Tom Farley addresses brother’s addictions

  • Chris Farley's brother, Tom, spoke in the Weasler Auditorium last night about the late comedian and the effects of substance abuse.
  • Chris Farley graduated from Marquette in 1986 and went on to become a cast member on "Saturday Night Live" and star in several successful films.
  • The actor died in 1997 from an accidental drug overdose.

Chris Farley was immortalized on "Saturday Night Live" by such memorable characters as Matt Foley, an eccentric motivational speaker, and the outrageous dancer who nearly beat out Patrick Swayze's character for a job at Chippendale's.

Unfortunately, the former Marquette student and successful comedian is also remembered for the drug addiction that eventually claimed his life.

Farley, a 1986 Marquette graduate, enjoyed a promising acting career that included five years on "SNL" and several hit films. However, on Dec. 18, 1997, he died at age 33 from an accidental overdose of cocaine and morphine.

Tom Farley spoke about his brother's life and the effects of alcohol and substance abuse in a speech at the Weasler Auditorium last night. He said the key to combating drugs and alcohol is pursuing what makes you happy.

"Find what makes you tick," Tom Farley said. "That's your best prevention measure."

Chris Farley first found his gift on stage at Marquette, his brother said. He felt a connection with the cast and audience, and he was transformed.

The 17 times Farley was in and out of rehabilitation were not signs of failure, Tom Farley said, but showed that he was determined not to let his addiction ruin him.

Still, Farley's struggles took a toll on family and friends, his brother said. They felt a range of emotions, from concern to anger. Watching Farley's downward spiral was hard, he said.

"It happens so quickly," Tom Farley said.

Jim Murphy, director of creative artists at Pixar Animation Studios, met Farley during their freshman year at Marquette while living in McCormick Hall. The two became close friends, playing rugby and eventually living together with 12 others at the "Red Door" at 19th Street and Kilbourn Avenue.

Murphy remained close to Farley for a while after they left Marquette. However, they lost touch as Farley became more involved with drugs. During Farley's rehabilitation, he was encouraged to cut ties with old friends, Murphy said.

Farley had lots of personal demons, Murphy said. He felt pressure to continuously one-up himself, he said.

"That's tough in the comedy business," Murphy said. "He found reassurance in drugs."

Farley did not originally intend to make a career out of comedy. He arrived on Marquette's campus with an interpersonal communication major and business studies minor, said Michael Price, Farley's adviser and former associate dean of the College of Communication. The plan was for Farley to eventually take over his father's oil business, Price said.

Farley soon realized his true calling was to make people laugh. After Farley talked it over with his parents, they agreed to support his acting aspirations if he finished his degree, Price said. Farley replaced the business minor with one in theatre.

Everyone knows about Farley's comedic abilities, but he was also a good student and very religious, Price said.

Price said Farley regularly attended services in the St. Joan of Arc Chapel. And Farley had said that his theology and philosophy courses sustained him through tough times.

Price said Farley was very kind, generous and loyal. However, substance abuse was his one tragic flaw, he said.

"(Chris' death) was so sad because he was such a giving person," Price said.

Although Farley's lifestyle changed as he went from college and eventually to "SNL," he never changed who he was, Murphy said.

"He was the most entertaining and genuinely engaging intellect I've ever met," Murphy said. "He was more about trying to be your friend and engage with you than trying to perform for you."

Murphy said he could see Farley's unfortunate death coming, but that he never really thought it would come to that.

"It's sad to think what could've been," Murphy said.

Beyond the "what ifs," Farley affected many people during his lifetime, Murphy said.

"People who knew (Chris) well adored him," Murphy said. "It's sad he died young, but he accomplished a lot in 33 years."