Like many other American comedians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, Chris Farley made his career on Saturday Night Live. Not only was his work on the show highly acclaimed, but his subsequent film career would be greatly influenced by the connections he made with other great comedians of his day.
The bombastic Farley was famous for his spirited and brash style when it came to comedy on the big or small screens. Sadly, his premature passing would cast a pall over his legacy, but his body of work continues to endure beyond his lifetime. Read more about this legendary funny man here.
Facts About Chris Farley
1. Double First
Farley and fellow SNL star Mike Myers would both make their feature film debuts with Wayne’s World, a film adaptation of a character that Myers played on SNL. The film was a huge success and inspired a sequel, with Myers and Farley both returning, though Farley would play a different character in the second film.
Christopher Crosby Farley was born on February 15, 1964, in Madison, Wisconsin. He would spend much of his childhood in the town of Maple Bluff in the same state.
3. Family Connections
Farley’s father, Thomas John Farley Sr., owned an oil company in Madison, Wisconsin. Farley would work in the company while he was getting his comedy career off the ground.
4. Man of Faith
Like the rest of his family, Farley was a devout Roman Catholic who was educated in Wisconsin’s Catholic school system. According to one of his peers in the comedy industry, Farley would always make sure that he attended Mass, even with his busy schedule.
5. He Is Missed
Farley was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the summer of 2005. It’s located at 6366 Hollywood Boulevard. Attending the ceremony in their friend’s honor were Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and David Spade, who gave a speech paying tribute to Farley.
6. One of the Elites
Farley was known as one of the “Bad Boys of SNL” during his time with the show. He shared this position with his fellow co-stars Adam Sandler, Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, and David Spade. These men became close in life, particularly Spade and Farley, and would frequently collaborate with each other on SNL and in several films.
7. Call it an Ambitious Audition
Like many SNL stars, Farley got his big break with the comedy group known as The Second City in Chicago. He would climb the ladder within The Second City until he was a cast member in three of their shows. It was there that SNL producer Lorne Michaels discovered him and offered him a spot in the 1990 line-up.
8. Haunting Parallel
One of Farley’s comic inspirations was none other than John Belushi. Farley was a huge fan of Belushi’s work on SNL and in his movies, especially Animal House. Farley would follow his idol onto SNL, but he would also tragically follow in Belushi’s footsteps when it came to drug use. Both Farley and Belushi would go on to die of drug overdoses at the young age of 33.
9. You Scratch My Back…
One of Farley’s films, Coneheads, featured the Red Hot Chili Peppers song “Soul to Squeeze” on its soundtrack. Farley would also appear in the music video for “Soul to Squeeze.”
10. Thanks, Guys!
Following Farley’s death, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would honor Farley’s memory in the song “Purple Stain” off their 1999 album Californication.
11. Earning That Diploma
Farley studied at Marquette University in the city of Milwaukee. He earned a degree in communications and theater, which we can assume he safely put to good use, given his time at Second City!
12. Let’s Play!
Despite his famous girth, Farley was a very athletic man during his youth. While he was in high school, Farley had played on his school’s American football team. Farley then switched to rugby when he was at Marquette University.
13. Music in Your Soul!
As well as acting, Farley was also known for his musical talents. He performed a song in a 1991 episode of SNL, as well as six songs in the film Tommy Boy.
14. From Customer to Employee
One of Farley’s early jobs in life was a camp counselor at Red Arrow Camp just outside of Minocqua, Wisconsin. Farley began working there after spending many of his summers at Red Arrow Camp was a camper.
15. Get on That Wagon
Farley struggled most of his adult life with drug and alcohol addictions. His time on SNL and his subsequent film career were broken up by incidents where he was suspended or took time off in order to seek treatment for his addictions. Sadly, his efforts would prove in vain, given what happened to him.
16. We’ll Avoid the Obvious Ghost Joke…
After the release of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2, a third film remained in development hell for years. At one point, the third film was going to star a new trio of characters who would be dealing with a crowded Hell. Farley was one of the actors who were set to star in this third film, but it was never greenlit during his lifetime.
