With a larger-than-life personality, and comedic talent that filled a room, Chris Farley is known for his stint on Saturday Night Live and subsequent films, such as Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. Farley grew up in Wisconsin, and developed a love of comedy; he later graduated with a degree in communications and theater. While working in Madison, he began performing improv at the Ark Improv Theatre, eventually moving to Chicago to pursue a career in comedy.
Once Farley moved to Chicago, he was able to delve into the art of improvisation. After meeting Del Close, a mentor to his comedic idol, John Belushi, and countless others, Farley became a student of Close’s at comedy clubs in Chicago. Initially a part of the Second City touring company, he was promoted to the Mainstage theatre in 1989, eventually starring in three revues from 1989-1991.
As a part of the Main Stage theatre at Second City, Farley was a part of the revues “The Gods Must Be Lazy”, “It Was Thirty Years Ago Today”, and “Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only or Censorama”. He performed alongside future stars Tim Meadows, Joel Murray, David Pasquesi, and Bob Odenkirk, and premiered characters that would later appear on SNL, such as Matt Foley, motivational speaker. It was at The Second City that Lorne Michaels discovered Farley, and hired him to be a part of the Saturday Night Live cast in the spring of 1990.
Within Farley’s first season at SNL, he rocketed to fame with a variety of popular characters, often acting alongside David Spade, Adam Sandler, and Chris Rock. Characters included Matt Foley, a Chippendale’s dancer, Cindy from “Gap Girls”, himself on The Chris Farley Show, a member of Bears super fans, and more. In 2015, Rolling Stone named Farley the 15th most influential cast member of SNL of all time. During his tenure at SNL, he worked on films such as Wayne’s World and Coneheads, both starring past cast members Mike Myers and Dan Aykroyd.
After leaving SNL, Farley embarked on a film career, mainly alongside close friend David Spade. The two made Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, both of which were box office successes and have developed a cult following. With the success of these two films, Farley then starred in Beverly Hills Ninja, which came in first in the box office its opening weekend. He completed the films Almost Heroes and Dirty Work prior to his death, though they were released posthumously. His distinct comedic style and body of work continues to affect the world of comedy today.
1989: The Gods Must Be Lazy, Mainstage
1989-1990: It Was Thirty Years Ago Today, Mainstage
1990-1991: Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only or Censorama, Mainstage
“Flag Smoking Permitted in Lobby Only”