Friday, November 07, 2008

Chris Farley (1964-1997)

Two days ago I saw this book on the shelf at the library that I knew I just had to read. The biography of Chris Farley. It was almost impossible to put down. Finished it an hour ago. It made me laugh, it made me cry. Can you believe he has been dead for almost eleven years?

This biography (co-authored by his older brother) reminded me of so much that Chris Farley introduced into my life that is still a part of me. It was really sad to lose him. I'm even sadder about it now, knowing the story. Of all the famous people who die, here is probably the one I miss the most; the one I felt most attached to. Maybe that sounds odd. I think it is true.

Reading his story reminds you of all that was lovable about him: His "Chris Farley Show" interviews (as seen below); his "Da Bears" routine; his "Motivational Speaker" bit; his "Tommy Boy" comedic masterpiece; his spunk; and his genuine love for life and ability to lift those around him (which you sensed, not knowing him, and which it turns out was the real deal).

This story also opens your eyes to the normality of famous people and to the dangers of mixing insecurity, family baggage, a fast rise to stardom, and addiction. As a wake up call to the death-toll of addiction alone it is a worthy read. As an insight into our common human struggles it is a reminder to be there for each other. It is a deep and compelling story told in a very simple interview style with people who knew him and, of course, it is laced with a lot of humour. There are not many books I can recommend more highly than this one.

Most of all I just wanted to pay my respects and to bring the memory of this face to mind. I wish he were alive today. I wish I was taking my boys to a Farley movie in a few years. I am convinced he would have gone on to make some pretty incredible movies that would have made us laugh and which also would have moved us.

Besides all that, however, Chris Farley was just a genuine person, a spark of life, and a devout Catholic who went to mass several times a week. He was born the day after Valentines, 1964, and died three days before Christmas, 1997. He was 33. I pray he is resting in Peace.


Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

Have you seen the clip where he runs onstage on Letterman and completely wipes out?! Unbelievable.

Devout Catholic? I didn't know that. But somehow it doesn't surprise me at all.

I think Chesterton would have LOVED Farley.

jon said...

Devout in an almost superstitious way, but yeah, one of his best friends was a priest, he was adamant about taking confession and mass, and he also served a Catholic church ministry to seniors and to some homeless people (one in particular whose life he "adopted" and really turned around) and did hospital visitations and stuff. He was often looking out for the outcast.

jon said...

ha ha that's funny about chesterton. you are probably right. i hadn't thought of that.

i need to youtube that letterman clip.

Matthew A. Wilkinson said...

I've been trying to find the clip on youtube, with no luck. It might not be Letterman. Some talk show though. I dunno.

Anonymous said...

I love Chris Farley, he made me laugh so much and still continues to make me laugh. He is one of the top five comic influences in my life.

That being said, I don't know how funny he would be if he was around today. So many comedians get stuck doing the same things that made people laugh in the past but isn't as funny now. There are only a few comedians that are able to change with the times and remain relevant.

Sadly, in my attempts to be funny I end up doing the same things that got laughs in college. Comedy like art has to adapt and change.


jon said...

Terry, Great point. I think every comedian has to face this and look for new things. But the comedians in Farley's life thought he was only going to get better. In fact, one of the things that indirectly led to the downward spiral of his addictions was that he was hating himself for the typecasting he was settling for with Beverly Hills Ninja, and even Black Sheep to some degree. These films were intended to be something better, but the pressures of the Studio and the haphazard way they were slapped together to make a buck stifled the comic genius that the main players hoped to put into them. I don't mean to sound flippant, but in a sinse Beverly Hills Ninja is what killed Chris Farley. Crazy. I think we don't realize how tied to their careers and their characters these actors are. Farley desperately wanted, needed, to make people laugh. He was willing to do the fat jokes everyone expected in order to do this, but for the sake of his future he needed to be seen for more than that. His closest friends and fans saw this I think, but the addictions spiralled the insecurities and all the relapses added up on top of each other to bring the guilt and fear crashing down, and. . . well, its such a sad story.

A film bio-pic of Farley would be a comedy-tragedy of Shakespearian porportions.

Tony Tanti said...

I read part of this at your house last week and I really want to read the rest of it now. I enjoyed talking about it with you and learning how much went on behind the scenes of this hilarious man who died way too soon.

Nice tribute.