The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

( 38 )


The New York Times bestselling biography of an American comedy legend

After three years of sobriety, Chris Farley's life was at its creative peak until a string of professional disappointments chased him back to drugs and alcohol. He fought hard against them, but it was a fight he would lose in December 1997. Farley's fans immediately drew parallels between his death and that of his idol, John Belushi. Without looking deeper, however, many failed to see that Farley was much more...

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The New York Times bestselling biography of an American comedy legend

After three years of sobriety, Chris Farley's life was at its creative peak until a string of professional disappointments chased him back to drugs and alcohol. He fought hard against them, but it was a fight he would lose in December 1997. Farley's fans immediately drew parallels between his death and that of his idol, John Belushi. Without looking deeper, however, many failed to see that Farley was much more than just another Hollywood drug overdose. In this officially authorized oral history, Farley's friends and family remember his work and life. Along the way, they tell a remarkable story of boundless energy, determination, and laughter that could only keep the demons at bay for so long.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Brave, fast-moving, 4stars"

" It digs beneath the buffoonish exterior and uncovers a complex human being . . . The Chris Farley we meet here is both funnier and more lovable than the typical celebrity drug casualty, which makes The Chris Farley Show both sadder and more frustrating than the typical just-say-no cautionary tale."
-The New York Times Book Review

" What you'll love: the book's intimate accounts give as much time to Farley's sensitive nature and generosity of spirit as they do to his ugliest moments."
-The Washington Post

" Farley has no shortage of support and admirers . . . the compilation of direct quotes from his loved ones makes for powerful reading and provides a more forceful reminder of how terrifying addiction can be."

Publishers Weekly

Chris Farley's older brother Tom is director of the Chris Farley Foundation, an institution dedicated to educating young people about addiction and inspired by the tragic early death of his comedian sibling. Farley has teamed up with Colby (coauthor of Belushi: A Biography and also aA National Lampoon Radio Hour A head writer) for this rip-roaring memory mosaic, talking to "all the people who either knew Chris the best or were there at the important moments in his life." The interview quotes have been rearranged into a chronological narrative, which starts with Farley's childhood pranks in Madison, Wis., and moves on to the Marquette University theatricals that revealed Farley's flair for improv. Chicago's Second City catapulted him to Saturday Night Live, where he performed many well-remembered characters. Next came movies, but drugs, alcohol and rehab lurked in the background of his rise to fame. Molly Shannon recalled: "He was just indulging in everything: girls, Chinese food, drugs, booze, cold syrup. Everything." With talents such as Mike Myers, Chris Rock, Conan O'Brien and David Spade analyzing his humor and detailing Farley's escapades and hijinks, this is a boisterous book the comedian's fans will want to buy, borrow or steal. (May)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Chris Farley's unique comedic talents catapulted him to national fame via television's Saturday Night Live and films such as the popular Tommy Boy. His flair for improvisation and his ability to connect with people were outstanding. His life, however, was eclipsed and ultimately cut short by ongoing alcohol and drug addiction. Here, his brother, Tom Farley Jr., and Colby (coauthor, Belushi) provide an honest and compelling portrait of Farley from his early years until his death in 1997. The unusual structure of the book adds to its poignancy; each chapter contained in the three acts of Farley's life is a well-organized compilation of vivid reminiscences from family and former schoolmates, TV and film personalities, and community center workers. A heartbreaking story of a complex man emerges: the popular public figure, the kindhearted private one-a religious man, caring friend, and dedicated volunteer to the aged and homeless-and an insecure, troubled individual, who, despite a supportive network and wholehearted attempts at rehab, succumbed to his addictions. Essential for fans.
—Carol J. Binkowski

