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Chris Farley may have died too soon — he was only 33 years old when he passed away on December 18, 1997 from a drug overdose and heart disease — but he left us a great comedy legacy. Born in Madison, Wisconsin on February 15, 1964, Farley developed a reputation from a young age as someone who loved to entertain those around him. Entertainment was something that he pursued later in his education, as he studied theater in college, along with communications. He further developed his comedy chops with numerous performing troupes, including the Second City theater, where he learned from improv instructor Del Close, the teacher of such comedy icons as Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, and John and James Belushi.
It wasn’t long before Farley got his first big break. Lorne Michaels, the producer and co-creator of “Saturday Night Live,” took notice of his talent and cast him on the show in 1990. Farley was an instant hit with audiences and appeared in numerous classic sketches during his five seasons at 30 Rock. It was in these sketches that he displayed his over-the-top antics — fueled by a boisterous personality and physical buffoonery. Farley soon moved to the big screen, beginning with supporting roles in “Wayne’s World,” “Coneheads,” and “Airheads,” and then starring in “Tommy Boy, and “Black Sheep” with “SNL” co-star and friend, David Spade. But it was his tenure during one the best eras of “Saturday Night Live” that really showcased his comedic virtuosity. Let’s take a look at Chris Farley’s best “SNL” sketches.
Bill Swerski’s Super Fans: Thanksgiving
Here, George Wendt, Mike Myers, Robert Smigel, and Farley ham it up as just your regular blue-collar Chicago Bears fans, spending time away from their families on Thanksgiving to suck down some brews and jack up their cholesterol levels. Wendt opens up by asking his buddies how their week was and if any of them had a heart attack, to which Farley casually replies, “Had a couple.” After some more talk about “Da Bears,” Farley begins to heave, prompting his fellow Super Fans to nonchalantly wonder if he’s having another heart attack. Farley states that he’s choking, and when one of the others performs the Heimlich maneuver on him, the source of his choking is revealed to be an entire pork chop.
“Da Bears” remains among the most popular expressions to come out of “SNL,” coming up in almost every single conversation about Chicago’s beloved football team. Farley was a regular in this sketch, and he gives us a healthy dose of his signature physical antics every time. A highlight of this installment is when he flirts with Wendt’s daughter, only to be reminded that he’s married. Farley then experiences a vision of his wife -– hilariously played by Farley, as well, over-the-top Chicago accent and all -– cooking a big pot of knockwurst. This, apparently, is more than enough to make him realize that he’s a lucky man already. And we were lucky to have you, Chris.
Japanese Game Show
Mike Myers plays the host of a Japanese game show with three contestants; the first two contestants speak Japanese, but Farley’s third contestant, of course, doesn’t speak Japanese. Playing a dorky Westerner, Farley embarrassingly admits that he and his wife Mary are on vacation in Japan and that there must’ve been some kind of misunderstanding, as he thought he was just going to watch a game show, not be in it. Farley lightens up, however, when he wins the first round just by repeating the host’s question. But things take a turn for the worse when, during the next round, the losing contestants are forced to cut off their fingers, scaring the living daylights out of Farley.
There are very few “SNL” sketches that don’t involve Farley being the butt of a joke. And here, he’s the recipient of one of the funniest punishments ever when, after being led to believe that he’s the winner, he’s strapped to a machine you’d see in a “Hostel” movie and has power cables clamped to his … ahem, family jewels. It’s a wonderfully ironic gag, as his final answer sees him actually employing what little Japanese he knows, only to get a couple of syllables off and have jolts of electricity sent to his crotch. “Japanese Game Show” proved that there was no greater king of buffoonery than Farley.
