A published novelist, Peter Farrelly merged his very particular comic sensibilities with younger brother Bobby Farrelly and became one of the premiere auteurs of gross-out comedy. Raised in Cumberland, Rhode Island, Farrelly received a master's degree in creative writing from Columbia University. While he and Bobby attempted to break into Hollywood as screenwriters, Peter also published his first novel, Outside Providence, in 1988. The Farrellys managed to sell two Seinfeld episodes and several screenplays before one, Dumb and Dumber (1994), finally got made.
Peter's directorial debut, Dumb and Dumber showcased not only rising star Jim Carrey's manic talents, but also the Farrellys' taste for combining grotesquely-hilarious physical exploits with an affectionate love story -- it became a blockbuster hit. While their Amish bowling comedy Kingpin (1996) failed to match its predecessor's success, the pair's third effort, There's Something About Mary (1998) became a critically-lauded sleeper hit. Described by one critic as "the Wuthering Heights of gross-out comedy," There's Something About Mary's unabashed political incorrectness and outrageous bodily humor neatly punctuated the central romance between Cameron Diaz's bewitching Mary and slightly-obsessive regular guy Ben Stiller. Along with the New York Film Critics' Best Actress prize, There's Something About Mary won several MTV Movie Awards -- and spawned numerous imitators. Taking a step away from their signature tastelessness, Peter published his second novel, The Comedy Writer (1998), and the Farrellys co-scripted and produced Peter's coming-of-age story Outside Providence (1999) for director Michael Corrente. The Farrellys returned to form when they resurrected an old script and retooled it into another Jim Carrey vehicle, Me, Myself & Irene (2000).
Coming off Me, Myself & Irene's mixed reviews for Carrey's shenanigans and relatively disappointing box office performance, Farrelly and Bobby kept busy with several projects that all hit the screen in 2001. After serving as producers on the poorly received incest comedy Say It Isn't So (2001), the Farrellys snuck into the summer movie season with the intriguing comedy Osmosis Jones (2001). The first prominent mix of live action and cartoons since Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988), Osmosis Jones found the ideal outlet for the brothers' signature corporeal humor in a story involving an intrepid white blood cell's battle to protect his host's filthy body. Even with Bill Murray and the voices of Chris Rock and Laurence Fishburne, however, Osmosis Jones bombed. The more hyped Shallow Hal (2001), featuring Gwyneth Paltrow as the outwardly obese but inwardly willowy object of Jack Black's affection, failed to bowl over critics with its combination of message movie sincerity and fat jokes, but the audience was less put off.