The Hidden Gems of Chris Farley

We all have our great influences—In terms of SNL, the breakdown could be that most people of high school age worshiped Belushi in the 70s, Eddie Murphy in the Early 80s, Dana Carvey/Phil Hartman/Jan Hooks in the Late 80s and so forth. Since my teen years happened smack dab in the middle of the 90s, who else could be my ambassador of comedic influence than this guy…

FARLEY_COVER2

Ladies & Gents, I give you one Christopher Crosby Farley—a performer who worshiped Belushi right in the time frame I mentioned, and would do everything in his power to emulate his hero…sadly, when I say “Everything”, that became all too painfully true when he died in 1997 at the same age and under (virtually) the same circumstances as Belushi. But instead of being a buzz kill (too late), we are now going to focus on what made Chris Farley the powerhouse that he was by showing you some of the performances you might’ve missed out on. Welcome back to “Hidden Gems”, where today we take a closer look at the pride of Madison, Wisconsin. Hopefully you know the rules, but I’ll recap them anyway…

 

 

*Non-Recurring in effect (in this case, no “Matt Foley”, “Superfans”, “Gap Girls”, “I’m Chillin” or even appearances in other people’s sketches…Stuart Smalley, I’m looking in Your direction.)
 

*No sketches from previously released “Best Of” Compilation VHS/ DVDs (In this case, “Best of Farley” and “Bad Boys of SNL”)…but there IS an exception this time. It was during Farley’s clip show that one of the more common quirks to future clip shows were introduced—that of the “Partial Clip” and/or “Rapid Fire Montage” where we see maybe 5-10 seconds of a sketch at a time in quick succession. Those sketches/moments are exempt from the rule, because it wouldn’t be fair to cut an entire sketch/moment out entirely just because we see a blurb of it (Besides, if I did that, this list would probably be 3 entries long).

*We go in Chronological Order, but we save my favorite for last.

*Sketches in Question must be either a main role, or a sizable supporting role, No Backgrounds or Bit Parts (Except for one that I simply couldn’t avoid).

*Once again, these are my PERSONAL picks. If you have a favorite Hidden gem I might’ve missed, that’s what Silicon Valley invented the “Comment Box” for, and you’re more than welcome to put it to use if I did.

 

 

TWIN PEAKS (9/29/1990) – Farley’s first ever SNL appearance is here in this semi-meta send up of the cult classic TV series. While discussion of the sketch proper is gonna have to wait another day (especially an epic 4th wall break), Farley makes his debut with guns blazing as “Leo ‘the killer of Laura Palmer’ Johnson”—although the part was relatively small, you could tell that he had a lot of energy yet to be thrown around. An energy that would go up a couple of amps in something a little more memorable…No, not the Chippendales sketch, I mean something memorable for all the WRONG reasons…

 

FARLEY_ARNOLD

UPDATE: TOM & ROSEANNE ARNOLD (10/20/1990) – In this “Update” piece (Which, BTW Farley did a LOT of before breaking out a little later), Farley learns that it’s OK to use your upper register (something he’d use a little too much by his 5th year, but I’m getting ahead of myself). He plays his “Tom Arnold” in a way that was a combination manic/spazzy (“Mazzy?”), but since the real Arnold & Farley became good friends later on, I could gather that Tom was cool with it. Why was this memorable for the “Wrong” reasons? Because it was the first (but not the last) time Farley showed America his ass; leading to a classic reaction from Dennis Miller—But it could’ve been worse; in the “dress” version of the piece, Farley goes “Full Grand Canyon”, and Miller’s response was a little more pointed (“Did I just see the New Guy’s Asshole?”). Thankfully, there were other parts where Farley showed a little more restraint…sort of…

 

FARLEY_MARATHON

UPDATE: THE LAST RUNNER OF THE NYC MARATHON (11/10/1990) – Before Andy Samberg was “The Out of Breath Jogger from 1992”, Farley was the “Out of Breath Jogger from 1990”. Despite Farley’s size, he hardly shied from using his weight as a punchline—although, this was less about his weight, and more about the budding drinking habit he had (but we didn’t know there was trouble ahead at the time). We see a little more of Farley’s energy being put to use, though I have a feeling he might’ve freaked out Jan Hooks a little while he was doing so.

