RIP Chris Farley: Ten Years Later
Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Chris Farley. I grew up watching my generation's Belushi redefine funny and idolized his energy and commitment to every character he played. As an adult who, like Farley, is an improvisor and performer, I know that comedians like Farley are rare. We should cherish the memory of someone who lived fully the life of comedy--both its lightest and darkest sides.
Chris Farley came into this world on Feb. 15, 1964, weighing 12 pounds, 11 ounces. By age 33, he was gone, 296 pounds and dead of a drug overdose on Dec. 18, 1997.
In between, he played some of comedy's funniest, most eager and energetic characters. On "Saturday Night Live," he was Matt Foley, the huffing, pants-adjusting motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river. On his "talk show," his sole interviewing technique consisted of awkwardly asking guests to "remember when" they did whatever it was they were famous for. And, of course, he co-starred in "Tommy Boy" and "Black Sheep" with his good friend David Spade.
I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but Tom's name on the jacket led me to think the book might be somewhat sanitized -- a fond remembrance of Chris' show business success. And, really, why not? Chris made his mark, he made us laugh, he conquered a business to which many are called but few are chosen. Give him his due.
He gets it here, and it will make you laugh all over again, but the book is much more than that. "The Chris Farley Show" turns out to be a searing, unblinking look at the life and death of one of the more famous people ever to come out of Madison. Fame haunts the last half of this brave book. Family -- with its overwhelming mix of love, expectation and fear of real communication -- haunts it too.