Schiller Visions: Hidden Camera Commercials
“Schiller Visions” is a Swedish TV show that sends up American hidden-camera commercials. At a fancy restaurant, a patron is told that he’s actually drinking Colombian decaf coffee crystals, to which he acts pleasantly surprised and states that it tastes just like “rich-bodied regular coffee.” Farley plays the next unsuspecting customer, but instead of being mildly shocked by the fact that he’s not drinking regular coffee, his charming manner slowly melts away to reveal the rage of a man betrayed. Farley flips over the dining table and beats the hell out of a waiter, shouting threats and obscenities. As he hurls pies at other guests, laughing maniacally, it requires the might of multiple restaurant staff to subdue him.
Farley’s freakouts are legendary, largely due to his using every muscle and vocal tic in his vocabulary at the same time. He doesn’t hold back, delivering a crazed performance with the same intensity as Charlton Heston screaming to the world that Soylent Green is actually people. Heck, Farley’s tantrum is one that even the Hulk would be proud of; the fact that he’s wearing a green jacket only makes him even more reminiscent of Marvel’s Jade Jaws. His descent into madness is wonderfully accentuated by the inclusion of high-pitched violins, lending an almost horror movie-like vibe to a scene about a man enduring the worst deception of his life.
Zagat’s With Hank & Beverly Gelfand
Hank and Beverly Gelfand are a married couple who host a show wherein they “discuss” nice restaurants to visit. I put “discuss” in quotation marks because it’s less of a discussion and more of a … well, something else. Farley chews the scenery as the overly enthusiastic Beverly, cheerfully reading from a Zagat guide while her husband Hank (Adam Sandler) wishes for it all to end. Every eatery sounds exquisite to Beverly, who squeals with delight over the cheesy copy for each restaurant. Hank, on the other hand, only grows more and more frustrated with the nonstop restaurant descriptions, to the point that he pulls a gun and points it at his own head before deciding to turn the gun on an oblivious Beverly.
It’s no secret that Farley and Sandler were close friends during their time on “SNL,” and it was always comedy magic whenever the two of them shared the screen together. “Zagat’s with Hank & Beverly Gelfand” ranks as one of their best sketches, as it sees them playing characters that perfectly suit their personalities. Farley’s over-the-top portrayal of a loving-yet-clueless wife is pure gold, while Sandler knocks it out of the park as the grumpy old husband who’s had it up to here with dining out. Watch to the end for one last punchline.
Focus On Beauty II
Farley plays Lori Davis, a guest panelist on a beauty show hosted by three other vapid women who talk about beauty products in the most superficial and repetitive way possible. For example, the women launch into a conversation devoted to Lori’s previous product, and they do so with excessive use of the word “exciting.” Davis reads some reviews from “excited” customers about how “excited” they wereto use her “exciting” product, and then shares how “excited” she is to reveal her latest product, a hairspray called Exciting Hold. What makes Exciting Hold so “exciting,” Davis explains, is the fact that it doesn’t contain any alcohol, which leads to a dry feeling. The dryness, you see, is caused by alcohol. So why doesn’t Davis’s new hairspray cause dryness? Because it has no alcohol.
Farley is no stranger to donning a wig and a dress to play a woman, with Lori Davis being among his funniest female caricatures. “Focus On Beauty II” is a laugh-out-loud mocking of modern-day snake oil salesmen, this time replacing snake oil with a women’s hairspray that can do pretty much anything. Plus, it contains no alcohol! Farley’s portrayal of the glamourous huckster is supported by the other actresses who dial the sleazy marketing speak to 11 in their attempt to characterize the product as a miracle in a bottle. As a bonus, Phil Hartman makes a hysterical appearance as a “scientist” who’s obviously uneasy about selling the alleged non-alcoholic nature of the hairspray.
Three judges try to determine who will be the latest addition to their lineup of Chippendales dancers. They’ve narrowed it down to two, both of whom they think are terrific, but can only afford to hire one. The judges bring out the two final applicants: hunky Patrick Swayze and hefty Farley. How Farley managed to keep up with Swayze is anybody’s guess, but the judges saw something special in him. And so, the two prospective dancers are given a last chance to strut their moves to the tune of Loverboy’s “Working for the Weekend.” Swayze puts on an expectedly sexy performance, but will it stand up to Farley’s flabby frolic?