Kirkus Reviews
Family, friends and colleagues remember the late Saturday Night Live star. When legendary comedy-improv writer and instructor Del Close first saw Chris Farley perform, he commented, "Oh, that's the next John Belushi." That praise would prove prophetic in both a positive and a negative way: Like Belushi, Farley's rapid rise to fame was attended by a lifelong battle with weight problems and substance abuse. In this moving oral biography, older brother Tom Jr. and former National Lampoon Radio Hour head writer Colby (co-author: Belushi, 2005) assemble a layered, in-depth portrait of both Farley's professional and personal lives, culled from more than 130 interviews with dozens of his closest friends and confidantes. After quickly ascending through the ranks of ImprovOlympic and Second City in Chicago, Farley landed his dream job at SNL-and later, starring roles in Tommy Boy and Black Sheep, among others. (Farley was also the original choice for the voice of Shrek, but his death led to the hiring of Mike Myers.) His colleagues universally recognized his talent, boundless energy and lust for life, but it quickly became clear that he was also battling demons that had been lingering since adolescence: Irish-Catholic guilt; addictive personality; the self-imposed pressure to please everyone around him, especially his father, who was extremely loving but also an obese alcoholic, enabling his son's issues with alcohol. During the course of the ten years leading up to his death, Farley was in and out of various rehabilitation centers, at one point staying clean for three years. But he was unable to overcome his problems and died of an overdose in December 1997. The editors deserve credit foreliciting such heartfelt remembrances (not all of it positive) from an impressive list of celebrities-Alec Baldwin, John Goodman, Lorne Michaels, Conan O'Brien, Chris Rock, David Spade, Kevin Nealon, Rob Lowe, Al Franken, Penelope Spheeris and many more-but readers should also pay close attention to Farley's family and friends, who get right to the heart of this flawed but humble, remarkably compassionate and enormously talented performer. Essential for Farley and SNL fans, and a sterling example of oral biography-well-structured, consistently engaging and simultaneously heartwarming and heartbreaking.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780143115564
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/26/2009
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 141,619
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Farley, Jr., Chris’s older brother, is president and managing director of the Chris Farley Foundation, which educates young people about substance abuse and addiction.
Tanner Colby is former head writer of the National Lampoon Radio Hour, and coauthor of Belushi: A Biography. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt


Irish brothers share one of the strangest relationships on earth. We fight like hell among ourselves on a daily basis, but one word or action against one brother brings the wrath of God down upon you from the others. That was Chris and me. We were always competing, whether it was driveway basketball, touch football, or Monopoly. Most of the time, these games would end in a brawl. Nothing bloody, mind you. Drawing blood would bring the fury of Mom or Dad down on all of us. No, most of the time we'd strike a few blows and then run like hell. And let me tell you, nothing was more terrifying than being chased through the neighborhood by a crazy, mad Irish sibling who outweighed you by twenty-five pounds and had a brick in his hand!

But rare was the time that I wouldn't come running if Chris was in trouble. I was the older brother; that was my job. And, Chris being Chris, it was a job that put me in harm's way more times than I would have liked. One such time, when I was in eighth grade and Chris was in sixth, he got into a fight with a classmate. He tackled the kid and threw him to the ground, landing on top of him and breaking his collarbone. Word got around school that the kid's seventh-grade brother was gunning for Chris. Naturally, I had to step in. I put the word out that the brother would have to go through me first. I found out later that day that the kid's brother was named Rocky. No shit: Rocky! The guy was massive (a future all-city lineman in high school, no less). No fight ensued, but I did learn that I possessed a real gift of what the Irish call "the gab." I talked my way out of it. It was my only defense, without which Chris would have certainly got me killed several times over. Life with Chris was exciting; he brought drama and danger into our lives. But no matter what he put you through, he could always just give you a look and make you laugh. Biy, did he make us laugh.

We always loved to tell "Chris stories." I've heard them from friends, relatives, teachers, coaches—even priests and nuns. You could be the funniest guy in the room just by describing some of the stuff Chris did. For every hilarious thing he did on camera, there were twenty things he did offscreen that just blew it away. He lived to make others laugh, and he was fearless about it. In the years since Chris passed away, there have been countless times when Chris's buddied would find themselves huddled together, sharing these crazy stories. At one time, I even thought that a collection of those stories would make a fantastic book. I still do. But I now believe that those funny stories would not paint the right picture of who this kid was. Chris had far too much depth and way too much pain. We all enjoyed Chris so much, and it's hard to put those things into words.

