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Christopher Crosby "Chris" Farley (February 15, 1964 – December 18, 1997) was an American comedian and actor. Farley was a member of Chicago's The Second City Theatre and the cast of the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. He also starred in a string of successful comedy films in the 1990s before he died suddenly on December 18, 1997 of cardiac arrest in his Chicago apartment due to drug overdose.

Early life

Farley was born in Madison, Wisconsinmarker to Mary Anne (née Crosby), a homemaker, and Thomas Farley, Sr., who owned a paving company. He had three brothers, Tom Farley, Jr., actors Kevin and John, and a sister, Barbara. Jim Farley, a vice president at Ford Motor Company, is his cousin. The family was traditionally Irish Catholic and all the children attended Madison area Catholic schools, including Edgewood High School. 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 Minocquamarker, Wisconsinmarker.

Farley graduated from Marquette Universitymarker in 1986, with a concentration in communications and theater. After college, he worked with his father at the Scotch Oil Company in Madison. He got his start in professional comedy at the Ark Improv Theatre in Madison, and at the Improv Olympic theater in Chicago. He then performed at Chicago'smarker Second City Theatre, initially as part of Second City's touring group. He was eventually promoted to their main stage. While working at Second City, he was discovered by Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.


Saturday Night Live

Along with Chris Rock, Farley was one of two new SNL (Saturday Night Live) cast members announced in the spring of 1990. On the show, Farley frequently collaborated with fellow cast members David Spade, Chris Rock, Adam Sandler, and Rob Schneider, among others. This group came to be known as the "Bad Boys of SNL." Popular characters performed by Farley included himself on "The Chris Farley Show", a talk show in which Farley quite often "interviewed" the guest, got very nervous and asked simple-minded or irrelevant questions, such as what their favorite rock band was; "Matt Foley", an over-the-top motivational speaker who constantly reminded other characters that he "lived in a van, down by the river"; Todd O'Connor of Bill Swerski's Superfans, a group of stereotypical Chicagoans who constantly shout "da Bears!";, a Chippendale's dancer, in a famous sketch that paired him with guest host Patrick Swayze;, one of the "Gap Girls", who hung out together at a local mall; a stereotypical lunch lady, to the theme of Lunchlady Land performed by Adam Sandler; and Bennett Brauer, a Weekend Update commentator who often divulged his personal and hygienic problems via air quotes. Some of these characters were brought to SNL from his days at Second City. Farley also performed impersonations of Tom Arnold, who gave Farley's eulogy at his funeral; Andrew Giuliani, Jerry Garcia, Meat Loaf, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dom DeLuise, Roger Ebert, Carnie Wilson, Newt Gingrich, Mindy Cohn,Hank Williams Jr., and Rush Limbaugh.

Off-screen, Farley was well-known for his pranks in the offices of Saturday Night Live. A March 13, 1995, New York magazine article refers to Farley and Adam Sandler making late-night prank phone calls from the SNL offices in Rockefeller Centermarker, with Sandler speaking in an old woman's voice and Farley farting into the phone, as well as Farley mooning cars from a limousine.

Film career

Farley started his film career making cameo appearances in comedy films, including Wayne's World in 1992, Coneheads in 1993, Wayne's World 2 in 1993, Airheads in 1994 and Adam Sandler's Billy Madison in 1995. Farley also appeared in the Red Hot Chili Peppers music video for "Soul to Squeeze" which was a song featured on the Coneheads soundtrack.

After Farley and most of his fellow cast members were released from their contracts at Saturday Night Live following the 1994-1995 season, Farley focused on his film career. His first two major films co-starred fellow SNL cast member and close friend David Spade. Together, the duo made the films Tommy Boy and Black Sheep in 1995 and 1996, respectively. These were a success at the domestic box office, earning around $32 million each and gaining a large cult following on home video. They established Farley as a relatively bankable star and he was given the sole leading role in 1997's Beverly Hills Ninja, which finished in first place at the box office on its opening weekend. However, drug and alcohol problems began interfering with his work, and production of his final film, Almost Heroes, was held up several times so Farley could attend rehab. After his sudden death on December 18, 1997, his final completed films, Almost Heroes and Dirty Work, were released posthumous, and paid tribute to him in the end credits.

