Chris Farley was raised in Madison and performed here professionally at the Ark Improv Theatre. He was also buried here - right down the street from my house - after his untimely death in 1997. So I feel comfortable claiming his brilliant work on Saturday Night Live for our city.
Farley is remembered for loud, scenery-smashing characters like the Motivational Speaker. But the sketch I treasure most is a quiet one called "The Chris Farley Show." It brings out the comedian's sweet, insecure side - a real part of his personality, according to biographical accounts.
Farley plays a self-loathing dimwit who has somehow landed his own talk show. He conducts awkward interviews with Paul McCartney, Jeff Daniels and Martin Scorsese, muttering "That's awesome" whenever he's stuck for words. Which is a lot.
The portrayal is funny - among SNL's funniest ever - but also poignant. Farley makes you feel this guy's pain, perhaps because he feels it himself. You don't expect a sketch-comedy character to be quite this vulnerable, this human.
As a result, Farley makes a direct connection with the audience. He acts just the way we would if given the chance to interview a celebrity like McCartney. We'd ask stupid questions, then hate ourselves for it. We might even clutch our hair and yell "IDIOT!" - albeit in private, not right in front of the guest, as Farley does.
Farley's character seems so miserable about his performance that Paul rushes in to comfort him. "You did fine, Chris" he says.
"The Chris Farley Show" is more than fine. It's...awesome.