Biography - With a booming voice, outsize physicality and penchant to go as far as he could with his routines and then just a little further, Chris Farley delivered out-of-control characters that made him a comedy star. But his push-the-envelope approach also spilled into real life, with a seemingly insatiable appetite for food, booze and drugs.
His death, on December 18, 1997, from an accidental drug overdose at age 33, drew comparisons to one of his idols, fellow comedian and Saturday Night Live player John Belushi, who passed away in 1982 at the same age, also from a drug overdose.
Both were larger-than-life characters on- and off-screen. Both delighted fans with their edgy character turns on SNL and translated that success into big-screen Hollywood roles. At the time of his death, Farley was commanding a reported $5 million per picture.
“I used to think that you could get to a level of success where the laws of the universe didn’t apply,” Farley said to Playboy in 1997. “But they do. It’s still life on life’s terms, not on movie-star terms. I still have to work at relationships. I still have to work on my weight and some of my other demons. Once I thought that if I just had enough in the bank, if I had enough fame, that it would be all right. But I’m a human being like everyone else. I’m not exempt.”
Chris Farley would have turned 58 today.
Wanna feel old as fuck?
Let that one sink in.
Farley grew up with three brothers, and a sister in good old Madison, Wisconsin. The son of a blue-collar paving contractor, he was actually a star athlete on the football field AND the swimming pool believe it or not.
His classmates remember him at a young age beating them to the punch joking about his size and weight. His senior year he stood 5'9" but weighed 230 pounds. When he'd walk out of the locker room for swim practice or meets, he was always quick to ridicule himself before anybody else could get a shot in.
Sad as fuck to think. But when think about how cruel kids are (we all were), it was also smart as fuck.
Speaking of smarts, Farley had that, too.
He graduated from Marquette University, where he headlined their student improv team,
and then headed to Chicago where he landed a coveted spot in Chicago's Second City comedy troupe.
"Second City" was the farm system famous for producing Dan Aykroyd, Martin Short, Gilda Radner and his idol Belushi
Farley idolized Belushi mainly for his role in his favorite film, Animal House.
“All the fat comics, they’re my favorites,” Farley said in 1997. “I watch them over and over again. The great comics can fall on their faces, but then they can say, ‘Oh, baby, you’re the greatest.’ They show their heart and their vulnerability.”
Farley was touring with the Second City in 1989 when he was invited to audition for SNL. He later joined the cast as a junior member in 1990 alongside Adam Sandler, Rob Schneider, David Spade and Chris Rock, and remained there until 1995.
Hollywood movie success followed with Farley starring in two of the funniest movies of our generation, Tommy Boy (1995),
then Black Sheep (1996)
and then the semi-dud Beverly Hills Ninja (1997).
It was during this period he was in and out of rehab at least 17 times, and his story becomes really, really sad.
During a 1997 interview for Rolling Stone, Farley admitted he was always terrified. Terrified of people and crowds, he used his outrageous behavior to create a screen he could hide behind. He was scared his movies would bomb and he would never work again; that he would never be loved by a woman for who he really was; that if he lost weight he would no longer be funny. In 1996, Farley said he sometimes felt trapped “by always having to be the most outrageous guy in the room.”
When questioned about his cocaine and heroin use, Farley was circumspect. “Let’s just say I had my share of fun,” he said to Rolling Stone. “I worry about talking about this, because I worry about kids who might think, ‘Whoa, man, that’s cool!’ Because in some ways, that’s what I did with my hero, Belushi. I thought that this is what you have to do to be cool. But all that shit does is kill someone. It’s a demon that must be snuffed out. It is the end.”
A few months later he was invited back to SNL to host and it went terrible.
He hurt his vocal cords during rehearsal and sounded like shit for the entire show. He also looked really bad. And it didn't help that the show's opening monologue featured Tim Meadows and Chevy Chase trying to convince Lorne Michaels that Farley was sober enough to host…
Two months later, on October 25, 1997, Farley was found dead by his brother John in his apartment in the John Hancock Tower, following a four-day drinking and drug binge.
He was just 33 years old.