The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts book review

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

Nothing you can make that can’t be made,
No one you can save that can’t be saved,
Nothing you can do, but you can learn how to be you in time.
It’s easy.
All you need is love.
-John Lennon/Paul McCartney

The Chris Farley Show, the biography by Farley’s older brother, Tom, who is director of the Chris Farley Foundation, an institution dedicated to educating young people about addiction, and co-written by former John Belushi biographer Tanner Colby, reveals the complexities of the hugely talented, and hugely troubled young ball of fire Chris Farley, whose death at age thirty-three tragically mirrored Belushi’s, who he had considered his idol. It’s a tale of hard work, natural brilliance, personal triumph, woeful failure and incredible excess.

The book acts as a tour guide through Farley’s far too-short life, from his days pulling pranks at Red Arrow summer camp, to his Marquette University improv performances that exhibited his flair for physical theater and comic timing, to Chicago’s Second City and Saturday Night Live, right through his string of hit movies, including Tommy Boy (1995), Black Sheep (1996) and Beverly Hills Ninja (1997). It employs a documentary-style of writing, featuring quotes from his family, friends that knew him best, fellow celebrities and business associates, who all reflect not only about Chris himself, but on the nature of life, success and the entertainment business.

Also contained within the book’s pages are intimate family photos tracing the rise of a large, awkward kid from Madison, Wisconsin, who went on to such sudden fame that it dizzied his senses, making him feel the only way to remain intact was self-medicating with drugs, booze, over-eating, women and anything else he could get his hands on. Especially important here were the early images, which humanize his plight, as he seemed like such an average geek growing up just like the rest of us. But of course Chris Farley was like no one else. He possessed the power to entertain the rest of us, even while he wrestled daily with himself. Underlying Chris Farley’s story is a tremendously poignant message about how money can only go so far in suppressing one’s inner demons and fears.

When you add to a such an interesting story, the ruminations by top comedians and entertainers including Chris Rock, Mike Myers, Conan O’Brien, Tim Meadows, David Spade, Al Franken and Alec Bladwin (who hosted Saturday Night Live), among others, and you have a sensitive tribute and uproarious compendium that I just couldn’t put down.

The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts book cover
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts book cover