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Farley Documentary Recalls a Big Talent

27 Aug, 2015 By: Stephanie Prange

Comedian Chris Farley died in late 1997, and while at the time it was shocking, his death seemed to fit into the legacy of rotund comedians, such as John Belushi and John Candy, lost before their time because of excess. Farley’s talent somewhat faded into history.

But I Am Chris Farley, a documentary produced with the help of his family and available digitally and on DVD from Virgil Entertainment, brings his comedy back to the forefront.

Through interviews with colleagues, friends and family, the documentary recalls a very big talent, who from a young age wanted to make people laugh.

“You really captured it,” brother Kevin Farley told filmmakers at a screening in late July, also attended by actor Tom Arnold, a friend of the late Chris Farley. “He was demanding attention.”

“Chris Farley was born Chris Farley,” noted filmmaker Derik Murray, explaining that the documentary strove to explore his early years.
Arnold noted that an impression of him on “Saturday Night Live” sparked a great friendship with Farley.

“We became fast friends,” he said at the screening. Arnold said the documentary was made “the way Chris would want it” with “real stories” that were “all disgusting and horrible and funny.”

In a Q&A after the screening, Chris Farley’s brother John recalled the story of a meal attended by Chris, Tom Arnold and his then-wife Rosanne (all with healthy appetites).

“Chris, Tom and Rosanne were out to dinner at one time, and they got the menu and one of them handed it back and just said, ‘Yes,’” he joked.

Speakers at the screening recalled Farley’s cartwheels during an appearance on David Letterman’s show or his offering jokes from the movie Stripes to David Spade on “Saturday Night Live” and then telling him he couldn’t use them right before the live show.

A college friend remembered a public speaking class in which Farley and he had to come up with a “How to” speech. Farley planned to do “How to Drink Beer.” After chugging one, he left the room and shrieked. “He comes back in, leaps like a gorilla right on the professors desk,” the friend recalled. “And he goes, ‘How to … get someone’s attention.’”

The documentary covers the genesis of Farley’s comedy, outlining many stunts with his sports buddies, colleagues and family.

“He wanted to be part of a group … but he wanted to be the funniest person in that group,” Arnold said at the screening, adding he was gratified that such comic heavyweights as Dan Aykroyd and Mike Myers took time to do interviews for the documentary.

“I know the movie’s not about drugs or alcohol … but there is a message in there,” Arnold said. “I think that people were looking at Chris to give him that next opportunity … and we missed that … on the other hand he didn’t go through three divorces like I did.”

Arnold said Farley struggled to remain sober.

“The guy worked so hard on his sobriety,” he said, but added, from experience, “It’s exhausting for your soul.”

Despite his faults and his sad end at 33, Farley comes off as a jolly spirit in the documentary, which is perhaps a fitting tribute.

“He just wanted people to be happy,” Arnold said.

About the Author: Stephanie Prange

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