I began this project by listing all the people who either knew Chris the best or were there at the important moments in his life. I spoke to most of them and gave them assurances that this was a project that our family was behind all the way. I wanted them to be open and honest about their memories, opinions, and feelings about what part of what, for most, was an unforgettable relationship. I'm not sure I was totally prepared for the story that Tanner and I ended up with. The funny stories and outrageous moments are definitely in there, but what emerged was this amazing picture of the multifaceted character traits that Chris possessed. He was hilarious, yes, but he was also a very religious, very caring—and very troubled and addicted person. It's a sad story, no question about it. But it's Chris.

Soon after Chris died, I told my wife that my greatest fear was being sixty years old and trying hard to remember this kid who was my brother. I guess anyone who's lost somebody close can say that. Being able to watch the fun movies and video clips only gets you so far; it's not the full picture. I'm pleased that this book will be something I can pick up when I'm older, remember Chris and his wild life, and be once more amazed that I had such an unbelievable person in my life.

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Table of Contents

Introduction Tom Farley, Jr. Farley, Tom, Jr.

Act I

Ch. 1 A Motivated Speaker 3

Ch. 2 Madison, Wisconsin 11

Ch. 3 An Epiphany 36

Ch. 4 Attacking the Stage 56

Ch. 5 Whale Boy 73

Ch. 6 Super Fan 98

Ch. 7 The Place in Alabama 118

Act II

Ch. 8 A Friendly Visitor 145

Ch. 9 The Magic Sixty-six 171

Ch. 10 The Lost Boys 191

Ch. 11 The Polar Bear Pit 212


Ch. 12 Raising the White Flag 239

Ch. 13 The Devil in the Closet 261

Ch. 14 Fatty Falls Down 290

Ch. 15 The Parting Glass 311

Epilogue 327

Acknowledgments 331

Note on Sources and Method 335

The -ographies 337

Index 343

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 38 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 27, 2012

    An amazing book!

    One of the best books I ever read. A story that tells a side of his life that a fan may have never knew. Being a child from the 90's and from Wisconsin I looked up to Chris. This book is told by his family and SNL family and they collectively do an amazing job. This book made me laugh and cry. Truely my favorite book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2012

    The best

    I LOVE THIS BOOK!!!!!!!

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  • Posted June 27, 2011

    more from this reviewer


    I never realized how unique Chris was until I read this book. The book is written well and provides unbelievable insight. It gave me the closure on Chris' death I never knew I needed.

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  • Posted December 29, 2010

    Must Read

    This book is a must read for a fan of Chris Farley, but it is worth the time for anybody. The book is composed of stories told by the people who knew him best. This book will make you laugh out loud, and cry over the addiction he suffered which he tried and tried to outrun but couldn't.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Surprisingly Well Written

    When I saw this book was written by Farley's brother, I thought it would be a "hearts and flowers" version of a very sad story, but it was not. He told the truth, no matter how unpleasant or unpretty it was, which was something I came to seriously appreciate while reading this book. As much as people feel they know about Chris Farley (the beginning, middle and end of his story), this book lets you know there was much much more to the man himself. I didn't think I'd like the "first person account" style of writing, but seeing the situation from each person's perspective was very interesting and allowed the reader to get a lot of information in a compact format. This book is one that will stay with the reader for a long, long time.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 2, 2010

    A book you won't be able to put down!

    This book was amazing. If you have ever seen a Chris Farley movie then you should read this book. It provides great insight into the life of Chris Farley from his childhood to his final days. The style of writing which is mainly excerpts from interviews with friends and family of Farley provides various viewpoints and allows you to really see what he was going through. A great book that will make you laugh, cry and laugh again

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  • Posted August 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    I grew up idolizing Chris Farley. He was my favorite actor and my favorite person from the SNL reruns I watched. I am 23 right now. The day he died I was on my way to middle school. I heard the report on the radio in the morning. I was sad all day. He was a huge influence on my life and why I strove to be as funny as people tell me I am. I was too young then to understand what could have caused him to be so into drugs and alcohol. After reading this book I feel like I know Chris a little better. It is a story of Chris told by those closest to Chris. Family and friends gather in one book almost as if they all got together one afternoon to just reminisce about him. The stories are sad, funny, depressing, and inspiring. If you like Chris Farley or have some sort of idea about who you think he really was, please read this, you will learn a lot about him and his life. Amazing Book.

