Remembering 'SNL' star Chris Farley on the anniversary of his death

Kristen Baldwin
Editor-in-Chief, Yahoo Entertainment
Chris Farley at the Hearts and Souls premiere in Los Angeles in August 1993. (Photo: Berliner Studio/BEI/Rex/Shutterstock)

Twenty years ago, on Dec. 18, 1997, comedian Chris Farley was found dead of a drug overdose in his Chicago apartment.

At only 33 years old, Farley joined the Saturday Night Live “gone too soon” club — including John Belushi and Phil Hartman — and left behind a body of work that is still as funny, poignant, uncomfortable, and relevant today as it ever was. Though Farley’s fame extended beyond SNL — we’re still waiting for Tommy Boy to be named to the National Film Registry — the late-night sketch show was responsible for introducing his frenetic, sweaty brand of humor to America. So on this anniversary of Farley’s death, we’re looking back at five of his many, many, many memorable SNL sketches. And if you need more, commence your rabbit-hole viewing here.

Down by the River (May 8, 1993)

If I didn’t start this list with the SNL debut of Matt Foley — the lumbering, wildly unsuccessful motivational speaker brought in to scare two teenagers straight — I’d be fired and would probably wind up living in a van down by the river.

The Chris Farley Show: Paul McCartney (Feb. 13, 1993)

“Remember when you were with the Beatles? That was awesome.” Nothing captured Farley’s sweet, fumbling earnestness — and his brutal insecurity — better than his ongoing “Chris Farley Show” sketches. And as a parody of the breathless, puff-TV interview industry, it still holds up 24 years later.

Chippendales (Oct. 27, 1990)

Farley was never afraid to use his girth for laughs — luckily for him, the term “fat-shaming” had yet to be coined — and his gift for physical comedy turned this one-joke sketch into an enduring comedy classic.

Zagat’s with Hank & Beverly Gelfand (Feb. 2, 1995)

Nothing can quell Beverly’s perky Midwestern enthusiasm for pithy restaurant reviews — not even her husband’s bellowed insults.

Weather Scope: El Niño (Oct. 25, 1997)

The El Niño storm as a growling, bloviating pro wrestler? This is just the kind of late-night-writers’-room absurdity that usually craters on impact — but the sheer force of Farley’s commitment and charisma elevates this idea into the stratosphere.

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