Chris Farley

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Chris Farley
A close-up of Farley smiling at the camera
Farley featured in a NBC promotional photo for Saturday Night Live.
Born Christopher Crosby Farley
(1964-02-15)February 15, 1964
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died December 18, 1997(1997-12-18) (aged 33)
Near North Side, Chicago, Illinois
Cause of death Cocaine intoxication, morphine overdose and arterosclerosis
Resting place Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, Madison, Wisconsin
Alma mater Marquette University
Occupation Comedian, actor
Years active 1987–1997
Notable work Saturday Night Live
Parent(s) Tom Farley, Sr.
Mary Anne Farley
Relatives Tom Farley (brother)
John P. Farley (brother)
Kevin Farley (brother)

Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley (February 15, 1964 – December 18, 1997) was an American comedian and actor. Farley was known for his loud, energetic comedic style, and was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre[1] and cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live between 1990 and 1995. Farley and Chris Rock were introduced as two of the show's new cast members in early 1990.[2][3] In late 1997, Farley died as a result of a drug overdose at the age of 33.

Early life[edit]

Farley was born on February 15, 1964 in Madison, Wisconsin. His father, Thomas John "Tom" Farley, Sr. (1936–1999), owned an oil company, and his mother was Mary Anne (née Crosby), a housewife.[2][4][5] He had four siblings: Tom Jr., Kevin, John, and Barbara. His cousin, Jim, is the CEO and Chairman at Ford Motor Company Europe.[6][7] Farley's family is traditionally Roman Catholic and of Irish descent, and Farley attended numerous Catholic schools in his hometown, including Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart. According to Joel Murray, a fellow Second City cast member, Farley would "always make it to Mass."[8] Many of his summers were spent as a camper and counselor at Red Arrow Camp, near Minocqua, Wisconsin.

Farley graduated from Marquette University in 1986, with a concentration in communications and theater.[9] After college, he worked with his father at the Scotch Oil Company in Madison.[10] He got his start in professional comedy at the Ark Improv Theatre in Madison, and at the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. He then performed at Chicago's Second City Theatre, initially as part of Second City's touring group. He was eventually promoted to their main stage.


Saturday Night Live[edit]

Along with Chris Rock, Farley was one of two new Saturday Night Live cast members announced in the spring of 1990.[2][3] On SNL, Farley frequently collaborated with his fellow cast members Adam Sandler, Chris Rock, Rob Schneider, and David Spade, among others. This group came to be known as the "Bad Boys of SNL."[11]

Popular characters performed by Farley included Matt Foley, an over-the-top motivational speaker who constantly reminded other characters that he "lived in a van, down by the river";[12] Todd O'Connor of Bill Swerski's Superfans, a group of stereotypical Chicagoans who constantly shouted "da Bears!";[13] a Chippendale's dancer, in a famous sketch that paired him with guest host Patrick Swayze;[14] one of the "Gap Girls," who hung out together at a local mall; a stereotypical lunch lady, to the theme of Lunchlady Land performed by Adam Sandler;[15] Bennett Brauer, a Weekend Update commentator who often divulged his personal and hygienic problems via air quotes; and himself on The Chris Farley Show, a talk show in which Farley quite often "interviewed" the guest, regularly getting very nervous.

Some of these characters were brought to SNL from his days at Second City. Farley also performed impersonations of Tom Arnold, who gave Farley's eulogy at his private funeral; Andrew Giuliani, Jerry Garcia, Meat Loaf, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dom DeLuise, Roger Ebert, Carnie Wilson, Newt Gingrich, Mindy Cohn, Mama Cass, Hank Williams, Jr., and Rush Limbaugh were among the celebrities and real-life figures he portrayed.[16]

Off-screen, Farley was well known for his pranks in the offices of Saturday Night Live. This would refer to Sandler and Farley making late-night prank phone calls from the SNL offices in Rockefeller Center, with Sandler speaking in an old woman's voice and Farley farting into the phone and mooning cars from a limousine.[17][18] Sandler told Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show that NBC fired him and Farley from the show in 1995.[19]

Film career[edit]

During his time on SNL, Farley appeared in the comedy films Wayne's World, Coneheads, Airheads, and uncredited in Billy Madison. He also appeared in the Red Hot Chili Peppers music video for "Soul to Squeeze" which was a song featured on the Coneheads soundtrack.

After Farley and most of his fellow cast members were released from their contracts at Saturday Night Live following the 1994–1995 season, Farley began focusing on his film career. His first two major films co-starred his fellow SNL colleague and close friend David Spade. Together, the duo made the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. These were a success at the domestic box office, earning around $32 million each and gaining a large cult following on home video.[20][21]

The two films established Farley as a relatively bankable star and he was given the title role of Beverly Hills Ninja, which finished in first place at the box office on its opening weekend.[22] However, drug and alcohol problems interfered with Farley's film work, and production of his final film, Almost Heroes, was held up several times so Farley could enter rehab.[23] After his death on December 18, 1997, his final completed films, Almost Heroes and Dirty Work, were released posthumously.

