Actor-comedian Chris Farley dead at 33
Farley in "Beverly Hills Ninja"
In this story:
- Franken: 'A sweet, big-hearted man'
- Overbearing characters with a sweet side
- 'Sometimes I feel trapped'
- Related stories and sites
December 19, 1997
Web posted at: 3:20 p.m. EST (2020 GMT)
CHICAGO (CNN) -- Chris Farley, the oversized comic who spent five seasons on TV's "Saturday Night Live" and later starred in several movies, was found dead Thursday in an apartment.
The cause of death was unconfirmed, although Chicago fire officials told Reuters that Farley died of an apparent heart attack.
The medical examiner said Friday an autopsy had been completed on Farley's body, but it would be "several weeks" before a cause of death would be announced.
Farley, 33, was an alumnus of Chicago's famed Second City improvisational comedy troupe, where he developed his frantic characters.
A L S O :
Fellow comics, friends mourn Farley
Police said his brother John called 911 after he found Farley on the floor in the entranceway of his 60th-floor apartment in the John Hancock skyscraper in downtown Chicago.
Farley's spokesperson released the following statement: "We have lost a good friend and a wonderful talent. We are deeply saddened by this news."
Franken: 'A sweet, big-hearted man'
Former "SNL" comic Al Franken was in CNN's New York studios when he learned of Farley's death and said it was "not a shock."
Farley impersonates Newt Gingrich
Al Franken comments on Farley's death
Chris Farley imitates Newt Gingrich during a visit to Washington.
"Chris had some problems. Eating was one of them," said Franken, who knew Farley for years. "This was obviously something he couldn't conquer. This is very sad."
Franken, who created the character of recovering addict Stuart Smalley on "SNL," said he and Farley had "a lot of talks" about his weight. "He struggled with this, very hard. He had periods where he was under control and periods where he wasn't."
When Farley joined the "SNL" cast, Franken said he told him, "You can lose 40 pounds and still be the fat guy."
In a recent interview with Steppin' Out magazine, Farley's frequent co-star David Spade said he was worried about him.
"I mean, the fact that he cut out drugs and alcohol is the biggest thing," Spade said. "But he's my friend and I'm just concerned."
In an US magazine article this year, Farley's manager Marc Gurvitz said he was worried about the comic, even though he felt his long battle with alcohol and drugs was under control.
"He's got a big career and a great life ahead of him," Gurvitz told the magazine. "But will he go the route of John Candy if he's not careful? Of course he will." Candy, another Second City alum, died of a heart attack in 1994 at age 43.
Franken said it was Farley's vulnerability that made him funny.
"He was a sweet, big-hearted man," Franken said. "He was the most self-effacing comedian I had ever seen."
Overbearing characters with a sweet side
Born on February 15, 1964, Farley also starred in several movies, including "Black Sheep," "Tommy Boy" and "Beverly Hills Ninja."
On television and in movies, Farley played overbearing characters with a sweet side.
On "Saturday Night Live," he was perhaps best known for his characterizations of the inept and overweight motivational speaker Matt Foley and a devoted but extremely unhealthy Chicago Bears football fan.
He also did an impersonation of House Speaker Newt Gingrich on Capitol Hill, with Gingrich himself looking on, and played a flabby, barechested Chippendales dancer, his gut spilling over his waistband.
His physical comedy and manic behavior drew comparisons to the late John Belushi. As a teen-ager, Farley idolized Belushi, another "SNL" alum who also died at age 33, in 1982, after years of drug abuses, overeating and other excesses.
'Sometimes I feel trapped'
Farley patterned much of his comedy after Belushi's.
"Although I love this kind of comedy, sometimes I feel trapped by always having to be the most outrageous guy in the room," Farley said in 1996. "In particular, I'm working on trying not to be that guy in my private life."
"SNL" creator Lorne Michaels "told me that that's what killed Belushi more than anything else," Farley said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Related sites / Fan Appreciation:
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- The Chris Farley Homepage
- Dave's Chris Farley Page!
- Download my Chris Farley and The Respectables Themes for Microsoft Plus
- NBC: Saturday Night Live: Main
- Chris Farley fan page
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©1999 Josh Striplin.