17. What are the Odds?
Incredibly, Farley began his stint with Second City the very same day as another would-be famous comedian: Stephen Colbert. Sadly, we never got to see Farley reunite with his former cast member as a guest on The Colbert Report.
18. Nobody but Him!
It might surprise you to know that Farley was originally cast in the CGI Disney film Dinosaur. Farley was set to play Sorbus, a young brachiosaurus who suffers from a dreadful fear of heights, despite his own immense size. Rather than recast the role after Farley’s death, the character was rewritten to be the elderly female dinosaur called Baylene. She is voiced by actress Joan Plowright in the finished film.
19. Where’s Farley?
Farley actually made an uncredited appearance in a 1993 episode of Roseanne. His role is only visible in the DVD version of the episode, and he is uncredited.
20. An Obvious Absence
Although it was released in 2010, the Adam Sandler comedy Grown Ups was originally written during the 1990s. Given that four of the lead actors were all on SNL at the same time, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Farley was meant to play the fifth lead role. That part would be played by actor Kevin James instead.
21. “Is Your Refrigerator Running?”
Outside of being funny onscreen, Farley was well known for his pranks around the SNL set. He and Adam Sandler became infamous for prank calls that they would make to people from their offices in Rockefeller Centre. Sandler would impersonate a cranky, elderly woman over the phone, while Farley was more to-the-point by breaking wind into the phone.
22. Just Call Me Mr. Skin
Another way that Farley would prank people was through nudity for laughs. Farley was known to flash his rear end from a limousine window, and also strip down to surprise unwitting friends. Comedian Chris Rock once quipped that he probably saw Farley’s private area more than Farley’s girlfriend did!
23. This is Awful!
Fans of Beverly Hills Ninja might be disappointed to know that its star was disgusted with the film. In fact, Farley was so upset about how the film turned out that he allegedly cried after the premiere! He also told his agent that he would never do a film like that again.
24. Was it Shaped Like Lightning?
Fans of SNL might remember that during Farley’s second season on the show, there is a scar on his right arm. This was because in between his first and second season, Farley had badly cut himself on glass.
25. Wait, What?
Believe it or not, Farley was allegedly planning to portray none other than Hermann Goring in a film. In case you don’t remember, Goring was a high-ranking member of the Nazi government during World War II!
26. That Doesn’t Happen Often!
Farley, among many others, was cast in the 1993 comedy film Coneheads. Incredibly, Coneheads holds a rare distinction of containing a cast of actors which included past, present, and future (at that point) members of SNL line-ups. Farley, along with David Spade and Adam Sandler, were current SNL stars, joining SNL alumni Laraine Newman, Dan Aykroyd, and Jane Curtin. There was also Michael McKean, who would join SNL the year after Coneheads was released.
27. Never Mind…
Captain Underpants is a long-running children’s book series which, starting in 1997, has since sold more than 80 million copies worldwide in over 30 languages. The books’ author, Dav Pilkey, had hoped to develop a television series based on the books, starring Farley as the titular Captain Underpants. Farley’s death put an end to Pilkey’s ambitions, however, though a television series was eventually developed by DreamWorks Animation in 2018.
28. I Gotta Pass, Sorry
Incredibly, Farley was the original choice for the role of Chip Douglas in the dark comedy The Cable Guy, which was created by Ben Stiller. Due to scheduling complications, however, Farley was unable to take the job, leading Jim Carrey to take the role—and earning an incredibly hefty pay cheque in the process.
29. No Hard Feelings
Farley had been known in life for his many impersonations, including a famous one of actor Tom Arnold. Arnold would later return the compliment by delivering the eulogy at Farley’s funeral.
30. That’s My Catchphrase!
Farley worked with Adam Sandler on two films: Billy Madison and Airheads. In both those film, Farley repears the same line: “good, great, grand, wonderful.”
