"The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts" Book Review
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley Jr. and Tanner Colby
348 pgs, 2007 Viking
overall rating 33/35
The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts
Kurt Cobain was the first celebrity whose death did something to me as an adolescent. Every April 5th, I commemorate his death with an orgy of music and remembrances. I have written several articles and a few poems about the man’s impact on my life and have read pretty much every book every written about the reluctant spokesman for a generation.
The second great celebrity heartbreak of my life was the passing of Chris Farley on December 17th, 1997. I was a senior in high school and I recall vividly my mother picking me and my brothers up from school on the last day of school before Christmas break and just saying point blank “Chris Farley died.” Mom had also told me about Kurt Cobain’s passing three and a half years previously, with almost a suggestion of delight. With Farley, though, there was a sadness to her voice. A sense of compassion.
Even though I grew up loving movies like Tommy Boy and Beverly Hills Ninja and laughing uproariously at his famous SNL sketches like Chippendales, the Chris Farley Show and, of course, the Motivational Speaker (based on his real life high school football coach and a friend named Matt Foley), I didn’t really know much about the man except that he knew how to party and he was quite obese. That is until I picked up The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts by Tom Farley Jr. (Chris’ brother) and Tanner Colby (whom also wrote Belushi: A Biography).
Top Ten Chris Farley Funny Moments
The first thing I noticed about the book was the format. It’s not a traditional biography consisting of a hundred thousand words of information, written by the same author in the same voice. Instead, each chapter is introduced by the author and then the bulk of the story is told through the words of Farley’s friends, family, business associates and mentors. Written more like a movie script than a book, the biography lets us into Farley’s short and turbulent life. I laughed, a lot, I cried a little and I smiled and reminisced: The essential elements for a good biography.
Without giving too much away, Farley was a deeply religious man, who was close to his family and his priest (talking to both of them every day). He would beat himself up because of his hedonistic lifestyle, yet, his disease did not allow him to stop—and his guilt made it impossible for him to come to grips with his actions, setting in motion a downward spiral which would result in his death at thirty-three years and ten months of age.
The book displays his affection for people, his love for life, and his “aww-shucks” personality. I was particularly struck by the fact that everyone said he never tooted his own horn. In fact, when he introduced someone to a friend or family member of his, he always talked about the person he was introducing and how great they were. He always began conversations by asking how people were doing and, unlike most of us whom ask out of obligation, he listened to the answers. He loved children and even spent summers counseling at a summer camp in his native Wisconsin. When children came on his movie sets, he spent all day with them, playing and talking. The bashful and awe-struck Farley we see on The Chris Farley show is the real Chris Farley.
We see a deeply flawed human being, one born in a family of means but surrounded by dysfunction. Growing up with an alcoholic and over eating father, Farley himself became and addict—and a disastrously co-dependent one. He refused to get clean or to lose weight because he didn’t want his father to feel bad about his own obesity and struggles. We see his inability to form close loving relationships with women and with his own struggles over what he believed to be right and what he felt compelled to do. We see him get clean and then relapse and then get clean again in time for his next job, and then, once again, relapse.
In all, Farley touched many lives, during his life and posthumously. His life is both a cautionary tale and a tribute to a man with undeniable talent. The book pulls no punches and is about as objective biography as I have ever read. I highly recommend it.
Writing/Editing Quality: 10/10
Entertainment quality: 18/20
Total Rating: 33/35