Matt Foley

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Matt Foley
Matt Foley - SNL Character.jpg
Foley (Chris Farley, left) giving a speech to two teens (David Spade and Christina Applegate)
First appearanceMay 8, 1993
Last appearanceOctober 25, 1997 (Farley)
February 11, 2015 (McCarthy)
Created byBob Odenkirk
Portrayed byChris Farley (1993–1997)
Melissa McCarthy (SNL 40th Anniversary Special)
In-universe information
Occupation • Motivational speaker
 • Prison inmate at Joliet Correctional Center (former)
 • Mall Santa (former)
SpouseThree ex-wives (first one named Linda, other two unnamed)[1]

Matt Foley is a fictional character from the sketch comedy program Saturday Night Live performed by Chris Farley. Foley is a motivational speaker who exhibits characteristics atypical of someone in that position: whereas motivational speakers are usually successful and charismatic, Foley is abrasive, clumsy, and down on his luck. The character was popular in its original run and went on to become one of Farley's best-known characters.


The character's concept was first created by Bob Odenkirk.[2] Farley had performed the character in other comedy groups before joining the cast of Saturday Night Live. Farley named the character after one of his Marquette University rugby union teammates, who is now a Roman Catholic priest in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.[3]

Matt Foley appeared in eight Saturday Night Live sketches. Each sketch typically started with Foley brought into a specific situation by someone to speak to a group. The sketches usually feature Farley's physical comedy, such as the over-caffeinated Foley gesticulating wildly and leaping around, often breaking furniture. At the end of each sketch, he is usually rushed out of his speaking location, where the people left behind huddle together and comment on him, usually bemused and frightened. Though his intended message is always ruined by his bizarre presentation, his results are usually successful as his audience changes their behavior so as to avoid further association with Foley.

The character's debut was so popular that Farley turned it into one of his best-known routines and one which he would repeat many times, both as Foley and as other characters on SNL and in film during the remainder of his life and career, sometimes injuring himself in the process.

Being a Wisconsin native, Farley was asked to portray the Matt Foley character at the 1994 Rose Bowl banquet.[4] He delivered a comedic "motivational speech" to the Wisconsin Badgers football team, who were to face the UCLA Bruins that year and won the game, 21–16.

Plans for a film version with David Spade in a supporting role were shelved after Farley's death in 1997.[5]

Personality and appearance[edit]

Foley is disheveled, sweaty, obese, clumsy and unstylish. He exhibits poor social skills, frequently loses his temper, often disparages and insults his audience, and wallows in cynicism and self-pity about his own poor life choices, to which he often makes reference. Foley's trademark line is warning his audience that they could end up like himself: "35 years old, eating a steady diet of government cheese, thrice divorced, and living in a van down by the river!" In most sketches, whenever a member of his audience mentions a personal accomplishment, Foley responds with mockery: "Well, la-dee-frickin-da!", "Whoop-dee-frickin-doo!", or a similarly dismissive remark. The usual outfit of choice for Foley is a too-small blue-and-white plaid sport coat, a too-big white dress shirt, a solid green necktie, black horn-rimmed glasses, ill-fitting khakis which he is continually pulling up, a wristwatch, penny loafers, and slicked-down blond hair. In a prison sketch, he dons blue jeans and a denim shirt with the inmate number "3307" while retaining his watch, glasses and a crucifix necklace (he also mentions a "homemade tattoo of a van down by the river"). While working as a mall Santa in another sketch, he wears a stereotypical Santa outfit, complete with black snow boots.

He overindulges in coffee and caffeine-based products and exhibits extreme hyperactivity as a result. In almost every appearance, Foley mentions drinking espresso or coffee, or taking NoDoz and even brings a duffel bag with a pot of coffee to the gym to teach a spinning class. His clients will often mention him either drinking coffee or eating coffee beans before calling him in to begin his presentation.

Despite his otherwise bad attitude, Foley has a passion for his career as a motivational speaker, going as far as to travel to Venezuela to speak to teens. While serving a term in prison, Foley seems to be respected, and to have a good friendship with his cellmate Deshawn Powers, who refers to Foley as "The straight-up OG...of cell block three!".

