Comedian Chris Farley was a big man who generated huge laughs on the big and small screens. The 33-year-old actor was a bankable box-office star with popular, high-grossing films under his belt — including "Billy Madison," "Wayne's World" and "Tommy Boy" — when he died of a drug overdose more than a decade ago in December 1997.
Now, a new biography chronicles the former "Saturday Night Live" star's life through the memories of those who knew him best. His brother Tom Farley, along with Tanner Colby, remember the actor as only friends and close family can in "The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts."
While the world knew him as a boisterous funny man who broke comedic grounds, those closest to Farley remember a deeply religious, kind, gentle-hearted human being who struggled with his demons for a decade before succumbing to them.
Read an excerpt of the biography below.
Irish brothers share one of the strangest relationships on earth. We fight like hell among ourselves on a daily basis, but one word or action against one brother brings the wrath of God down upon you from the others. That was Chris and me. We were always competing, whether it was driveway basketball, touch football or Monopoly. Most of the time, those games would end in a brawl. Nothing bloody, mind you. Drawing blood would bring the fury of Mom or Dad down on all of us. No, most of the time we'd strike a few blows and then run like hell. And let me tell you, nothing was more terrifying than being chased through the neighborhood by a crazy, mad Irish sibling who outweighed you by twenty-five pounds and had a brick in his hand!
But rare was the time that I wouldn't come running if Chris was in trouble. I was the older brother; that was my job. And, Chris being Chris, it was a job that put me in harm's way more times than I would have liked. One such time, when I was in eighth grade and Chris was in sixth, he got into a fight with a classmate. He tackled the kid and threw him to the ground, landing on top of him and breaking his collarbone. Word got around school that the kid's seventh-grade brother was gunning for Chris. Naturally, I had to step in. I put the word out that the brother would have to get through me first. I found out later that day that the kid's brother was named Rocky. No shit: Rocky! The guy was massive (a future all-city lineman in high school, no less). No fight ensued, but I did learn that I possessed a real gift of what the Irish call "the gab." I talked my way out of it. It was my only defense, without which Chris would have certainly gotten me killed several times over. Life with Chris was exciting; he brought drama and danger into our lives. But no matter what he put you through, he could always just give you a look and make you laugh. Boy, did he make us laugh.
We always loved to tell "Chris stories." I've heard them from friends, relatives, teachers, coaches — even priests and nuns. You could be the funniest guy in the room just by describing some of the stuff Chris did. For every hilarious thing he did on camera, there were twenty things he did off-screen that just blew it away. He lived to make others laugh, and he was fearless about it. In the years since Chris passed away, there have been countless times when Chris's buddies would find themselves huddled together, sharing these crazy stories. At one time, I even thought that a collection of those stories would make a fantastic book. I still do. But I now believe that those funny stories alone would not paint the right picture of who this kid was. Chris had far too much depth and way too much pain. We all enjoyed Chris so much, and it's hard to put those things into words.
I began this project by listing all the people who either knew Chris the best or were there at the important moments in his life. I spoke to most of them and gave them assurances that this was a project that our family was behind all the way. I wanted them to be open and honest about their memories, opinions, and feelings about being part of what, for most, was an unforgettable relationship. I'm not sure I was totally prepared for the story that Tanner and I ended up with. The funny stories and outrageous moments are definitely in there, but what emerged was this amazing picture of the multifaceted character traits that Chris possessed. He was hilarious, yes, but he was also a very religious, very caring—and very troubled and addicted person. It's a sad story, no question about it. But it's Chris.
Soon after Chris died, I told my wife that my greatest fear was being sixty years old and trying hard to remember this kid who was my brother. I guess anyone who's lost someone close can say that. Being able to watch the fun movies and video clips only gets you so far; it's not the full picture. I'm pleased that this book will be something I can pick up when I'm older, remember Chris and his wild life, and be once more amazed that I had such an unbelievable person in my life.