Unfinished projects[edit]

Farley was originally cast as the voice of the title character in the movie Shrek, recording about 80–90% of the character's dialogue, but died just before recording was finished. A story reel featuring a sample of Farley's recorded dialogue was made public in August 2015.[24] In August 1998, he was replaced by one of his SNL colleagues, Mike Myers.[12]

Farley was slated for another voice role in Dinosaur as a young male brachiosaurus named Sorbus who, despite his gigantic nature, was frightened of heights. After his death, the character was rewritten as Baylene, an elderly female Brachiosaurus played by stage actress Joan Plowright.[25] At the time of his death, Farley had also been in talks to co star with Vince Vaughn in the film The Gelfin, and a biographical film about Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.[26][27] Jim Carrey's role in the 1996 film The Cable Guy was originally intended for Farley, but scheduling conflicts forced him to decline.[28]

Farley was slated to appear in a third Ghostbusters film, which was at the time intended to be about a new trio of Ghostbusters taking on overpopulation in Hell.[28][29] Dav Pilkey, author of the children's book series Captain Underpants, had wanted Farley to play the title role in a potential television series based on the books, but discarded the idea after Farley's death.[30]

Farley had also been in talks for the lead in an adaptation of the novel A Confederacy of Dunces.[31] Farley even expressed interest in portraying Atuk in an adaptation of the novel The Incomparable Atuk.[32] Both of these shelved projects, along with the Arbuckle biopic, have been alleged to be cursed as Farley, John Belushi and John Candy were each attached to all three roles, and all three died before any of the films entered production.[28][33]

Death and funeral[edit]

Farley's grave in 2010

Following his final guest appearance on SNL on October 25, 1997, Farley's hoarse voice and flushed skin were the subject of public scrutiny.[34] In the final years of his life, Farley had sought treatment for obesity and drug abuse on 17 occasions.[35] On December 18, 1997, he was found dead by his younger brother, John, in his apartment in the John Hancock Center in Chicago.[36]

An autopsy later revealed that Farley had died of a cocaine and morphine overdose early that morning.[37] Advanced atherosclerosis was cited as a "significant contributing factor."[23] Farley's death is often compared to that of his SNL idol John Belushi, who also died at age 33 of an accidental drug overdose consisting of cocaine and heroin.[14]

Farley's private funeral was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. Over 500 people attended his funeral, including many comedians who had worked with him on Saturday Night Live and on film.[38] Absent was Farley's former SNL castmate and close friend David Spade, who was later quoted as saying that he declined to attend Farley's funeral because he "could not be in a room where Chris was in a box."[16] Farley's remains were entombed at Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.


On August 26, 2005, Farley was posthumously awarded the 2,289th star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which is located in front of iO West.[39] In his memoir Gasping for Airtime, Jay Mohr recalled a moment involving Farley and his SNL idol Phil Hartman.[29]

In the show's cast's goodbye song-and-dance performance to Hartman, the final scene featured Farley and Hartman embracing each other as the latter sang "Goodbye" to the camera.[40] The authorized biography of Farley, The Chris Farley Show, was written by his brother Tom, Jr. and Tanner Colby. The song "Purple Stain" from the Red Hot Chili Peppers 1999 album, Californication contains the lyric "Farley is an angel and I can prove this" as a tribute to Farley.

In 2013, the official Chris Farley Facebook page announced that a documentary on the life of Farley was in production by Network Entertainment and Hodgee Films, called I Am Chris Farley. The film was directed by Brent Hodge, director of A Brony Tale, What Happens Next? and Cameron's House Rules and Derik Murray, director of I Am Evel Knievel.[41][42] On August 10, 2015 the documentary made its television debut.


Year Title Role Notes
1992 Wayne's World Security Guard
1993 Coneheads Ronnie the Mechanic
1993 Wayne's World 2 Milton
1994 Airheads Officer Wilson
1995 Billy Madison Bus Driver [43]
1995 Tommy Boy Thomas "Tommy" Callahan, III MTV Movie Awards Best On-Screen Duo (Shared with David Spade)
1996 Black Sheep Mike Donnelly
1997 Beverly Hills Ninja Haru Nominated — MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance
1998 Almost Heroes Bartholomew Hunt Released five months after Farley's death
1998 Dirty Work Jimmy No-Nose Uncredited; final film[44]
Year Title Role Notes
1990–1995 Saturday Night Live Various characters 100 episodes
1992 The Jackie Thomas Show Chris Thomas 1 episode
1993 The Larry Sanders Show Himself 1 episode
1993 Roseanne Man in Clothing Store 1 episode
1994 Tom Chris 1 episode
1997 All That Chef Farley 1 episode