Notable appearances[edit]

The character's debut performance (May 8, 1993) has been called one of the best segments in SNL history.[6] The reception of the audience combined with visible stifled laughter from David Spade and Christina Applegate on stage added to the popularity of the sketch. Notable physical gestures from Farley included what Spade referred to as “the thing with the glasses” when Farley lifted his glasses on and off of his face commenting, “Hey Dad, I can’t see real good, is that Bill Shakespeare over there?” and perhaps the most defining gesture was one that Farley saved for the live performance when he alternated hands adjusting his trousers, grabbing the hilt[clarification needed] of his belt with one hand and the back of his pants with the other. In the sketch itself, Foley attempts to motivate two teens, played by Spade and Applegate, to "get themselves back on the right track" after the family’s cleaning lady finds a bag of marijuana in their home. Foley’s attempt to motivate them falls short when he repeatedly insists that they're "not going to amount to jack squat" and will end up “living in a van down by the river!” Foley attempts to endear himself to Spade's character by telling him they're "gonna be buddies" and that everywhere he goes, Foley will follow. Comparing himself to Spade's shadow, Foley jumps about where he's standing and then dives into the coffee table, though he picks himself up moments later. None of the other cast members knew that Farley was going to do this and their startled reactions are genuine. The sketch ends with Foley offering that the only solution to solve the family's problems is for him to move in with them. Horrified, Applegate begs him not to, vowing never to smoke pot again. Even so, Foley leaves the house to get his things from his van and the family locks him out, finally reconciling and admitting to how much they love each other.

A later performance (February 19, 1994) features Foley in prison attempting to motivate troubled teens in a scared straight program; he was imprisoned for three to five years for non-payment of alimony (consistent with him being “thrice divorced”). Before entering the sketch, Foley is introduced by his cellmate Deshawn Powers (Martin Lawrence) as “just finished a week in solitary, eating nothing but coffee beans.” Foley attempts to scare the juvenile delinquents by commenting in a slightly different manner that he “wished to dear God, that he was living in a van down by the river!” The sketch followed the usual Foley routine with him falling through the prison wall instead of a coffee table, which eventually led to his and the other inmates' escape.

In a notable departure for the character, a sketch featured George Foreman considering that he was too old and weak to continue boxing, and during a walk by the river, he stumbles upon Foley's van. Foley, rather than engaging in his usual tirades, orders Foreman to perform a series of tasks for him, such as grilling hamburgers, claiming the work is "for dexterity". When Foreman eventually determines Foley is taking advantage of him, he punches Foley, causing Foreman to realize he can still fight, and he goes on to win the world championship. Foreman then is shown reciting the story of these events to Tim Meadows, who wonders aloud why he is cooking hamburgers for Foreman, only to be told, "You know why! For dexterity!"

In the only cold open featuring Foley (April 15, 1995), the character attempts to motivate a pair of Venezuelan teens. Foley attempts to get through to them by motivating them in their native Spanish, saying “¡Yo vivo en van cerca de un rio!” However, the teenagers' father (Michael McKean) informs Matt that he and his children are fluent in English, to which Foley responds "¡Padre, dame un favor, y cállate su grande YAPPER!" The sketch again features Foley mocking his audience, breaking household objects, and, somehow, succeeding in his motivational goals.

Farley also appeared as Matt Foley on Late Night with Conan O'Brien on January 14, 1994.[7]

List of SNL episodes featured[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Chris Farley and Tim Meadows (October 25, 1997). Matt Foley: Stationary Bikes at the Gym. Event occurs at 4:30. Retrieved August 1, 2016. I am thrice-divorced.
  2. ^ Borrelli, Christopher (January 30, 2015). "Underrated for years, Bob Odenkirk gets the call for 'Saul'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 10, 2020. But even an “SNL” character like Matt Foley, which you wrote decades ago for Chris Farley, seems to come not from ridicule but a sincere sympathy with kind of hapless people like Foley.
  3. ^ Silverberg, Melissa (August 2, 2015). "The real Matt Foley remembers his friend Chris Farley". Daily Herald. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  4. ^ Sweeney, Vince (2005). Always a Badger: The Pat Richter Story. Big Earth Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 9781931599627.
  5. ^ Borrelli, Christopher (January 30, 2015). "Underrated for years, Bob Odenkirk gets the call for 'Saul'". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved August 1, 2016. Foley, I always thought there was a movie in that character. ... That would have been a great little movie. But only with Farley.
  6. ^ "50 Greatest 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches of All Time". Rolling Stone. February 3, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  7. ^ "Chris Farley - Matt Foley Motivational Speaker". YouTube. October 22, 2013. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  8. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker". December 12, 2004. Archived from the original on December 12, 2004.
  9. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley: Van Down By The River -" – via
  10. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  11. ^ "Matt Foley: A Scary Story on Halloween - SNL". YouTube. September 25, 2013. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  12. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley: A Scary Story on Halloween -" – via
  13. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Santa". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  14. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley In Prison -" – via
  15. ^ "So Long, Farewell". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  16. ^ "Matt Foley, Bilingual Motivational Speaker". December 16, 2004. Archived from the original on December 16, 2004.
  17. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley Cold Opening -" – via
  18. ^ "Matt Foley Motivational Trainer". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  19. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley At The Gym -" – via
  20. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: SNL40: Weekend Update - Matt Foley -" – via

External links[edit]