Matt Foley

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Matt Foley
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 was conceived by Bob Odenkirk.[2] Farley debuted the character during his tenure in The Second City comedy troupe prior to his joining the cast of Saturday Night Live.[3][4] Farley named the character after one of his Marquette University rugby union teammates, an Army chaplain who became a Roman Catholic priest in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights.[5] Reviewing the stage version of the sketch in 1990, the Chicago Reader wrote:

...even if he is imitating the loudmouth imbecile Sam Kinison to the decibel, Chris Farley is a stitch in "Motivation." He plays a scuzzy drug abuser hired by parents to scare their kids straight, a case of negative psychology taken over a cliff.[6]

Matt Foley appeared in eight Saturday Night Live sketches. Each sketch typically started with Foley brought into a 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 him.

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 character at the 1994 Rose Bowl banquet.[7] 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.[8]

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.

Notable appearances[edit]

The character's debut performance (May 8, 1993) has been called one of the best segments in SNL history.[9] 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 is 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 "gear" from his van; Hartman leads him out the door and then, the moment Foley leaves, immediately slams it shut and locks him out, the family then reconciling and admitting to how much they love each other.

A later performance on February 19, 1994, features Matt 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, Matt is introduced by his cellmate Deshawn Powers (Martin Lawrence) as "just finished a week in solitary, eating nothing but coffee beans." Matt 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 contemplating that he was too old and weak to continue boxing. 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. Matt 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.[10]

In a 1997 guest appearance on All That, Farley appeared as Chef Farley opposite future SNL cast member Kenan Thompson in a "Cooking with Randy" sketch. He used many of Foley's mannerisms.[11]


In the third episode of season 20 of Family Guy, Peter Griffin dresses up as the character for Halloween, and refers to Farley's death as "the least surprising death in Hollywood history".[12]

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. ^ Fox, Jesse David (February 18, 2014). "Watch an Early, Live Version of Chris Farley's 'Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker' Sketch". Vulture. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  4. ^ Chris Farley at The Second City: The Original Motivational Speaker. February 17, 2014. Archived from the original on February 18, 2014. Retrieved June 1, 2021 – via YouTube.
  5. ^ Silverberg, Melissa (August 2, 2015). "The real Matt Foley remembers his friend Chris Farley". Daily Herald. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  6. ^ Bommer, Lawrence (August 2, 1990). "Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only, or Censorama". Chicago Reader. Archived from the original on July 12, 2019. Retrieved June 1, 2021.
  7. ^ Sweeney, Vince (2005). Always a Badger: The Pat Richter Story. Big Earth Publishing. p. 153. ISBN 9781931599627.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "50 Greatest 'Saturday Night Live' Sketches of All Time". Rolling Stone. February 3, 2014. Retrieved August 1, 2016.
  10. ^ "Chris Farley - Matt Foley Motivational Speaker". YouTube. October 22, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  11. ^ November 17, Christian Holub. "Kenan Thompson talks working with Chris Farley". Retrieved November 4, 2022.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  12. ^ "Is That Matt Foley? - Season 20 Ep. 3 - FAMILY GUY". YouTube. Fox Broadcasting Company. October 8, 2021. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved October 8, 2021.
  13. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker". December 12, 2004. Archived from the original on December 12, 2004.
  14. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley: Van Down By The River -" – via
  15. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Speaker". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  16. ^ "Matt Foley: A Scary Story on Halloween - SNL". YouTube. September 25, 2013. Archived from the original on December 12, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2020.
  17. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley: A Scary Story on Halloween -" – via
  18. ^ "Matt Foley: Motivational Santa". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  19. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley In Prison -" – via
  20. ^ "So Long, Farewell". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  21. ^ "Matt Foley, Bilingual Motivational Speaker". December 16, 2004. Archived from the original on December 16, 2004.
  22. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley Cold Opening -" – via
  23. ^ "Matt Foley Motivational Trainer". December 15, 2004. Archived from the original on December 15, 2004.
  24. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: Matt Foley At The Gym -" – via
  25. ^ "Watch Saturday Night Live Highlight: SNL40: Weekend Update - Matt Foley -" – via
  26. ^ "Fr. Matt Foley Remembers Friend and Marquette Classmate Comedian Chris Farley". Midwest Province. Retrieved July 22, 2022.
  27. ^ "Matt Foley (@realmattfoley) • Instagram photos and videos". Retrieved July 22, 2022.

External links[edit]