  1. ^ "Chicago Alumni". The Second City. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  2. ^ a b c "Chris Farley Biography — Yahoo! Movies". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  3. ^ a b "Wisconsin Historical Society". Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  4. ^ "Chris Farley Biography (1964-1997)". 
  5. ^ "Chris Farley Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline". 
  6. ^ Gardner, Greg (2009-07-18). "Rising star assigned new duties at Ford". Detroit Free Press. Retrieved 2011-09-04.  (registration required)
  7. ^ Vlasic, Bill (2008-04-20). "A Star at Toyota, a Believer at Ford". New York Times. p. 4. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  8. ^ "Chris Farley". The Chris Farley Show. Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2011-09-04. 
  9. ^ "Marquette University — Famous Faces". 2003-02-12. Archived from the original on 4 January 2013. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  10. ^ "Chris Farley Biography". The Biography Channel. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  11. ^ The Bad Boys of Saturday Night Live (1998)(TV)
  12. ^ a b Anderson, Sam (2008-05-16). "Dada’s Boy". New York. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  13. ^ "New Exhibit: Chris Farley Remembered". Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  14. ^ a b Goldblatt, Henry (2008-05-07). "'Chris Farley Show' stuffed with gossip". Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  15. ^ Crawford, Bill (2000). Adam Sandler: America's Comedian. Macmillan. p. 75. ISBN 0-312-26282-5. 
  16. ^ a b "Chris Farley's Black Sheep Jacket". Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  17. ^ Smith, Chris (1995-03-15). "Comedy Isn’t Funny". New York. p. 7. Retrieved 2008-06-08. 
  18. ^ Smith, Chris (1995-03-15). "Comedy Isn’t Funny". New York. p. 8. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  19. ^ "You're not alone, Conan O'Brien: Adam Sandler says NBC fired him and Chris Farley from 'SNL'" Joe Dziemianowicz, New York Daily News, January 21, 2010.
  20. ^ "Box Office Mojo data for ''Black Sheep''". 1996-03-15. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  21. ^ "Box Office Mojo data for ''Tommy Boy''". 1995-05-16. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  22. ^ "Box Office Mojo data for ''Beverly Hills Ninja''". 1997-01-17. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  23. ^ a b Tucker, Reed (2007-12-16). "That Was Awesome!". New York Post. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  24. ^ Griggs, Brandon. "Hear Chris Farley's Shrek in newly unearthed clip". CNN. Retrieved 10 August 2015. 
  25. ^ Parks, Zack (28 September 2012). "Top 10 Actors Who Almost Voiced Disney Animated Characters". Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  26. ^ Redding, Jordan (30 November 2014). "The Life of Chris Farley Gone But Not Forgotten". Moviepilot. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  27. ^ Rabin, Nathan (9 June 2009). "Fatty fall down, make tragedy: The Chris Farley Show". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 31 July 2015. 
  28. ^ a b c Evans, Bradford (6 December 2012). "The Lost Roles of Chris Farley". Splitsider. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  29. ^ a b Ditzian, Eric (27 March 2009). "Original ‘Ghostbusters’ Cast Onboard For Reboot, Harold Ramis Says". MTV News. Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  30. ^ Heller, Karen (26 April 2000). "His Books Let Him Stay Class Clown, Even At 34". Retrieved 9 August 2015. 
  31. ^ Hyman, Peter (14 December 2006). "A Conspiracy of Dunces: Will John Kennedy Toole's comic masterpiece ever reach the big screen?". Slate. Retrieved 25 July 2015. 
  32. ^ Raouf, Neda (21 February 1999). "The 'Atuk' Curse". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 6 August 2015. 
  33. ^ Evans, Bradford (3 March 2011). "The Lost Roles of John Belushi". Splisider. Retrieved 12 August 2015. 
  34. ^ Shales, Tom; Miller, James Andrew (2003). Live from New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live. Back Bay. pp. 492, 493. ISBN 0-316-73565-5. 
  35. ^ Nashawaty, Chris (1998-01-09). "The Last Temptation of Chris". Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  36. ^ Petrikin, Chris (1997-12-19). "Comic Farley dies". Variety. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  37. ^ "Chris Farley's Death Laid to Drug Overdose". New York Times. 1998-01-03. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 
  38. ^ "Athens Daily News — Fellow comedians weep for Chris Farley". Archived from the original on August 18, 2009. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  39. ^ "Chris Farley Gets Posthumous Star". 1964-02-15. Retrieved 2010-10-25. 
  40. ^ Mohr, Jay (2004). Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches of Saturday Night Live. Hyperion. pp. 292, 293. ISBN 1-4013-0006-5. 
  41. ^ "an agreement with the Estate of Chris Farley under which Network (Entertainment) will develop and produce a feature documentary on the life and legacy of legendary funny man Chris Farley. We very much look forward to working with Kevin and the rest of the Farley family to recount Chris' life and work, and the impact he had on all those around him, in an authentic, moving, and of course very funny, way."
  42. ^
  43. ^ Farley, Tom; Colby, Tanner (2006). The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts. Viking Adult. p. 337. ISBN 1-616-80458-0. 
  44. ^ Kronke, David (June 15, 1998). "Macdonald's 'Dirty Work' Needs a Laugh Transplant". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 2, 2012. 

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