Chris Farley, a renowned comedian, was responsible for creating some of the most memorable sketches on the famous TV show, Saturday Night Live (SNL), as well as starring in successful comedy movies during the 1990s. Although Farley had a natural talent for making people laugh, his comedic persona and outgoing character concealed his inner struggle of yearning for love and acceptance, which is a universal human experience.
He was such a brilliant comedian with a promising future, and his life ended at just 33 years old. So how did Chris Farley die? Here’s the heartbreaking story of Farley’s final days.
Farley was made to make people laugh
Born on February 15, 1964, in Madison, Wisconsin, Christopher Crosby Farley had a passion for making people laugh from a young age, and he often played the role of the class clown during his time at Catholic grade school. Following this, he pursued a degree in theater and communications at Marquette University and subsequently became a member of the Ark Improv theater group and the Improv Olympic Theater in Chicago.
There, he was mentored by Del Close, a famed acting coach who also taught one of Farley’s biggest inspirations, John Belushi. Farley then started performing his comedy at Second City in Chicago, on the same day that late-night TV host Stephen Colbert started.
Farley caught the attention of Lorne Michaels, the creator of SNL, and was invited to join the show’s expanding cast, which included other emerging comedians such as Adam Sandler, David Spade, and Chris Rock. His SNL debut in 1990 propelled him to stardom, owing to his larger-than-life stage presence and rib-tickling recurring sketches that featured his distinctive style of physical and self-mocking comedy.
Following his success on late-night TV, Farley landed roles in several comedy movies, such as Beverly Hills Ninja, Tommy Boy, Coneheads, and Wayne’s World. He often starred alongside other SNL cast members, including his close pal David Spade, as well as comedy icons like Mike Myers. However, Farley’s growing addiction to drugs and alcohol became a major problem that took over his life.
Fame led to Farley’s demise
Farley’s fame was solidified by one of his most iconic sketches on SNL, but it left his friends and castmates concerned about the impact of constant national TV body-shaming on his well-being. The sketch, which featured Farley auditioning for Chippendales alongside Patrick Swayze and dancing shirtless, was a major hit in 1990. However, the SNL cast did not find it amusing.
“‘Chippendales’ was a weird sketch. I always hated it,” shared Farley’s friend and castmate Chris Rock. “The joke of it is basically, ‘We can’t hire you because you’re fat.’ I mean, he’s a fat guy, and you’re going to ask him to dance with no shirt on… You’re gonna get that laugh, but when he stops dancing you have to turn it in his favor.”
Rock continued to explain why the sketch was harmful to Farley: “A more mentally together Chris Farley wouldn’t have done it, but Chris wanted so much to be liked. That was a weird moment in Chris’s life. As funny as that sketch was, and as many accolades as he got for it, it’s one of the things that killed him… Something happened right then.”
Spiraling into addiction
After four seasons on SNL, Farley retired to pursue his acting career in Hollywood full-time. He struggled to find his place in Hollywood and desperately wanted to feel loved and admired by fans, friends, and coworkers.
In a raw and candid interview with Rolling Stone, Farley shared how he felt about searching for love. “This notion of love is something that would be a wonderful thing. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced it, other than the love of my family,” he said. “At this point, it’s something beyond my grasp. But I can imagine it, and longing for it makes me sad.”
Farley struggled with alcohol and drug addiction throughout most of his adult life, which greatly impacted his health. Due to his addiction, he often displayed unruly and out-of-control behavior, resulting in numerous suspensions from filming SNL. Despite going in and out of rehab multiple times, his addiction worsened as he also struggled with overeating. Farley’s strong desire for love and acceptance in the entertainment industry ultimately led to his untimely death.
In 1997, Farley appeared as a guest on the children’s comedy show All That alongside future SNL cast member Kenan Thompson. However, concerns were raised about his health when he had difficulty performing his usual stunt comedy without wheezing and straining. Reports also emerged around this time that Farley had developed more dangerous drug addictions, including heroin and cocaine.
Farley spoke up about feeling pressured to be the funny man at the center of attention even when the cameras stopped rolling. Both his manager and his friend David Spade gave interviews expressing their concerns for Farley’s health.
Farley’s final days
On October 25, 1997, Farley made his final SNL appearance – this time as a host. The episode addressed Farley’s trouble with addiction and frequent outbursts, starting off with a cold open featuring Lorne Michaels as he’s contemplating Farley’s ability to be a good host. SNL actor Tim Meadows chimed in, saying “he will be calm, he will be focused, and he will be good… His party days are over.” Chevy Chase, another friend of Farley’s, acted as his “sponsor” in the sketch.
Unfortunately, Farley’s performance was not calm, focused, or good. He was clearly exhausted and his vocal cords were strained, making his voice barely recognizable and prompting the show’s producers to consider canceling his appearance. After the troubling experience for cast and crew, it was decided that the episode would be pulled from SNL‘s general circulation and syndication.
How did Chris Farley died?
Around 2 am on December 14, 1997, Farley was reportedly seen in a club called Karma participating in what many have called a four-day binge of drugs and alcohol. The next night, he was spotted at a party at Second City comedy club before being seen at a pub crawl. On the 16th, Farley allegedly spent time with a $300-per-hour call girl, who later claimed the actor was more interested in her giving him cocaine than anything else.
Farley was discovered lifeless in his Chicago residence on December 18, 1997, dressed in pajama bottoms. He was 33 years old at the time. According to the autopsy results, Farley passed away due to a drug overdose after consuming a combination of cocaine and morphine, commonly referred to as a “speedball.” Additionally, the examination uncovered extensive harm to his arteries, indicating that his addiction and unhealthy eating patterns had significantly impacted his physical health, potentially contributing to his demise.
“I want to live fast and die young” he once said. Unfortunately, he got his wish.