 

FARLEY_FEUD

DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILY FEUD (10/26/1991) – A sketch I honestly can’t believe I left out of my Game Shows list, but that’s not the point; The point is that Farley’s cheerful exuberance nearly steals the damn sketch. This particular sketch sort of hits home for me—I grew up in what some would call a “Dysfunctional” household, and not unlike Farley, I tried my Damnedest to stay positive about the horrible things that were surrounding me back then. Eventually, I became less like Farley’s Character, and more like Christian Slater’s character (minus the Cigarettes); but I guess that’s what happens when you “grow up too fast”………..I’ve said too much, let’s move on…

 

FARLEY_SCALDER

SCALDER & SON (11/23/1991) – Farley may have been a force to be reckoned with, but there were also some moments of subtlety and (dare I say) some tenderness. In this sketch, Farley plays a Medieval Scalder (read: Those guys who dumps Hot Oil on castle intruders), as well as father to (host) Macaulay Culkin in some sort of primitive “Take your child to work Day”. Knowing what we know now about him, it’s sort of difficult to see Farley bond with a child of any age and not question a few things. The thing I like the most about this sketch is just how anachronistic it is; Farley is talking to Culkin about Scalding the same way a Father in the 1950s-70s would talk about his job with pride with all the enthusiasm of an MST3K Short Film—something that must’ve been a common trait in the Mid-West where Farley came from.

 

FARLEY_DRUMMER

LITTLE DRUMMER BOY (12/12/1992) – When doing research for this article, I picked up a copy of the “Chris Farley Show” book at a used book store, and throughout most of the book I noticed an ongoing theme. That For all the talk that has ever been made about Farley being wild and/or “uncontrollable”, it’s pretty easy to forget that sometimes he can give us a subtle, sometimes quiet performance while still maintaining some of his mythic energy–even giving us a performance that is downright child-like and even innocent. This piece where the Male Cast rolls up their shirts and plays “Little Drummer Boy” on their stomachs is not only a short but sweet ensemble piece, but I feel this is the prime example of Farley’s dormant innocence, as well as the fact that if he only straightened up and flew right, he could’ve done a great deal of things. Case in Point; Recently some audio outtakes were brought to light featuring Farley as the voice of “Shrek” before Mike Myers took over the role after Farley’s passing—Yes, the movie would’ve felt completely different if things happened another way, but it shows that there is always a sense of calm in the eye of a hurricane; Speaking of Storms…

 

FARLEY_STORM

UPDATE: STORM OF THE CENTURY (3/13/1993) – This piece supposedly took place during Farley’s first trip to rehab (according to “Farley Show”, he was there on an “Outpatient” basis so he could keep doing the show each week)—but you wouldn’t know it from this performance; though they use enough snow filters that you could barely tell how strung out he was. I’m also convinced that this moment is a fitting metaphor—sometimes Farley came into a scene with the intensity of a Blizzard; not unlike another weather related sketch that we’ll get to in a moment.

 

FARLEY

CRIMINAL ENCOUNTER (5/15/1993)Still no screen shot of the actual sketch is available, sorry. I mentioned this before during last summer’s “Tom Time” (again, see: 8/31 Entry), but it’s worth repeating that I wish Farley was alive today so he could’ve taken on more dramatic parts (not unlike Belushi in his later years). In fact, in the “Farley Show” book there was mention of Chris hoping to play Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle in a serio-comic biopic—something that sadly never came to fruition. This sketch is probably as close as Farley ever got to flexing the drama muscle.

 

FARLEY_KIM

KIM & CHRIS (2/12/1994) – I’m sure everybody here knows about “The Chris Farley Show” Sketches (not affiliated with the book of the same name), these are sketches where a visibly nervous Farley is seen interviewing some of the biggest names in Showbiz—including a memorable time with Paul McCartney. The thing is, all that nervousness was actually a version of Farley’s real-life self whenever Farley wasn’t acting rowdy—especially when it came to talking to women (Seriously, I can’t recommend the book enough, there’s a piece about “Tommy Boy” where the female lead talks about just how nervous Farley was around her except when the cameras were rolling). This piece where you see him interacting with Alec Baldwin’s ex-Wife Kim Basinger is sort of an extension not only of that nervousness, but also that there was more to the guy than just falling down & breaking things.

