade.

In Between the Laughs Was Rage

At the time, Farley dismissed his threatening voicemail as a “joke message.” Spade later said that when they were shooting Tommy Boy it got much worse than that. Farley, who was sober at the time, hated when Spade went out for drinks with co-star Rob Lowe while he slept.

Chris Farley and David Spade arriving at an event
Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

He got his revenge the next day. “He comes over, and he crunches my hand…with his boot,” Spade said. “And then I got up, and I threw my Diet Coke on him. It was straight out of Atlanta Housewives … Then he threw me down the stairs, and then they said ‘Action.’”

A Serious and Strange Quirk

According to Adam Sandler, who was also a close friend of Farley’s, Farley had a serious and rather strange OCD quirk. Apparently, the comedian felt compelled to lick things. “Chris Farley, everywhere we went, was licking everything,” Sandler revealed on the Late Late Show.

Chris Farley on the red carpet
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

One time, Farley, Sandler and some other comedians were walking down the street on their way to have dinner together. Farley suddenly stopped and told Sandler: “You just gotta give me a minute.” He then ran a hundred feet back, licked a mailbox, and ran right back.

When He Was Confronted About His Behavior

There’s a book called The Second City Unscripted, written by Mike Thomas, which mentions several people who knew Farley during his improv days at the comedy theater. They described Farley as a person who showed clear symptoms of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder).

Tom Arnold, Tommy Lee, and Chris Farley posing at the Grammy Awards
Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

The quirks reported in those days included touching the walls and stairs, kissing parking meters, licking the stage and his belt. Another Second City cast member, John Rubano, challenged Farley once about his behavior. Farley’s response was to simply turn around and walk away without saying a word.

“I Want To Live Fast and Die Young”

Despite the interesting new projects he started doing near the end of his life and the best efforts made by Farley and those closest to him, his sobriety didn’t take. One night in July 1997, a friend of Farley’s spotted him at a Planet Hollywood opening, under the influence and putting on a big, loud show for the patrons.

Luke Perry, Chris Farley, and Stephen Baldwin sitting around a table drunk at the Planet Hollywood opening in New York
Luke Perry, Chris Farley, and Stephen Baldwin at the Planet Hollywood opening in New York. Photo by KMazur / WireImage / Getty Images

When this friend suggested he slow down a bit, Farley smiled and said, “I want to live fast and die young.” His behavior at the party made The National Enquirer tabloid. As his descent got deeper and deeper, he was hanging out with dealers, users, and prostitutes. When he returned to SNL to host an episode in October of 1997, he was in a bad state, and everyone could see it.

How Did Chris Farley Die?

He also stopped listening to his family and friends, who insisted he go to treatment again. On December 18, 1997, at the end of a four-day bender in Chicago, he overdosed on cocaine and morphine in his apartment. He was only 33. Unfortunately, it was his brother John who found him.

A black and white portrait of Chris Farley
Photo by George Pimentel / WireImage / Getty Images

According to Biography, Farley also suffered from an “advanced” heart disease that caused a buildup in his arteries. His actual cause of death, though, was a drug overdose. The heart disease he had was called atherosclerosis, which turns fat, calcium, and other things in the blood into plaque.

As a side note, Whitney Houston had the same condition.

“Please Don’t Leave Me”

Farley’s unexpected (yet unsurprising) death was devastating. One columnist referred to it as the “least-surprising premature death of a celebrity in show business history.” Farley’s friend Jillian Seely said, “I know he wanted to get sober, but it was like he had cancer, and the chemo treatment didn’t work anymore.”

Chris Farley on the red carpet with a woman behind him
Photo by Russell Einhorn / Liaison / Getty Images

On the night of his overdose, a woman he paid to keep him company heard his last words before leaving him alone in his apartment (after stealing his watch and taking photos of him on the floor). According to her, his last words were, “Please don’t leave me.”

From Christmas Cheer to a Four-Day Bender

It’s rather eerie because it echoed the final words of his idol John Belushi: “Just don’t leave me alone.” Belushi, by the way, also died at 33. The bender that ended his life came not too long after he returned home from a brief stint at the Hazelden detox center in Minneapolis.

Chris Farley with his mother on the red carpet
Chris Farley and his mother. Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

A regular churchgoer, he spent a few days going to Mass and doing Christmas preparations. He even baked cookies and got a fancy Christmas tree. His holiday cheer was soon eclipsed by his need for nightlife. Starting on December 14, he began bar-hopping through the city, accompanied by different ladies and tearing through a huge quantity of drugs and alcohol.

Things Were Looking Up for His Career

1997 could have been a really great year for Farley. He had just kicked off the release of his biggest film yet, Beverly Hills Ninja, which opened in January. It became his highest-grossing starring role. January was also the month when he shocked his fans with a guest appearance with future SNL star Kenan Thompson on the Nickelodeon series All That.

Robin Shou and Chris Farley practicing martial arts in a film still from Beverly Hills Ninja
Source: / Copyright: Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures

Farley was noticeably pale, sweaty, and out of breath, despite having been reportedly sober for several months at the time. People said he was in relatively good spirits after meeting with screenwriter David Mamet in late 1996 to discuss his first dramatic role in the Fatty Arbuckle biopic.

The Worrisome Trip to Aspen

In March of 1997, Farley, Spade and some of his old SNL and Second City pals (including Conan O’Brien, Chevy Chase, and Bob Odenkirk) went to the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colorado. But things went downhill quickly.

