I read The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts and will have the review up soon.Â It’s mostly comprised of interviews with the friends, family and co-workers of Chris.Â Below is Chapter 6 from the book and is a good example of the format used to tell the story of Chris Farley.Â (Thanks to FSB Associates for providing the excerpt.)
by Tom Farley, Jr., and Tanner Colby,
Authors of The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts
CONAN O’ BRIEN, writer:
When Chris first got to the show, I met him hanging out in theÂ conference room outside Lorne’s office. He was dressed kind of like aÂ kid going to a job interview. We chatted for a bit. I liked him rightÂ away.
I came in and out of that conference room several times during theÂ day, and Chris was still waiting. Lorne would do that to you, make youÂ wait a long time. At the end of the day, I was feeling bad for him, soÂ I said, “Hey, kid. I’ll show you around the studio,” and I led him onÂ kind of a mock tour where I pretended to be in charge of everyone.Â Chris fell in and started playing along with me. After that I left andÂ went home. I came back to work the next day, and Chris was stillÂ waiting outside Lorne’s office.
He had this energy, even when he was sitting there waiting for hisÂ meeting, rocking back and forth in his ill-fitting sports jacket withÂ his tie all pulled off to the side. He seemed really earnest aboutÂ doing the show. You just had the feeling that he was going to be a lotÂ of fun and he belonged here. It was like the show — and I don’t meanÂ this to sound condescending — but it was like the show had been givenÂ this new golden retriever puppy.
From the day he arrived at Saturday Night Live, Chris Farley was already suffering comparisons to the other outrageous, larger-than-life figure in SNL history: John Belushi. When Chris died seven years later, eerily, at the same age as Belushi, those comparisons becameÂ gospel. In truth the two men shared far more differences thanÂ similarities. Still, in life and in death, Chris has borne theÂ accusation of trying too hard to follow in Befushi’s footsteps — anÂ accusation with varying shades of truth. Yes, Chris looked up to andÂ admired his predecessor, but whatever influence Belushi’s ghost had onÂ a young Chris Farley paled in comparison to the truly dominant forcesÂ in his life: his father, his family, and his faith. As far as drugsÂ and alcohol went, Chris’s bad habits were very much his own, seeded inÂ his DNA and showing up at keg parties long before Belushi’s demise.Â And if Chris followed Belushi in more positive ways, he was hardlyÂ alone.
In the comedy epidemic of the twentieth century, John Belushi wasÂ Patient Zero. The twin blockbuster successes of Saturday Night LiveÂ and National Lampoon’s Animal House fundamentally changed the landscape of being funny. Movie studios began churning out huge blockbuster comedies like Ghostbusters and Beverly Hills Cop. Stars like EddieÂ Murphy, Mike Myers, and Jim Carrey beat a well-trod path from sketch-comedy cult status to Hollywood fame and fortune. Second City andÂ ImprovOlympic grew from regional theaters into multiheaded corporateÂ enterprises, churning out hundreds of aspiring comedians every yearÂ and spawning scores of other schools and venues across the country.Â Chris Farley and his friends were the first generation born into andÂ weaned on that era. Their reverence for it and obsession with it wasÂ the common denominator that bound them together.
It all began in 1975 when producer Lorne Michaels assembled theÂ original cast of SNL and took to the air live from New York everyÂ Saturday night. Following his departure in 1980, producer Dick EbersolÂ took over the show. Ebersol presided over some difficult years butÂ also cultivated the stardom of Eddie Murphy and assembled the all-starÂ cast of Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Martin Short.
In 1985, Lorne Michaels returned. The show needed new direction, andÂ he needed a job. After a rocky start, he went back to the drawingÂ board in 1986 and assembled the cast — Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, JanÂ Hooks, Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, Kevin Nealon, Victoria Jackson, andÂ Weekend Update anchor Dennis Miller — that would breathe new lifeÂ into the show. Mike Myers came aboard in ’89, but otherwise no visibleÂ changes where made, or needed, for the rest of the eighties.
Then, in the fall of 1990, a slow transition began to take place. NoraÂ Dunn and Jon Lovitz left; Chris Farley and Chris Rock entered. FarÂ younger than the established cast, the two became fast friends andÂ soon found themselves sharing an office. Farley and Rock were the onlyÂ performers added that fall. Tim Meadows, Chris’s Second City castÂ mate, would come on board at midseason.
Back in the writers’ room, Jim Downey, a freshman writer in SNL’sÂ early years, had assumed the reins of head writer and producer. At theÂ core of the writing staff was a group that had led the resurgence fromÂ the show’s mid-eighties nadir: Robert Smiget, Jack Handey, BobÂ Odenkirk, and Conan O’Brien. Meanwhile, Tom Schiller, Al Franken, TomÂ Davis, and Marilyn Suzanne Miller — also veterans of the show’sÂ original writing staff — had all come back for an additional go-round. Added to that was a very young team of stand-up comedians –Â Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Rob Schneider — whose age and sense ofÂ humor would ultimately bring about a generational shift at the show.Â Both on camera and off, SNL found itself with a varsity squad and aÂ junior-varsity squad. It was an odd mix of talent, but it worked well.Â For a while.