 

SEASON 20_NEWT

IT’S A WONDERFUL NEWT (11/19/1994) – Another one I mentioned previously on the Season 20 list. However, I do feel the need to smear this one with an asterisk, because even though Farley performs reasonably well here despite reaching critical mass on the yelling; if this sketch aired during ANY other season, it would actually be a below average sketch. And unfortunately, this is not the only time that happened this particular year…

 

FARLEY_ZAGATS

ZAGAT’S (2/25 & 5/13/1995) – It’s long been rumored that the ONLY reason why comedian/sitcom star/forever “King of Queens” Kevin James appears in a number of “Happy Madison” productions is because Sandler was looking to fill a void left behind by Farley—like imagine Farley playing “Paul Blart”, or take part in the “Grown-Ups” movies, or even play the President in “Pixels”. I bring that up because during the latter years of their runs on the show, “Farley & Spade” may have been a dynamic duo in the movies, but it was Farley & Sandler who was the more powerful (and more friendly) duo while on Television (re watch “Lunchlady Land” or “Herlehy Boy” among others if you doubt the claim). Even in one of the show’s darker moments, Farley & Sandler still manage to shine a ray of light among the clouds—even if it means Farley is in Drag in this case. For those unfamiliar, “Zagat’s” was a sketch where a—shall we say—“aged” couple read restaurant reviews from the guidebook of the same name…or should I say, Farley reads them, while Sandler wonders where the hell his life went. I honestly don’t know what it is about this sketch that makes me laugh—maybe it’s the awkwardness Sandler feels, Maybe it’s the fact that Farley is a little too excited to be reading the reviews, but for whatever reason, this sketch worked in the most off-putting of ways…and it also makes me wonder if Kevin James will ever Dress in Drag at some point in order to achieve the same result.

 

SEASON 20_POLAR

THE POLAR BEAR CAGE (5/13/1995) – Still another Season 20 shout-out; this was not only the last sketch of the doomed year, but it was also the last time the so-called “Bad Boys” of the show all did a sketch together. Everybody had their own individual moments; but of course, it was Farley who stole the show with probably one of the best “So Stupid, It’s Funny” lines of all time until 2 years later (“He Tore off his head like So much Volleyball!”). Try using that line either in a normal conversation or in any given context, and I guarantee that you will get the strangest looks from people. Not only was this the sketch that marked the end of the “Bad Boys” era of the show, but (not counting a cameo in 1996) it was also one of the last times we would ever see Farley in a “normal” state of mind…

 

FARLEY_BABY

SALLY: BIG BABY (10/25/1997)No Video/Transcript, sorry. Hard as it is to avoid the subject; This list would not be complete without mentioning the infamous time Farley hosted only a few months before he died; and by all accounts and purposes, the episode was a Disaster with a capital D. I can’t quote verbatim, but the “Farley Show” book goes further in depth as to just how out of it Chris was during that week…but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t some good to be seen in the episode—Hell, if Kris Kristoferson could get through a show drunk & caffeinated at the same time; surely, there had to have been some way for Farley to function. And in a few sketches, he somehow managed to pull it off. Take for instance one of the first (if not THE first) sketch that a young scribe named Tina Fey wrote for the show. Farley manages to use what he already knew about physical comedy, and breaks it down to its most basic form without actually breaking anything (for a change). It also makes me wonder if a young Beck Bennett was watching this particular show one night and felt “inspired” to do his own version of an Adult-Sized baby years later?

 

FARLEY_EL NINO

EL NINO (10/25/1997) – Even to the end, Farley still managed to appear in something that was quotable as hell—To this day, whenever an actual El Nino happens in the country; I think of this sketch, and another one of my favorite “So Stupid, it’s Funny” lines of all time (“For those who don’t Habla Espanol, El Nino is Spanish for…….The Nino!”). This was sort of a spiritual sequel to ‘93’s “Storm of the Century”, only in sketch form (obviously), and with more of a chance to take a “Sillier” route by taking on a WWE (or “WWF” as of ’97) twist—though if they really wanted to go whole-hog with the Wrestling motif, instead of Farley dressing as one of Carmen Miranda’s cabana boys, why not go full Luchadora, masks & all? Probably because some OTHER sketch show already had a gimmick going on about Mexican Wrestlers, so why bother rocking the boat? It also helps that I was a fan of Wrestling in about a blink of an eye when this aired…Never Again!