Chris Farley on the Conan O’Brien Show
Source: YouTube

In the 2008 book The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts, by Tanner Colby, Farley’s companions described how quickly it became clear that the star was in serious trouble. Two of Farley’s brothers, John and Kevin, were also on the trip and noticed how oddly he was behaving on the plane.

“Look, You’re Not John Belushi”

As soon as they landed in Aspen, Farley started using. Spade had to force Farley to cancel a formal dinner with Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, and Steve Martin due to his inebriation. Chevy Chase recalled his own desperate attempt to intervene.

Chris Farley making a face at the Academy Awards / Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin posing together backstage
Photo by Jeffrey Mayer, WireImage, Getty Images / NBC Television, Archive Photos, Getty Images

“I sat with him, and I said, ‘Look, you’re not John Belushi. And when you overdose or kill yourself, you will not have the same acclaim that John did,’” Chase told Farley. According to Odenkirk, the situation got worse as the trip wore on. Farley drifted toward a local party where people definitely didn’t have his best interests at heart.

“I Wept for Him”

Near the end of his life, Farley grew cynical about being the heavy guy, expressing that “fatty fall down” was his only go-to crowd-pleaser. Comedian Sarah Silverman recalls Farley once asking the SNL writer Jim Downey, in a childish voice, “Hey, Jim? Do you think it would help the show if I got even fatter?”

Chris Farley and other cast members on the stage of SNL at the end of an episode during the closing credits
Source: / Copyright: NBC

Writer Tom Davis recounts a conversation he once had with Farley about his idol Belushi. He asked Farley, “Chris, you don’t want to die like Belushi, do you?” He answered, “Oh, yeah, that’d be really cool.” That’s when Davis started crying. “I wept for him.”

A Profoundly Honest Interview

In the summer of 1997, there were signs that Farley knew he was headed down a deadly path. But that didn’t mean that he was embracing it. Not long after, Farley got shockingly real during an interview with Playboy magazine, which happened to be one of the last times he spoke publicly about his addiction.

Chris Farley walking with his arm around Adam Sandler while talking
Photo by Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images

“I used to think that you could get to a level of success where the laws of the universe didn’t apply,” Farley said. “But they do. It’s still life on life’s terms, not on movie-star terms. I still have to work at relationships.”

His Last Appearance

Farley continued: “I still have to work on my weight and some of my other demons. Once I thought that if I just had enough in the bank, if I had enough fame, that it would be all right. But I’m a human being like everyone else. I’m not exempt.”

David Spade and Chris Farley sitting backstage together
Photo by Jeff Kravitz / FilmMagic, Inc / Getty Images

The last time that he made a public performance was on October 25, 1997, when he returned to SNL to host the show. In retrospect, the opening monologue bit – in which he ran and flattened Lorne Michaels’s desk – turned out to be a grim foreshadowing of the near future. And so, it was cut from SNL reruns.

What Could Have Been

Tommy Boy and Black Sheep director Peter Segal grieved over the loss of such a talent. “I thought he could win an Oscar one day,” he said. “I know people might think I’m crazy saying that, looking at his brief career, but I really believed in his talent. It was way beyond what he was showing.”

David Spade and Chris Farley talking in a slanted cabin in a scene from Black Sheep
Source: / Copyright: Paramount Pictures

Lorne Michaels was also truly fond of Farley. “He knew how to use his body. He was incredibly funny with it… But some part of him never got hardened. He liked to have a good time, but he couldn’t control it. As I used to say, the good news and the bad news about Chris is that he always gave 110 percent.”

He Was So Much More Than Just His Body

Farley once spoke about his father, who was “a big man, 650 pounds,” he said. “I worry about it. I love him dearly. I see him when he goes to the mall, and the fingers pointing and the laughing. It’s terrible to see the tear go down his f***ing eye.”

Chris Farley with his father posing in front of the ocean
Chris Farley and his father. Source: Twitter

The thing that Farley struggled so much with was, in large part, what made people laugh. But Farley was so much more than his body; he was also soul. And his soul was all about his Wisconsin upbringing – the devoutly religious and small-town traditions. It’s all the things New York and Hollywood stood against.

He Was, After All, a Boy From Wisconsin

His insecurities aside, many people thought his troubles had a lot to do with big city vices. It was almost as if he was a country boy lured in by the dark side of Hollywood. Then there were those who thought his problems had more to do with his being a nice (and wacky) Wisconsin boy who just couldn’t say no to people – because that would be rude.

Chris Farley on the red carpet
Photo by Denny Keeler / Getty Images

A close friend from his Second City days, Charna Halpern, once threw some “crack-smoking guy” out of Farley’s apartment and then scolded him for it. “You should hang out with people who love you, not with people who just want to be able to sell a story to the tabloids one day.”

A Story for the Tabloids

Farley knew he had idle hands. The studios had him under watch, but it wasn’t as if they truly cared about his well-bring. Tom Farley said that every time he read something in the paper, he thought to himself, “Well, his managers want him to do this or that, and it’s good for his career, so he’s got to lose some weight or we won’t do this or that.”

Chris Farley and his date on the red carpet
Photo by Frank Trapper / Corbis / Getty Images

But Tom explained that when he read these tabloids about his brother, he wondered, “When is someone going to be concerned about his well-being?”; “I don’t care if his career goes tomorrow. I’d rather have a live bum than a dead ex-star.”