'I Am Chris Farley' recalls a gifted comic, gentle soul

Anyone who has ever been a fan of Chris Farley's work will gain a greater appreciation of the late "Saturday Night Live" comic after viewing the new documentary "I Am Chris Farley."

Airing at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, on Spike TV, 11 days after its theatrical debut, the two-hour film tells the story of Farley, one of five children born to an oil executive and his homemaker wife, who went from a middle-class upbringing in Madison, Wisconsin, to stardom on "SNL" and in 1990s films such as "Tommy Boy" and "Black Sheep" before dying at 33 of an overdose in 1997.

A long list of contemporaries and co-stars, including Christina Applegate, David Spade, Dan Aykroyd, Adam Sandler, Lorne Michaels, Jon Lovitz, Bo Derek, Molly Shannon and Bob Odenkirk, share their memories of the loud and manic Farley, as do friends and family members.

Kevin Farley, Chris' younger brother and an executive producer of the film, says he did this project to counter what he felt were a lot of misconceptions of his more famous sibling.

"I think that one of the things that has always been left out is he's one of those guys that left an impression on you when you met him," Kevin Farley says. "And I think at the end of the day, that's what really remains, is how someone makes you feel. ... And when I approached these (stars who commented on Chris), they were very eager to talk about the impression that Chris made on them. So it wasn't really that difficult to get them on board because I think a lot of these guys and people that knew him have very fond memories of Chris."

Film clips abound of Farley from his early days performing at Chicago's Second City through his time on "SNL" to his work in movies. Childhood friends and siblings recall how some of the characters Chris created on the NBC late-night show were actually based on people he grew up with - most notably Matt Foley, the overbearing motivational speaker in the cheap suit who lived "in a van down by the river."

"There were a few football coaches that I see in Matt Foley as well as my father," Kevin Farley says. "The volume on Matt Foley is definitely my father. He could really bellow. And the movements and everything, those were a lot of the high-school football coaches we had growing up. He used to always imitate them. So he combined people a lot of times.

"And Matt Foley is ... a Catholic priest (at St. James Catholic Church in Arlington Heights) and he just wanted to name him that, so I think Father Matt Foley is stuck with that for the rest of his life," he says, laughing.

What comes through is a portrait of a gentle soul and gifted physical performer who was "on" at all times. If Chris were alive today, Kevin Farley says he thinks his brother would still be making movies because acting was his first love.

"He just really loved to create a character and show it off," Kevin Farley says. "And that was his art - you know, creating a character and then 'Hey, let me show you what I can do with this.'"

'He's missed so many good things'

Chris Farley on the Marquette rugby team in the 1980s. Courtesy of Network Entertainment
The Rev. Matt Foley is the head pastor at St. James Parish in Arlington Heights, but he was also one of Chris Farley's best friends and the namesake for his famous “SNL” character. Courtesy of Matt Foley
Kevin Farley, Chris Farley's younger brother and an executive producer of “I Am Chris Farley,” says he did this project to counter what he felt were a lot of misconceptions of his more famous sibling. Associated Press File Photo

“I Am Chris Farley”

Airs at 8 p.m. Monday, Aug. 10, on Spike TV

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