Fri, Aug 6, 2004    Printer-Friendly | Site Map | Home
About Chris
MEMORIES OF MY BROTHER

Memories of my brother by Tom Farley

The Farley family loved to laugh. We were a large, Irish family growing up in the Midwest who wanted to see humor in everything. Laughter to us was a tonic. It made the good times better and the bad times somewhat less so. Most of all, we really loved to just make each other laugh. And that, I think, was what made Chris so enjoyable to watch.

For Chris it wasn't enough to just "be" funny; he really wanted and needed to make you laugh and feel good. The sincerity with which he was able to do that was obvious, whether you saw him on stage, on screen, or up close in person. Chris' humor was right from the heart. He never scripted his jokes or worked on creating a better "act." He simply thought of something funny and went with it.

But what I remember best about Chris was how he loved to laugh. Some comedians need all the attention; they crave it. Not Chris. He would double up at the slightest of jokes, which I saw him do countless times; with friends and comedians alike. And when the joke was on him, Chris was hysterical. He loved it!

Throughout our years growing up, I could never understand how Chris was able to get himself in trouble with a teacher, a coach, or our parents, and still come away with them smiling and rolling their eyes. Now I just marvel at that skill. I sure hope my kids find that ability some day - what an gift!

Imagine Chris (the accused) standing before a teacher who is scolding him on some infraction. As she recites to him exactly what he has done to disrupt her class, the teacher (listening to her own words) begins to realize just how funny the stunt really was. Better yet, all of this is fully supported by an almost angelic look Chris could display, backed up by a genuine Catholic need for seeking forgiveness. He literally wanted everyone to see the humor in what he had done; even the person he knew would eventually have to discipline him for it.

Chris was always willing to make others happy. He was our little wind-up toy. When we wanted to be amused, we asked Chris to do something outrageous, and he delivered. This willingness to do anything had consequences. I imagine that deep down Chris had a very strong need to be accepted. Fairly typical of your average teenager. But a lifetime of being overweight made that acceptance all the more difficult in Chris' mind and probably caused a good deal of self-doubt in him. So, he did some things that his conscience and good reason told him would ultimately not be the best for him. Chris chose the immediate pleasure he got in pleasing others over the long-term cost to himself. When people around him started to drink and take drugs, Chris joined in. The ability to say no was just not there.

The role of the older brother is often one of setting the right example and being the model for others to follow. But I look back at some things my younger brother did and can only wish I could someday live up to his standard. Little is known or told of how, while a cast member of Saturday Night Live, Chris would attend Mass almost daily and often helped out in a local senior center connected to his church. He also loved to visit children's wards in hospitals. He was very serious about his faith and service to the community. The smile on the faces of those he helped was worth gold to Chris.

But for me the single most memorable moment in Chris' life was when he asked me to attend his third anniversary of sobriety at an AA meeting that he would be leading. The address he gave me was surprising at first. It was on the far west side of New York, in an area known as Hell's Kitchen. The building was dark and completely run down. Manhattan hosts many AA meetings each day, many in the ritzier parts of the city - Fifth Avenue, Park Avenue, Upper East Side. But Chris chose this meeting. It was where he met each week for three years. Upstairs, I found Chris at the head of the room conducting a meeting that was filled with what looked like refugees from the nearest homeless shelter. But here was Chris talking about the disease he shared with everyone in the room; a disease that made him no better or worse than each person present. That was so much like him. And I will never forget how they all looked at Chris with admiration and respect. Not because he was a famous actor but because, like them, he was battling a very powerful enemy. A battle that they all would fight each day for the rest of their lives. But that day, they had won their battles. And when Chris was finished, we all celebrated and had cake. Chris loved that day. So did I.