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  • Posted July 25, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    The Chris Farley Show

    This book was excellent,You will laugh out loud, Get angry, Cry and feel your soul jarred. This is a raw journey into the life of Chris Farley from the perspective of his friends and family. I highly recommend this book for just about anyone, we all can relate to some part of it.

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  • Posted June 11, 2009

    The Best Book Ever!!

    I think the Chris Farley Show was the most amazing book that I have read from my reading career. The book was written by Tom Farley. Tom Farley talks about what Chris Farley did in his childhood to December 18, 1997. The book was educationa, funny, and sad at the same time. For people who love Chris Farley, this is the best book you would ever read.

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  • Posted May 14, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Be careful what you ask for

    You pick up this book because you love Chris Farley, you know the overview of his life and assume you are going to hear about his drug/alcohol abuse, but what you get can change the way you look at people. What a HUMAN BEING!

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  • Posted February 17, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fatty Falls Down....

    Chris Farley was a hilarious guy, a great friend, a devout Catholic, a generous giver and a raging alcholic and hardcore drug user! <BR/><BR/>This biography of his life, written by his brother Tom Farley and Tanner Colby is excellent. I think they paid a great respect to Chris by writing this book. It covers Chris's life from childhood to high school/college, from his early comedy days in Chicago all the way to SNL and his untimely death in December 1997. <BR/><BR/>The book features short stories from over 100 of Chris's friends, family and fellow comedians. Tim Meadows, David Spade, Chris Rock, Lorne Michaels, John Goodman and Tom Arnold just to name a few. <BR/><BR/>Like most of America, I loved Chris Farley on SNL and his movies. Unfortunatley he couldn't love himself or get over his idea that no one really liked him for him, they just wanted to see "fatty fall down". Not to mention his constant battle with drugs, alcohol and depression throughout his career. <BR/><BR/>This book will make you smile and laugh (hard) at times and then make you sad as Chris slips away up until his death. <BR/><BR/>Before Chris died he had many other projects set up that we never got see like, The Gelfin w/ Vince Vaughn, which was never finished. Chris was the original Shrek, wow, how funny would that have been and he was in line to play the lead character in the movie Cable Guy, Jim Carrey eventually took the part. <BR/><BR/>Great book, amazing life story of a once in a lifetime comedian!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 7, 2008

    An interesting and honest account

    I felt the book portrayed Chris as honestly as it could. He was born with an addictive personality and he could not or would not rise above it. I thought the way the book was written made it interesting 'to get the many viewpoints on Chris'. I came away from the book feeling sad. Chris was so talented, and yet doomed by his personal weaknesses. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone interested in a more complete picture of Chris Farley.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2008

    Amazing Read...

    If you were around in 1997, then you remember Chris Farley's death and you remember how he died. Obviously this is not a book for the 'younger' generation of fans. It is a deep, emotion evoking look into someone's life written by those who lived it with him. It is very candid ,and is brutaly honest about Chris' addiction. There are parts that make you smile, cry and laugh out loud. Highly recommended.. just don't go into it being judgememtal of those with addictions. Chris wanted to change, he tried to get better... sometimes the addiction can be more powerful than you can handle.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 15, 2008

    I Care - Good Book

    Do we really care about famous people who live sadly and die this way? Ultimately, the answer is no. Huh? I care very much about people who lived sadly and died that way. A mother of 4 children not caring is pretty sick to me. This may not be a good book for young kids due to some of the adult themes, but what better way to equip a young adult then by telling them about people who lived like this. You went and purchased this book so obviously you wanted to read about Chris Farley, but do not want to know how someone becomes Chris Farley. Let's hope none of your kids run into problems in life, since they will have no coping skills because all they read about was the good, and never the bad in life.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2008