Chris arrived in New York in October. His older brother, Tom, hadÂ lived in the city for many years, and together they found an apartmentÂ for Chris on Seventh Avenue, just north of Times Square and rightÂ around the corner from the show’s Studio 8H in Rockefeller Center. TheÂ canyons of midtown Manhattan were a striking contrast to the cozyÂ comforts of Chicago’s Old Town, but Chris soon discovered the CarnegieÂ Deli, St. Malachy’s Church on West Forty-ninth Street, and a fineÂ Irish pub called The Fiddler’s Green, all within a small walkingÂ radius. He had made his home again, scarcely able to believe what thatÂ new home was. As many latter-day SNL writers and performers have said,Â anyone who works at the show is a fan of the show, first and foremost.Â And Chris was surely that.
ROBERT SMIGEL, writer/coproducer:
I was a coproducer as well as a writer, and so I got to go with LorneÂ to Chicago to scout the Second City show. Hiring Chris was probablyÂ the easiest casting decision Lorne’s ever had to make. In all theÂ shows I scouted before or after, I’d never seen anybody leap out atÂ you from the stage the way Chris did. Lorne hired him the next day.
JIM DOWNEY, head writer/producer:
There was so much buzz about Farley that our checking him out wasÂ almost pro forma. It was kind of automatic.
LORNE MICHAELS, executive producer:
I’d had something of a concern that maybe he was too big, personality-wise, to play on television. Theatrically, he was sort of playing toÂ the back of the house. But after we saw him, there really wasn’t muchÂ doubt.
Lorne invited me to be in on his meeting with Chris. Chris showed up,Â and he was in full altar-boy mode, lots of “yes, sirs” and bright-eyedÂ alertness. He was so transparently on his best behavior that you kindÂ of had to laugh and wonder if it was inversely proportional to hisÂ worst behavior. Lorne talked about the show and what would be expectedÂ of him, and Chris just kept sweetly nodding his head in agreement.Â Lorne had been told, at that point, about Chris’s problems. I don’tÂ remember exactly what he said, but he told Chris, in so many words,Â that it wouldn’t be tolerated. He even said something to the effect ofÂ “We don’t want another Belushi.”
It wasn’t presented to us that Chris had any sort of problem, justÂ that he was still a little young and liked to party too much.
All the cast and writers were sort of strolling in over the course ofÂ that first week. Chris immediately gravitated to this younger, newerÂ crowd of writers and actors: Rob Schneider, Adam Sandler, and DavidÂ Spade. They were coming on as writers. The only two new cast membersÂ were Chris and Chris Rock. They got all the press.
DAVID SPADE, cast member:
I had done four shows as a writer/performer. Then it was summer break,Â and when I got back Farley and Rock came on as featured players.Â Sandler came about six months later.
I met Chris the first day, walking over from the Omni Berkshire, whereÂ SNL had put us up. I saw him downstairs, and I’d heard about him. WeÂ talked and then we walked over to 30 Rock together. I thought he wasÂ funny. He was a nice Wisconsin dude, a genuine, sweet guy. I was outÂ from Arizona. I’m not really a bad guy. We just gravitated to hangingÂ out all the time and stayed buddies ever since.
MARCI KLEIN, talent coordinator:
I first met him the day he started. He was wearing this EnglishÂ driving cap and looking very Irish. He was very quiet and deferential,Â very nervous, like I was the person in charge or something, which IÂ thought was funny, because I wasn’t. He would get so nervous; that wasÂ one of the things that was really charming about him.
CHRIS ROCK, cast member:
We both got hired the same day, which was probably one of the greatestÂ days of my life. We were the new guys, and they threw us together. TheÂ funny thing was that everyone was worried about me — I lived inÂ Brooklyn and didn’t want to move to Manhattan, because I couldn’t parkÂ on the street and I couldn’t get a cab. I said it in the Live from NewÂ York book: Two guys named Chris both get hired on the same day andÂ share an office. One’s a black guy from Bed-Stuy and one’s a white guyÂ from Madison, Wisconsin. Now, which one is going to OD?
The above is an excerpt from the book The Chris Farley Show: AÂ
Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley, Jr., and Tanner Colby. TheÂ
above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print.Â
Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appearÂ
due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book forÂ
Copyright Â© 2009 Tom Farley, Jr., and Tanner Colby, authors of TheÂ
Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts
Tom Farley, Jr., author of The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in ThreeÂ
Acts, and Chris’s older brother, is president and managing director ofÂ
the Chris Farley Foundation, which educates young people aboutÂ
substance abuse and addiction. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin
Tanner Colby, co-author of The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in ThreeÂ
Acts, is former head writer of The National Lampoon Radio Hour andÂ
coauthor of Belushi: A Biography. He lives in New York City.
For more information please visit http://www.thechrisfarleyshow.com/