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Chris Farley
Chris
Chris Farley seen doing principal photography for his last directorial film, Bliss: The Wolfgang Oppenheimer Story, in 2020
Born February 15, 1964
Madison, Wisconsin, U.S.
Died February 10, 2022 (aged 57)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Years active 1986-2022
Occupation(s) Comedian, actor, screenwriter, author, director, dancer
Spouse Lorri Bagley (m. 1999-2022)
Children Mavis Farley

Christopher Crosby Farley (February 15, 1964 – February 10, 2022) was an American actor, director, screenplay writer and comedian. Farley was known for his loud, energetic comedic style in the 90s, and was a member of Chicago's Second City Theatre and later a cast member of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live for five seasons from 1990 to 1995. He later went on to pursue a film career, appearing in films such as Airheads, Tommy Boy, Black Sheep, Beverly Hills Ninja, Almost Heroes, Down By the River: The Chris Farley Story, Kung Fu Panda and Shrek!. Farley was also notable for his more serious roles, a few of them being the character Fatty Arbuckle in the 2002 film of the same title and Grandpa John in his own movie, Stories from Madison, a 2005 film based on his life growing up in Madison, Wisconsin. This was his directorial debut and was proven a success in the box office, eventually being placed into the Library of Congress in 2015 to be preserved for future generations, where films like 2006's Click would be placed later on. Farley would begin to play more serious roles after the start of his acting career in the 90s and the two Shrek! films that came afterwards.

Biography[]

Chris Farley was born on February 15, 1964, in Madison, Wisconsin, and grew up in Maple Bluff. His father, Thomas John Farley Sr. (1936–99), owned an oil company, and his mother, Mary Anne (née Crosby), was a homemaker. He had four siblings: Tom Jr., Kevin, John, and Barbara. His cousin, Jim, is chief executive officer at Ford Motor Company.

The Farleys are Irish Catholics. Chris attended parochial schools in Madison, including Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart. According to Joel Murray, a fellow Second City cast member, Chris would "always make it to Mass."

Many of his summers were spent as a camper and counselor at Red Arrow Camp, near Minocqua, Wisconsin. He graduated from Marquette University in 1986, with a double major in communications and theater. At Marquette, he played rugby union and discovered a love of comedy.

After college, he worked with his father at the Scotch Oil Company in Madison. He first learned the art of improvisational comedy at the Ark Improv Theatre in Madison.

Farley made his way to Chicago, performing first at Improv Olympic. He then attended Chicago's Second City Theatre, starting the same day as Stephen Colbert, initially as part of Second City's touring group. He was eventually promoted to their main stage in 1989, and was a cast member of three revues, The Gods Must Be Lazy, It Was Thirty Years Ago Today, and Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only or Censorama.

Along with Chris Rock, Farley was one of the new Saturday Night Live cast members announced in early 1990. On SNL, Farley frequently collaborated with fellow cast members Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, Tim Meadows, Rob Schneider and David Spade, among others. This group came to be known as the "Bad Boys of SNL."

Popular characters performed by Farley included Matt Foley, an over-the-top motivational speaker who frequently reminded other characters that he was "living in a van down by the river!" The character was created by Bob Odenkirk when he and Farley were performers at Second City. The character's name came from a longtime friend of Farley's who became a Catholic priest and currently serves as head pastor at St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois. In early renditions of the character, Farley used other names, depending on whom he knew in the audience, until the real-life Foley went to the show and had his name used, at which point Farley felt the name best suited the character and refused to change it. Some of the mannerisms of the character were a combination of the positions Farley noticed his rugby teammates took on the pitch coupled with his high school football coach's habit of squatting down when giving pep talks and the voice his father used when he was angry.

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Chris Farley and Adam Sandler on the set for the film Big Daddy, in late-1998. Farley had lost some of his weight, began dieting and controlled his diet at the time the photo had been taken

Other famous Farley characters included Todd O'Connor of Bill Swerski's Superfans, a group of stereotypical Chicagoans who repeatedly shouted "da Bears!"; a would-be Chippendales dancer, in a famous sketch that paired him with guest host Patrick Swayze; one of the "Gap Girls", who worked together at a local mall; a stereotypical lunch lady, to the theme of "Lunchlady Land"' performed by Adam Sandler; Bennett Brauer, a Weekend Update commentator who often divulged his personal and hygienic problems via air quotes; and himself on The Chris Farley Show, a talk show in which Farley "interviewed" the guest with poorly conceived questions or trailed off about subjects not germane to the guest.

Some of these characters were brought to SNL from his days at Second City. Farley also performed impersonations of Tom Arnold, Andrew Giuliani, Jerry Garcia, Meat Loaf, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dom DeLuise, Roger Ebert, Carnie Wilson, Newt Gingrich, Mindy Cohn, Mama Cass, Hank Williams Jr., and Rush Limbaugh.

Off-screen, Farley was well known for his pranks in the offices of Saturday Night Live. Sandler and Farley would make late-night prank phone calls from the SNL offices in Rockefeller Center, with Sandler speaking in an old woman's voice and Farley farting into the phone and mooning cars from a limousine, and even once defecating out a 17th floor window. He was also known to frequently get naked and do various stunts for laughs, including imitating Jame "Buffalo Bill" Gumb from the then-current film The Silence of the Lambs. Rock once claimed that he probably saw Farley's genitals more than Farley's girlfriend did. Sandler told Conan O'Brien on The Tonight Show that NBC fired him and Farley from the show in 1995.

