Do you enjoy engaging in out-of-control and over-the-top laughter? Do you know who Matt Foley is, and does the phrase "I live in a van down by the river" make you cry from laughing so hard? If so, maybe you've heard of the comedic genius Chris Farley. And if you know who Chris Farley is, chances are he has made you smile.
Chris was a larger than life, stage-filling presence who immediately owned the audience watching him. Robert Smigel, writer and co-producer of Saturday Night Live, in referencing Chris, stated that he had "Never seen anybody leap out at you from the stage the way Chris did."
I love to laugh (read here), and I recently finished reading the authorized biography of Chris called The Chris Farley Show: A Biography In Three Acts. The book was an honest read, compiled by over 100 friends, cast mates, and family members. The insights offered by those closest to him cast light on a completely different character than what tv and movies revealed him to be, a side rarely witnessed outside of his circle.
He was deeply devoted to his Catholic upbringing, finding a place to worship on a weekly basis. His close-knit family absolutely meant the world to him. He was generous with the good fortunes he earned and was passionate in sharing his money with those who were less fortunate than himself. His desire was to be everyone's new best friend.
Unfortunately the pages also chronicle his struggles with his self image and worth, issues with obesity, and addiction to alcohol and drugs. His over indulgence with alcohol goes back to high school, while drugs overtook him during the college years. It's estimated he spent over one million dollars on rehab on at least 17 different visits, yet drugs and alcohol ended up providing his untimely exit from life here on earth. Farley's life, especially his later years, was an absolute train wreck.
His friends thought Chris' behavior was cute and enjoyable lifestyle for a while, but most of them outgrew it shortly after college. Unfortunately Chris didn't mature in the same method, manner, and time frame. Towards the end, everyone around him was pleading - even desperately begging - for him to straighten up and get clean. Each week the guest host would invariably spend a lunch with Chris, attempting to bring him back to reality. Unfortunately everyone failed.
On December 18, 1997, at the young age of 33, Chris died from a mixture of cocaine and morphine overdose. He has two movies in the works that never came to fruition, including one about his Matt Foley character. He was to be the voice of Shrek, a role after his passing that was turned over to fellow SNL alum Mike Myers.
Four days later at his funeral, the memory of one of the funniest comedians ever, made the likes of Adam Sandler, Tim Meadows and Chris Rock weep uncontrollably for their lost friend.
Alec Baldwin said it best - "It's sad when something like that happens to anyone, but somehow it seemed sadder when it happened to Chris. Most of the people whom I've seen go down that path, they didn't have the humanity he had."