Several months before Chris Farley died in December of 1997, I watched him host Saturday Night Live. Call it a sneaking suspicion, but watching him execute his brand of physical humor in a body that was noticeably inflated from its usual size, I wondered how much longer he was going to be able to keep it up.Image via Wikipedia
Two months later… he was dead. His early departure: a heroin and cocaine overdose.
I cried. He was, is, and always will be, my favorite comedian.
Many of us will pass on from this life to the next, unnoticed by the masses around us because our life’s work involved whittling pieces of wood into toothpicks or selling term life insurance over the phone. Not Chris Farley. Regardless of the fact he only made a few movies, Chris Farley will always be remembered by the magic he created on the silver screen.
Tommy Boy, in my opinion, was his “coup de gras”: the film that made him better than any overly rotund, anti-slapstick, goofball comedian around.
Released in 1995, Tommy Boy is about a graduate student, after seven years in college, who returns home to work for his father Big Tom Callahan (Brian Dennehy). His father’s business is selling auto parts and the jobs the business provides supplies the small town with many jobs.
When the dim-witted Tommy Boy comes on board to help in the family business, it becomes obvious he is clumsy and not quite the wordsmith his father is when it comes to selling auto-parts. His father doesn’t expect much of Tommy though, he has the advantage of being Big Tom Callahan’s son and that’s enough to get him by.
As fate would have it, before the opening of the company’s new brake pad division, Tommy Boy’s father suffers a fatal heart attack and dies. When the heart of Big Tom Callahan goes out… it appears as if Callahan Auto Parts will go out as well, eliminating many of the jobs in the small Ohio town.
But not so fast!
While Tommy Boy is the antithesis of the salesman his father was, he takes to the road anyway to gather as many sales orders for the new brake pads as he can. The future of his father’s company, as well as the livelihoods of all its employees, hang in the balance as Tommy Boy stumbles, trips and falls all over the country.
To aid Tommy Boy in his quest to save the world as they know it, the company elders select Richard: Big Tom Callahan’s right hand man (played by David Spade), to accompany Tommy Boy as he visits potential buyers.
If you are unfamiliar with Chris Farley’s brand of physical comedy… it will furrow your brow and drop your jaw. It is only best to imagine in your mind what a very large man with a seemingly endless amount of energy looks like when digging his heart out for a laugh. The world will never see another large man with as much energy as Chris Farley exudes. If setting himself on fire would guarantee you would laugh at him, he wouldn’t wait another second to douse himself in gasoline.
Additionally, the proof of a fantastic movie lies in how many one-liners you use in everyday life. Many movie one liners I use today come from this movie:
“Fat guy in a little coat. Fat guy in a little coooooaaaat!”
“Brothers don’t shake hands… brothers gotta hug!”
“Housekeeping! You want fresh towel? Housekeeping! You want me jack you off?”
“Did you eat a lot of paint chips as a kid?”
And perhaps the best: “HOLY SCHNIKES!!!!”
Not to sound all soulful and overly sentimental for the sake of this article, but the emotions I experienced while watching Farley and Spade work together are the same I suspect my ancestors went through watching other comedy duos or trios like Laurel and Hardy, The Smothers Brothers or the Three Stooges. While Farley is the funnier of the two, their work together is nothing short of a classic duo.
Sadly, they only got to do one more movie together, the subpar “Black Sheep”.
Before Chris Farley died, there were rumblings that Farley and Spade were going to make a third movie. I would have liked to have seen it, but fate had other plans.
The great thing about Chris Farley is that it never has to seem like he died. His moving pictures are emblazoned everywhere. While we may not ever be able to see any new comedic masterpieces by one of the pioneers of “anti-slapstick”… we always have the incredible masterpiece he’s already done: Tommy Boy.
If you haven’t seen it… watch it. If you’ve already seen it… watch it again. You won’t regret it.