Unfinished projects

Farley had recorded vocals for the title character in the DreamWorks animated film Shrek, but his death necessitated that the role be recast. He was replaced by his former SNL castmate Mike Myers. At the time of his death, Farley had also been in talks to co-star with Vince Vaughn in the film The Gelfin and also to star in a biopic film about Fatty Arbuckle.


In early 1997, a decline in Farley's health was frequently noted in the press. These warnings were unheeded however and following his guest appearance on SNL for the last time on October 25, 1997, his hoarse voice, continual perspiration and flushed skin were the subject of public scrutiny. In the years before his death, Farley had sought treatment for obesity and drug abuse on seventeen separate occasions.

On December 18, 1997, Farley was found dead by his younger brother John in his apartment on the sixtieth floor of the John Hancock Centermarker in Chicago. An autopsy later revealed that Farley had died of a heart attack and had also overdosed on a combination of cocaine and morphine, with advanced atherosclerosis cited as a "significant contributing factor" in his death. Farley's death was similar to the death of John Belushi, a comedian and actor who, like Farley, was a member of Second City and starred in Saturday Night Live. Both died at age 33 of a drug overdose involving cocaine and opiates.


Farley's private funeral was held at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin five days later. Over five hundred people attended his funeral, many of the actors who had worked with him, including Phil Hartman (who would also meet a tragic end five months later), Adam Sandler, Brendan Fraser, Joe Mantegna, Lorne Michaels, Dan Aykroyd, Steve Buscemi, Mike Myers, Christopher Walken, John Goodman, Eugene Levy, George Wendt, Norm Macdonald, Holly Wortell, Rob Schneider, Chris Rock, Tim Meadows, and Tom Arnold. Notably absent was former SNL castmate and frequent film co-star David Spade, who was later quoted as saying that he did not attend Farley's private funeral because he "could not be in a room where Chris was in a box." However, Spade did appear on the special 25th anniversary episode of Saturday Night Live to call for a moment of remembrance for Farley. Farley was entombed at the Resurrection Catholic Cemetery.


On August 26, 2005, Farley was awarded the 2,289th star on the Hollywood Walk of Famemarker. The star is located in front of Improv Olympic West.

In Mohr's book Gasping for Airtime, former cast member Jay Mohr recalled a moment involving Farley and fellow cast member Phil Hartman. In the SNL cast's goodbye song-and-dance performance to Hartman, the final scene featured Farley (in his Matt Foley costume) and Hartman embracing each other as the latter sang "Goodbye" to the camera. They died within five months of each other. This can be seen on the "Best of Chris Farley" SNL special.

The authorized biography of Farley, The Chris Farley Show, was written by his brother Tom, Jr. and Tanner Colby. In 2009, Australian hip-hop group Hilltop Hoods released a track devoted to the life of Farley. Titled "Chris Farley", it appeared on their album State of the Art.


Year Film Role Notes
1992 Wayne's World Security Guard
1993 Coneheads Ronnie the Mechanic
Wayne's World 2 Milton
1994 Airheads Officer Wilson
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 Mike Donnelly Nominated — MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance
1997 Beverly Hills Ninja Haru Nominated — MTV Movie Awards Best Comedic Performance
1998 Almost Heroes Bartholomew Hunt Released posthumously
Dirty Work Jimmy Uncredited
Released posthumously
Year Title Role Notes
1990-1995 Saturday Night Live Various characters 100 episodes
1992 The Jackie Thomas Show Chris Thomas 1 episode
1993 Roseanne Man in Clothing Store 1 episode
1994 Tom Chris 1 episode
1997 All That The Chicago Ketchup Chef 1 episode


  1. The Second City: Chicago Alumni
  2. Chris Farley Biography - Yahoo! Movies
  5. Marquette University - Famous Faces
  6. The Biography Channel - Chris Farley Biography
  7. Wisconsin Historical Society
  8. The Bad Boys of Saturday Night Live (1998)(TV)
  9. Box Office Mojo data for Black Sheep
  10. Box Office Mojo data for Tommy Boy
  11. Box Office Mojo data for Beverly Hills Ninja
  12. The Chris Farley Show, by Tom Farley, Jr. and Tanner Colby
  13. Athens Daily News - Fellow comedians weep for Chris Farley
  14. - Chris Farley Gets Posthumous Star

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