While Farley may have been mostly known as the “funny fat guy” in almost everything he appeared in, his genius as a comedic talent was his ability to use his rotund form to his advantage. Yes, we’re laughing at him but he’s also the one making us laugh at him; he was in charge every time he made us guffaw. It takes a real man with a less-than-chiseled physique to comfortably go shirtless with Swayze, but that’s just a testament to Farley’s fearlessness and commitment. The dance-off between the two is uproarious, with Farley not only copying Swayze’s every move but doing everything he can to top his opponent at every turn.
Lunch Lady Land
This sketch starts off with Adam Sandler as the apparent star, performing a song about the unsung heroine of our childhoods, the Lunch Lady. However, when the camera pulls back, it’s revealed that the real star is Farley as the woman from our school days, hairnet and all. As Sandler sings his song to the Lunch Lady, Farley interprets the lyrics … by dancing. The two are then joined onstage by other cast members attired as various cafeteria foods, like pizza, garlic bread, and green beans. However, it’s Kevin Nealon’s Sloppy Joe who Farley’s Lunch Lady ultimately falls in love with at the end.
We’ve seen Farley in drag. And we’ve seen him dance. But seeing the two combined in the same bit is bliss, a pure comedy experience. Farley’s exaggerated ballet twirls are surprisingly … well, not graceful, but lively, especially for a guy his size. It’s a wild sketch, but Farley plays it ramrod straight, never breaking character. In fact, he actually makes Sandler chuckle a few times during the sketch, bringing him perilously close to screwing up the performance.
“El Niño” is the shortest sketch on this list. In fact, it will probably take you longer to read this slide than to watch this sketch. But it’s so funny that chances are you’ll watch it multiple times. Here, a parody Weather Channel segment features Farley in a glittery and quite revealing mariachi/luchador costume, with footage of a storm superimposed in the background. In a gruff voice and with absolutely no handle on the Spanish language, he proclaims himself to be the personification of the Pacific Ocean weather phenomenon “El Niño,” and that all other tropical storms must bow to him. However, this all-powerful elemental force isn’t without compassion; after his grandiose declarations, he gives us a free Spanish lesson.
“For those of you who don’t habla espanol, ‘El Niño’ is Spanish for … ‘The Niño’!”
While El Niño’s weather patterns can spark major consequences around the world, Farley’s portrayal of the infamous storm is anything but intimidating. His exaggeratedly bad Spanish is a riot, presaging Jack Black’s “Nacho Libre” by more than a decade. Because Farley passed away so prematurely, we never got the chance to see the Weather Channel bring him on full-time; imagine the interest he could’ve generated in meteorology if we woke up to his booming delivery of the day’s weather conditions. However, something tells me Univision probably had no interest in adding him to their morning programming block.
The Herlihy Boy House-Sitting Service
“The Herlihy Boy House-Sitting Service” is another sketch wherein Adam Sandler plays the main role, only to be upstaged by Farley’s supporting character. Here, Sandler plays the awkward teenager Herlihy Boy in a commercial advertising his house-sitting service, begging for you to employ him. Farley portrays the middle-aged Mr. O’Malley, who interrupts Herlihy’s pleas for business with increasingly angry tantrums. Herlihy’s pitch to prospective customers gradually escalates from offering to water plants and bring in the mail to badgering them to let him live with them. And, of course, O’Malley’s rage continues to spike at a commensurate rate.
Similar to “Lunch Lady Land,” Farley’s cartoony antics shove Sandler right to the brink of breaking character; it must’ve required all of Sandler’s will to keep from cracking a smile while Farley harangued the audience for not hiring the Herlihy Boy to watch their house. Farley is a true master of ramping up his emotions, displaying every shade between mildly annoyed to unadulterated rage. But he could also be subtle with his outbursts; he ends most of his castigations with indecipherable mumblings, adding an extra little bit of spice to his flare-ups.
