The bent knees, the thick glasses, the emphatic hand gestures, the constant belt adjusting and, most of all, the “living in a van…down by the river!” As we learned today, it started the same way it ended for Chris Farley’s classic SNL character of motivational speaker Matt Foley, who will scare the bejesus out of any doobie-smokin’ teen with an attitude.
The Second City, the historic Chicago improv group that has essentially served as a farm system for SNL, recently released a video from 1990 of Farley performing as Foley alongside fellow future stars like Bob Odenkirk and Tim Meadows. It’s incredibly rare that we’re privileged to footage of the greats in action before they were stars. It’d be like seeing video of the Beatles playing a coffee shop in 1960 or Michael Jordan hitting a buzzer-beater for his North Carolina high school team. Knowing what we know now, it’s almost eerie to watch.
But most of all, the video gives a sense of just how unstoppable of a comedic force Farley really was, even before joining SNL. Despite the quality of the blurry, almost 25-year-old VHS recording, his command over the room is unmistakable. Chris Farley was hilarious in the most natural, effortless way possible. He undoubtedly had the same effect on his high school classrooms as he did on the stage at The Second City or in front of cameras on SNL. All he had to do is walk into the room.