Monday, June 22, 2009

Review: The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

So, what do you know about Chris Farley? I’ll admit, I didn’t know much. I thought he was funny, I LOVED Tommy Boy, and have repeated the line “in a van down by the river” from the famous Matt Foley Saturday Night Live skit. I knew he died way too young due to an overdose at 33 – the same age as a man he idolized, John Belushi.

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts is an amazing oral history pulled together by Chris’s older brother Tom Farley, and Tanner Colby – who also wrote a biography about John Belushi. This account starts with Chris’s growing up and living in Madison, Wisconsin. He was known even in grade school as a comedian – always doing something to get a laugh. It also takes us through his college and rugby days, through doing improv comedy at ImprovOlympic and Second City in Chicago, and his 5 year reign on SNL.

Much of Farley’s addiction problems stem from a obese alcoholic father, whom Chris would do anything to please. At almost 600 lbs by the time of Chris’s death, his father was an enabler of the worst kind. Chris once took his father to a weight loss clinic, where they left during the group session after his father claimed that they didn’t have a problem like those other people. After the session, they went on a binge weekend in Florida.

Chris would spend a number of stints in different rehab centers, once staying sober for three years. Some say that he did some of his best work during this time of sobriety. He was on to some great things while he was battling his demons – he was cast as the original voice of Shrek (he had almost finished the voice work when he died, Mike Myers was later cast), and he was in talks for a movie about Fatty Arbuckle, a silent film star whose life had similar characteristics to Farley’s.

The power of the words from the people who knew him best – his brothers, friends, mentors and costars – is amazing. Not everything said in the book is positive, but you really feel like you get a sense of who Chris was, and the things he was dealing with. At the end, I couldn’t help but tear up – I really felt for this good hearted, talented, loving man.

Definitely check this out, if you are looking for a good oral history. I am so glad that I read this book.

Thanks to Caitlin for sending me this book for review!!


bermudaonion said...

I've seen this book, but I'm not familiar with Chris Farley at all, so it hasn't called me. It does sound like a sad life story.

Arielle Lee Bair said...

Sounds good! I will check it out!