Chris Farley As Bennett Brauer
Kevin Nealon, during “Weekend Update,” brings on guest Bennett Brauer (Farley) for some expert commentary that ultimately goes everywhere except toward anything informative. Brauer kicks off his “commentary” with some scathing remarks about the network’s attempts to get rid of him, making his disdain totally clear. As expected, Brauer only continues to spew contempt in a string of quotes citing their complaints about him. His rant starts off with their problems that pertain to his status on the show, such as the fact that he has a “negative Q rating,” that he doesn’t “look the part,” and that he’s “not svelte.” But the complaints that he mentions only get more personal, like how he doesn’t wear “the latest clothes” or “even ones that don’t reek.”
Not enough is said about Farley’s skills at delivering sarcasm, all of which are displayed without any semblance of subtlety or poise. It’s a long rant, but Farley constantly maintains his focused derision without fumbling over a single syllable. And let’s not forget the nimble work on display from his index and middle fingers, air-quoting the living hell out of the network executives with athletic consistency. However, the best part is when hidden cables lift Farley out of his seat in the middle of his passive-aggressive diatribe, sending him soaring above the audience with all the grace of a bull in a china shop. Tinker Bell would’ve been proud of you, Chris.
The Chris Farley Show With Paul McCartney
In this sketch, Farley takes a stab at becoming the next Oprah Winfrey by hosting his own talk show. He aims high by nabbing one of the most famous people in the world, Paul McCartney. Farley, however, is noticeably starstruck – extremely starstruck – by the former Beatle, fumbling with his lines and exhibiting a nervous demeanor. He’s no Dan Rather, as he opens the interview by asking McCartney if he remembers being in the Beatles. And when Farley quizzes the rock legend about the time he got busted for possession of pot in Japan – a topic that McCartney isn’t terribly eager to discuss – Farley realizes his faux pas and brutally slaps himself in the head, an act he repeats throughout the interview.
So much of Farley’s body of work involves him being over-the-top and aggressive that it’s easy to forget how adept he was at playing boyishly anxious characters. Farley is an absolute delight as he struggles to maintain his composure with the music icon, only showing the slightest bit of comfort when broaching irrelevant topics. For example, McCartney mentions that Maria Shriver previously interviewed him, which Farley uses as a pivot to state that she’s married to Arnold Schwarzenegger. Farley then gushes adorably about “The Terminator” — almost forgetting that he’s with McCartney.
Interestingly, Farley only performed “The Chris Farley Show” sketch three times — and the McCartney installment marked the third time. I’d like to think Farley realized he couldn’t top it.
Matt Foley Motivational Speaker – A Scary Story On Halloween
Phil Hartman plays the father of three troublesome teenagers busted for vandalizing their neighbors’ homes on Halloween night. So who does dad call to straighten his kids out? Why, Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker, of course. Foley bursts into the living room and gives himself a glowing introduction: “First off, I am 35 years old, I am thrice divorced, and I live in a van down by the river!” After giving the teens some loud life advice, Foley gets into the spirit of the holiday by having the dad turn off the living room lights and then shining a flashlight into his face to regale everyone with a spooky tale about a young man who, after some bad life choices, ends up … living in a van down by the river.
Matt Foley is Farley’s most legendary creation, making its top ranking obvious but much deserved. For this character, Farley unleashes his full arsenal of comedy tricks: explosive vocal inflections, slapstick physical gags, aggressive self-deprecation, and so much more. One of the highlights of the scene finds Farley confronting David Spade’s character about who threw eggs at the neighbor’s house. Farley picks Spade up as if he were a child and says, “I’ll be you, and you be the eggs!” — only for the both of them to crash into the coffee table. Kudos to the supporting actors for maintaining (mostly) straight faces during Farley’s nonstop hijinks.
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