31. Blink and You’ll Miss Him
The last film which Farley ever appeared in was the 1998 comedy Dirty Work. Farley’s role was only a cameo, and he did not even get a credit in the film!
32. Art and Life Blended
One of the characters that Farley played on SNL was actually based on a real person. Matt Foley was a friend of Farley’s back in the day, and during a rough patch, he lived in a van. Farley would later take this experience to create the character of Matt Foley, the hyperbolic motivational speaker, known for his claim of living in “a van down by the river.” The real Foley would later appear in a documentary about his old friend.
33. Could You Call It Recycling?
As well as it being named and based on Farley’s friend, the character of Matt Foley contained traits shared by others in his life. Foley’s voice was inspired by the tone that Farley’s father took when he was angry, and Farley would also add mannerisms based on the kind of stances that his former rugby teammates would make during games.
34. The Worst Kind of Encounter
Farley was found dead in his Chicago apartment on December 18, 1997. He was discovered to have a combination of morphine and cocaine in his system.
35. In Tribute
In 2015, Farley was the subject of a documentary titled I Am Chris Farley. Described as a “love letter” to the comedian’s legacy, the documentary featured Lorne Michaels, David Spade, Jon Lovitz, Mike Myers, and Adam Sandler, among many others. I Am Chris Farley was first premiered on Spike TV on August 10, 2015.
36. The Curse Struck Again
As we’ve talked about earlier, Farley’s unexpected death meant that he was never able to complete all the projects which he’d signed to do. Among these projects were two film adaptations long deemed to be “cursed” in Hollywood. One is an adaptation of the book A Confederacy of Dunces, and the other is an adaptation of the book The Incomparable Atuk.
In the case of the latter, Atuk is famous for having courted several famous comedians just before their premature deaths, including Farley, John Belushi, and John Candy. Farley was also cast to star in a biopic of notorious silent film star Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle.
37. You’re Kidding!
Most interesting of all his unfinished projects, Farley was the original actor cast in the role of Shrek. Nearly all of his voice work had been completed when Farley died, but the studio felt that it would be in poor taste to continue with his work following his death. In the mid-2010s, Farley’s voice work for the role was released, along with early animation developed to go along with his voicework.
As you probably remember, Farley’s frequent collaborator, Mike Myers, ended up replacing Farley in the project, making Shrek into one of his most well-known animated characters to date.
38. Kind Soul
Farley would maintain close ties to the Catholic Church for his entire life. Even at the height of his work as a comedian and actor, Farley would volunteer part of his time at soup kitchens. He was so private about these acts of charity that his friend and co-star Norm MacDonald didn’t even know about them until after Farley died.
39. A Bad Surprise
Incredibly, Farley and his SNL co-star Adam Sandler were actually fired from the show, despite the fact that they were among its biggest stars at the time. According to Sandler himself, he was kept in the dark about the decision until Farley approached him with the bad news. Sandler, who had been devoted to SNL, also revealed that his manager bitterly joked that “NBC” stood for “Nothing But C***s.”
40. That Hurts My Feelings!
Farley was known to be a sensitive man, and he was easily hurt by negative reviews. One example was the film Tommy Boy. Farley had enjoyed making the film very much, and the severe criticism which it received upon release weighed heavily on Farley’s mind.
41. A Bad Spell
Despite their close friendship, Farley and David Spade had a period of serious animosity on the set of the film Tommy Boy. According to Spade, Farley got very envious of Spade when he began spending time with Rob Lowe. In one incident, Farley angrily confronted Spade. Before long, both men got into a physical altercation. Spade and Farley spent the rest of the production avoiding each other as much as they could.
42. Failed Reunion
Despite the bad blood between Farley and David Spade, they were set to appear in a third film together around the time of Farley’s death. In case you’re curious, the film in question was Lost & Found. Farley’s role was recast with Artie Lange instead. After Farley’s death, Spade was notably absent from his funeral, but he later revealed that he found it too painful to attend.