Novelty, parody, and sketch songs have never been a major interest of mine. And most of my reviews would sound the same. So this week, instead of writing about the song, I’m going to pick one of its intriguing quirks or a related topic to spotlight.
Spotlight: Chris Farley
When I was in elementary school, my friend Andy introduced me to Chris Farley’s sketches and movies via a stack of VHS’s his dad owned. I immediately latched onto Farley: to my pre-adolescent eyes his physical mania was enthralling and sublime.
I first recall being aware of Farley’s death in middle school, after I’d moved away from Andy. To me, the lack of new Farley movies was one of the world’s great tragedies. It’s still somewhat devastating to me. He probably would have had a career like Jim Carrey: lots of bad movies, but enough of a draw by himself to get me to watch them regardless. We were deprived of whatever weird dark or dramatic roles he would have taken as he got older… that one left-field drama role that gets “Wait, is Chris Farley actually a good actor?” buzz, a la Eternal Sunshine or Truman Show.
Instead, we’re left with a short, though incandescent, career. Farley died of an overdose of cocaine and heroin December 18, 1997.
On the big screen, his two signature works in my mind are Tommy Boy and Black Sheep. Because Farley was like a wrecking ball: a lot more interesting when he collided with something. He needed a foil. David Spade was his perfect counterpart, dry and cynical to temper Farley’s boundless physical force. Their two pairings were the two movies I watched a half dozen times each in elementary and middle school.
But it was Saturday Night Live where Farley really built a legacy. When he was in a skit, it was always on a different level. You were getting 110%. Sure, the gimmick was usually the same: A wacky juxtaposition between his body shape and his dexterous energy. But it’s such a good gimmick.
My three favorite skits, in ascending order, are his appearance on Weekend Update (the all-time greatest use of air quotes), his interpretive dance as a cafeteria worker in Adam Sandler’s “Lunch Lady Land” (“sloppy joe, slop-sloppy joe!”), and… of course… the greatest comedy moment in Saturday Night Live history… his motivational speech as the depressing, wired Matt Foley.
It’s never a bad time to revisit Farley’s movies and skits, which you’ll have plenty of time to do when you’re…. livin’ in a van down by the river.