Monday, October 23, 2006

Chris Farley scores a hat trick of romantic failure

Chris Farley began his run on Saturday Night Live at about the time I was giving up the show. That's a coincidence not a case of cause and effect, but Farley's charm did happen to be lost on me. He always struck me as what at bottom he was---a big, goofy fat kid who had figured out a long time ago that the best way to keep his teachers and the bullies off balance was to keep them laughing and then got addicted to their laughter.

Lots of great comics started out in grade school as the class clown, but over time they learned to discipline their wit and their intelligence and their performances. The difference between clowns and great comics is that clowns just want to get a laugh and they really don't care why you laugh or what you're laughing at, while great comics want to make you laugh on their terms.

Any clown can get a laugh by dropping his pants. Only Bill Cosby can tell the story of Noah that way.

Farley was a great clown.

That's the portrait of him Jay Mohr paints in his book Gasping for Airtime. Mohr loved Farley. Thought he was hilarious.

Mohr doesn't really touch on Farley's demons or mention his death.

A somewhat sadder picture gets drawn in Live From New York.

Chris Rock: Two guys named Chris, hired on the same day, sharing an office, okay? One's a black guy from Bed-Stuy, one's a white guy from Madison, Wisconsin. Now---which one is going to OD?

Farley idolized John Belushi. I don't think he became self-destructive to imitate his idol. I think the impulse to self-destruct was something he thought he had in common with Belushi and he looked to Belushi for a key to how to handle his demons or at least enjoy the fight.

From what I've read, though, it seems to me that Belushi was trying to get on top of something. Belushi wasn't a hero. But I think he was taking whatever it was he was fighting head on and at full strength. Farley was either running from something or chasing it. Either way, I see him as a sadder, more desperate character, more of a victim.

It sounds too like he was the more decent and likeable guy.

I'm mentioning all that to tell you this and explain why I find it so touching.

Seems Farley was dating a girl he really liked and she dumped him. Went off with another guy. Farley was shocked. He'd had no clue. And he was crushed.

But he had his pride.

"Ok," he told a friend, "Maybe she can find somebody better looking than me. And she might find somebody with more money than me. But she'll never find anyone funnier than me!"

Guy she dumped him for?

Steve Martin.


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