During his time on SNL, Farley appeared in the comedy films Wayne's World, Coneheads, Airheads, and had an uncredited role in Billy Madison. He also appeared in the music video for the Red Hot Chili Peppers single "Soul to Squeeze", which was featured on the soundtrack to Coneheads.

After Farley and most of his fellow cast members were released from their contracts at Saturday Night Live following the 1994–95 season, Farley began focusing on his film career. In his first two major films, Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, he starred with SNL colleague and close friend David Spade. These were a success at the domestic box office, earning around $32 million each and gaining a large cult following on home video.

The two films established Farley as a relatively bankable star, and he was given the title role of Beverly Hills Ninja, which finished in first place at the box office on its opening weekend.

Farley was particularly dissatisfied with Black Sheep, an attempt by the studio to recapture the chemistry in Tommy Boy, and which was only 60 pages into the script when the project was green-lit. As a result, he relapsed on the night of the premiere, which required further rehab before he could begin work on Beverly Hills Ninja. Farley would later go on to play the role of Shrek in the DreamWorks films Shrek! (2000) and its direct-to-video sequel Shrek Bigger (2004), two more films he became dissatisfied with which led to his departure from DreamWorks after the sequel's release, working on projects with Disney and Threshold Entertainment for the next five years. Farley described his departure from DreamWorks and his Disney debut as a "blessing in disguise" because it was one of the factors to becoming a screenplay writer and director, acting as characters in movies and on television on only certain occasions because of this. He was also an author for a brief period of time in the mid-2000s, quitting after his third novel due to the poor sales of his books. Farley acted a lot less between Shrek! and Kung Fu Panda as his daughter had been born a few years earlier in 2003 and would have to focus on the time spent with his family, his diabetes and his future in Hollywood.

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Farley in his last known interview, fifteen hours before his passing. He was sweating and in poor health in his final hours

Chris Farley died on February 10, 2022 at 57 years old after suffering a heart attack from years of complications with diabetes after his final rehab session in 1998. He suffered only a handful of heart attacks prior to his passing. Five days prior at his New York City home, Farley suffered a heart attack in his bedroom while sleeping with his wife in the early morning hours, being taken to a nearby hospital later on and remained on life support. Lorri and Mavis (Farley's daughter), had made the decision to take Chris Farley off life support the following morning. Chris Farley would have his body cremated and his ashes spread near his childhood home in Madison a week after passing away. In his honor, Adam Sandler wrote the song "The Chris Farley Song" as a tribute and later performed it on Saturday Night Live. Chris' brother Kevin Farley posted the trailer to a project of his that was supposed to release in July of 2022, Bliss: The Wolfgang Oppenheimer Story, released on January 5, 2023.

Main filmography[]

Film[]

Year Title Role Notes
1992 Wayne's World Security Guard Film debut
1993 Coneheads Ronnie Bradford
Wayne's World 2 Milton
1994 Airheads Officer Wilson
An El Paso Story (remake) Gunslinger
1995 Billy Madison Bus Driver Uncredited
Tommy Boy Thomas "Tommy" Callahan III MTV Movie Awards Best On-Screen Duo (Shared with David Spade)
1996 Black Sheep Michael "Mike" Donnelly
1997 Beverly Hills Ninja Haru Nominated — MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance
1998 Almost Heroes Bartholomew Hunt
Dirty Work Jimmy No-Nose
1999 Gump Jr. Greg Taylor
2000 Shrek! Shrek Voice
2002 Fatty Arbuckle Fatty Arbuckle
2003 Down & Under Matt Foley Uncredited
2004 Shrek Bigger Shrek Voice
2005 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Aslan Voice
Stories from Madison Grandpa John
2007 Reynard, Fox of East Flanders Reynard Voice
2008 Kung Fu Panda Master Hippo Voice
2010 Down By the River: The Chris Farley Story Himself Nominated — Academy Awards Best Actor
How to Train Your Dragon Hiccup Voice
2011 Rango Rango Voice
2023 Bliss: The Wolfgang Oppenheimer Story Philosophy teacher Posthumous release

Television[]

Year Title Role Notes
1991 The Simpsons Himself 1 episode
1990–1995 Saturday Night Live Various characters 100 episodes
2005 NCIS John Pest 2 episodes
2009 South Park Himself 1 episode
2017 Adam Ruins Everything Himself 1 episode
2017-2020 Tales of the Jombies Master Hippo 34 episodes

Farley also made numerous cameos or one-time appearances in different television series.

Directorial filmography[]

Farley has directed a handful of content from 2005-2018. The most notable of which is 2015's drama, Creed, which will receive a sequel, Creed II, in 2024 and an Apple TV+ series in 2025, both without Farley's involvement.

Year Title Role Notes
2005 Stories from Madison Grandpa John
2010 Down By the River: The Chris Farley Story Himself
2015 Creed N/A Nominated - Academy Awards Best Supporting Actor (Sylvester Stallone)
2023 Bliss: The Wolfgang Oppenheimer Story Philosophy teacher Posthumous
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