 

 

BOCEPHUS [HANK WILLIAMS JR.] (10/25/1997) – I wanted to make special mention of this particular sketch because hindsight can be a cruel thing sometimes— This sketch (which happens to be the LAST Live sketch he ever did) depicts Farley as Hank Williams Jr. recording the player intros for “Monday Night Football” while being a boozing mess—though in this case, it’s hard to tell if he was in character or not. when this aired, few people outside of the show knew how bad a shape Farley was in; I certainly didn’t know because I was still young & innocent back then. But now that I know what the circumstances are, this sketch is actually all the more poignant because of them—especially once we get to the end of the sketch when Farley delivers a monologue about how tough life can be sometimes, culminating in a “ballad” version of “All my Rowdy Friends” that the next generation of the show couldn’t help but join in on. It was a bittersweet ending, but this sketch also showed that no matter how wild Farley was at times, he was still willing to play some of his parts in a somewhat vulnerable way. The last thing I want to do, however, is end this collection on a downer note; so with that…

 

 

My Favorite “Hidden Gem” of Chris Farley is…

 

FARLEY_PEPPER

PEPPER BOY (10/22/1994) – Before you come at me with pitchforks & torches, let me explain. Yes, I know, this was largely Sandler & (host) Dana Carvey’s sketch, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this sketch for my own personal reasons—For those who have been reading these things since day one, you know that this episode was the first SNL show I saw on a Regular basis. As such, it was also the first time I was exposed to a number of people who would later shape my mind when it comes to comedy. Farley–of course–is one of them, even though he only appears for a couple of seconds in this sketch (Yes, you guessed it, this is also my exception to the “No Bit Parts” rule). But it was also the way he delivered an otherwise innocuous line that lit the fuse for me to be a Farley fan for life. I didn’t become a “Die-Hard” fan of his right then & there (That wouldn’t happen until I saw This Particular Matt Foley sketch in re-runs some time later), but it was the way he complimented Sandler’s Pepper Boy that made me wonder at a young age, “Who the HELL is this Guy, and Why is he so Friggin’ Funny?” Seeing Farley make such a needlessly over the top flourish like that in just one line reminds me of the old proverb “Sometimes a Great Journey begins with a single step”. He was already the show’s biggest star by that point, but I didn’t know that when I first started watching the show at that point. And in the end, that’s probably the best thing I could say about Farley—that no matter how old you are, or what generation you come from, one glimpse of Farley is all it takes to be hooked; with all due respect and possibly with a hint of irony, you might even say that Farley himself was like a human drug; one hit, and you’re addicted for life…THANK YOU, PEPPER BOY!!!

 

 

And finally as a Special BONUS, I want to take a quick step Outside of SNL for a second to show you something I had long forgotten about. Something that’s not only another Farley Gem, but it could also explain why a certain cast member remains on the show to this day…

 

Anybody who was a kid/teen in the 90s should know what this show was—but for the uninitiated; “All That” was Nickelodeon’s Pre-teen answer to SNL back in the day. And not unlike SNL, this show launched its fair share of stars, including the one you see before your eyes—Kenan Thompson. This is gonna sound like a bunch of crap, but I think the reason why Kenan has been on the show for as long as he has is because of this “All That” sketch. Once you become connected to someone of SNL lore, that stuff stays with you for the rest of your life the same way a wolf leaves an “imprint” on one of their cubs. In a strange way, we’re all connected somehow and SNL is no different in its own universe—in theory and not counting the writers, you could trace the current cast all the way back to 1985; Lovitz, Miller, Brown & Dunn survived so that Carvey, Hooks & Hartman could come on; they stay on so that Farley & others carry the torch a few years later, then They pass it along to the next generation, and so forth (I don’t have the time to go through the ENTIRE SNL “Family Tree”, but you get my point, I hope.). Farley got to work with Kenan (and vice versa), Kenan probably then used that experience as a bargaining chip in his eventual SNL audition, Lorne always had a strong and soft spot for Farley—even at his worst; therefore, he’ll never let Kenan out of his sight because of that Farley connection…………though in the words of a certain former Update Anchor “That’s just my opinion, I could be wrong”.

 

While I’ve been plugging “The Chris Farley Show” book relentlessly for the past few minutes, it also goes without saying that you should also try to track down a recent Documentary about him called “I Am Chris Farley”–I’m pretty sure it’s on some sort of streaming service right now, if not, try your luck on Amazon or your local Used Movie store.

 

 

TOMORROW: A Bonus review of the Last time Louis CK came by; followed Next week by Jimmy Fallon’s 2013 Xmas show and a list of Digital Shorts.

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