Rotund, blonde, and amazingly agile comic actor Chris Farley boasted an energetic, bumbling presence that made him among the few alumni from the long-running Saturday Night Live television series to find a comfortable niche in feature films. He started out working with the Ark Improv theater group after graduating from Marquette University with a degree in theater and communications. After leaving the Ark, he worked at the Improv Olympic Theater where he studied under director Del Close. From there Farley found work at the Second City Theater where he was discovered by SNL producer Lorne Michaels. The portly actor debuted on the series in 1990, and, with such goofy characters as loud motivational speaker Matt Foley (who lived in a van down by the river), quickly became one of the show's favorite players. He remained with the show through the 1994-1995 season and then left to pursue a movie career. Farley made his feature film debut as a security guard in Wayne's World (1992); he had a much larger role in the sequel, Wayne's World 2 (1990). Farley had his first screen hit when he teamed up with fellow SNL actor David Spade and appeared in the sophomoric Tommy Boy, in which Farley played the naïve and socially incompetent son of a recently deceased auto parts manufacturer. Farley then returned to supporting roles before reteaming with Spade again for Black Sheep in 1996. In 1997, he starred in the comedy Beverly Hills Ninja. Farley's manic comedy style has frequently been compared to that of the late John Belushi, whom Farley idolized. Like Belushi, Farley's offscreen life was punctuated by frequent bouts of alcohol and drug abuse; friends and colleagues were concerned as was Farley, but he apparently was unable to stop. On December 18, 1997, Farley was found dead of an apparent heart attack in his luxurious Chicago apartment. He was only 33 years old, the same age as Belushi when he died.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- After he saw Animal House, John Belushi became his idol.
- After college, and a stint working for his father in the family's oil company, joined the famed Second City comedy and improv troupe, where he first met SNL executive producer Lorne Michaels.
- Joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 1990 after being discovered in a Chicago comedy club.
- Made his feature-film debut in 1992 as a security guard in Wayne's World.
- Did a memorable SNL-like impersonation of Newt Gingrich during a 1995 meeting of the House Republican Conference.
- Was originally cast to record the voice of the title role in the movie Shrek. His untimely death in 1997 forced producers to recast the role, which went to his SNL colleague Mike Myers.
- Was posthumously awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on August 26, 2005.