It’s kind of hard to believe Tommy Boy came out 20 years ago today. It has aged incredibly well, you can still toss out a quote from it – even a throwaway line – in a room, and odds are really good not only will someone recognize it, they’ll be able to say the next line. The premise was simple. Two coworkers need to go on a road trip to save one coworker’s recently deceased father’s business. It lent itself to riffing and did what a lot of comedy movies fail to do even today: it allowed its main characters to be themselves and stayed out of its own way.
Chris Farley had a presence that made every bit he was in immediately funnier just by the sheer fact that he was standing there. You knew he’d do something that’d make you double over laughing. He even gave cues to when it was coming through that little smirk he had or the way he’d tossle his hair a bit or shrug his shoulders. It was like Randy Johnson standing on the mound and starting his delivery. You could know the fastball is coming. You could know exactly where it’s going to be and focus in on that exact spot. And you’d still end up blown away.
Farley wasn’t just a supremely gifted physical comic, he was also a pretty dang good athlete. He played defensive line in high school in Wisconsin, and he showed real grace in his stunts for his size.
As Tom Farley Jr. wrote in The Chris Farley Show, his biography about his brother Chris, “Growing up, we didn’t have a lot of choices: you played sports. But at Marquette a dean said to Chris, ‘Why don’t you try out for one of the plays?’ Chris was like, ‘Guys don’t do that.’ But he did it anyway and eventually found out that he wasn’t an athlete who happened to be kind of funny. He was an actor who happened to be very athletic.”
This allowed for him to really shine any time a scene needed an extra burst of physicality or athleticism. Here are a few of my favorites.
The Chippendale’s Dancers
This post could end here and still be a perfect representation of how amazing Farley was. He completely owns this scene. When we were discussing which clips to include, Dime Mag managing editor Spencer Lund said, “Chippendale’s is the greatest thing Patrick Swayze has done — that’s how good Farley is in the sketch. I say this as someone who has watched Road House and Point Break well over 20 times each.”
When you type in Patrick Swayze into Google, the first autofill result is “Patrick Swayze Chris Farley.”
So Spencer isn’t exactly the only person out there who shares this view.