    A Peak into the World of Addiction

    At first I picked up this book because my mom was Chris's middle school teacher at Edgewood. I figured it would be a good laugh and maybe explain a little about his death. I was definitley surprised to see my mom's name and my hometown mentioned in the book! What a kick!It was also fun to learn that he was the 1st Shrek! I was not, however prepared for how deep the book was... how brutally honest it was about his life, his addictions, possible OCD, and his accidental death. It really helped me to see why one of his friends,Chris Rock, walked awy form his show for awhile.Hollywood needed Chris Farley, he did not need them. He had everything he needed at home, in Madison, with his real friends. All families have disfunction... his family was able to write about it. His brother did a great job of giving different people's views, they did not all agree. So you got a snap shot into the many sides of Chris. The book read well and made me cry at the end... addiction and mental illness are sad and scarey. My friend's son had the choice to do anything he wanted on his birthday... he chose to invite a few friends over to watch Chris Farley DVDs and eat pizza. I wish his family could know that... know that children loved him... not for money... just for fun... the thing Chris loved most.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2008

    Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

    The book gives many amazing details about the very funny Chris Farley, but does almost nothing to explain why he was like this. His early life seems to be full of indicators that he was a troubled young man in need of help. AND that is BEFORE he discovered booze and drugs. It was nice to know that when not snorting or drinking or hiring hookers he had time to do some charity work and was nice to a homeless man. Folks, that is exactly what people with disorders do. Going to church that often without a major change makes one wonder what he was praying for. Even the worst of people do nice things from time to time. Nixon prayed daily and Hitler loved his dogs. George Bush is a Christian, so Farley shouldn't be mistaken for a Holy Man with demons. The interviews which are the thread of the book are well chosen and create a narrative that takes us to his demise. The actual authored portions of the book are generic at best and at times seem like a cheering section for a losing team. Before we put a man like Chris Farley on a silver platter, remember that junkies become junkies first and foremost because they like getting high. He overdid it until it overdid him.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2008

    Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

    I bought the book for my son who loved TOMMY BOY and I thought it would be a good way to get him to read. Good mother that I am, I thought maybe I should read it first, so I did. I am so glad I did. I am a parent of 4 children and can only say that what was allowed in that family, as told in the book, is very sad. This is a troubled boy who becomes a troubled man. Yes, along the way he makes people laugh and he apparently helps some old man and he goes to church regularly. But, let's not believe that for one minute he was doing these things for noble reasons. At best, he felt guilty. I also felt a little awkward that his brothers and friends who in life did nothing to help are here telling stories about him post mortem. I finished the book and immediately gave it to a local charity. My son will not read this book. Do we really care about famous people who live sadly and die this way? Ultimately, the answer is no.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2008

    Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts

    THE CHRIS FARLEY SHOW does a great job at giving us a very detailed portrait of what went on in the comic's life, it just doesn't let us know what the demons were that drove him to a life of self destruction. Authors Tanner Colby and Tom Farley (Chris brother) did amass a stockpile of interviews, but I got the feeling that either they were afraid to ask the really tough questions or just did not know how. How could so many people accomplish nothing with him? I saw an earlier review that spoke about using this book as a guide to help young people who might face similar issues. As a high school guidance counselor, I would have to say that I would not suggest this book as helpful in dealing with addiction primarily because offers no help to an addict or those who love him. Keep in mind that for many at risk young people, Chris' life may still seem cool. To a 17 year old, 33 seems old. Add to that the fact that he was famous, wealthy and partied, and it can seem like a pretty cool way to go. The book is just a chronological list of stories about Chris. There is not one bit of empathy for the man and that is a darn shame. Understanding Chris Farley better might have helped us understand is demise and to have learned something from it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2008

    Explosive Talent, Crippling Disease

    If you are a Chris Farley fan, this is a keenly accurate depiction of Chris through the eyes of those closest to him throughout his life. Tanner Colby has brought this book in an easy to read excerpt style. Quotes from his family,his spiritual mentors,co-workers and friends make up almost the entire story. With some longer asides from Farley's brothers Tom, Kevin and John. Hysterical young Chris stories, frank admissions of family disfunction, and a chilling lonely view of a kid in a candy store who couldn't cope with his insecurities. A book with so many personal perspectives on Farley cannot lie. Farley Show is a cross section study in alcoholism and addiction that just happens to be set in the limelight. The frankness with which some of Chris's closest co-horts speak is fresh, and clear with very little fluff and false praise. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, or you just want to remember Chris Farley once more, this is a great read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 1, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 38 Customer Reviews

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