The film’s executive producer is Chris’ older brother and was obviously a labor of love by the people who knew him best. It attempts to show another side of Chris in addition to his skits and screen persona.
Yes, it tells the familiar story of many young comedians and performers who are catapulted into extreme fame and simultaneously destroyed by addiction. We see the obligatory SNL Chippendale skit, the scenes from Tommy Boy, and his early performances at Second City. We hear the many stories of numerous trips to rehab and attempts at sobriety – seventeen in total. We see the talking heads who recount a life that spirals out of control.
But there is another dimension, one that people may not readily associate with Chris. Here was a man of faith who struggled with his Catholicism. As a young man raised in the faith he attended daily Mass when he was at Marquette University. He would celebrate his sobriety and desperately pray and ask for prayers when his addictions took control of him.
Chris, like most of us, knew the ideals Catholics are called to live by. He also knew all too well what it was like to fall below those ideals. He struggled over and over again. His best friend, now a priest, Father Matt Foley states in the documentary that “He was very much aware of his struggle, but I think he was a good Catholic in practice because he recognized God's saving grace."
(Yes, for Chris Farley fans, this is the Matt Foley on whom Farley based his most famous skit characterization. His own journey makes a remarkable story as well and can be read here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/wisconsin/78488012.html
In the end, Chris could not beat his addictions and died in 1997 at the age of 33. When trying to put a life in perspective there is a tendency to whitewash and make pretty what essentially was messy and ugly. There is no prettying up the death of an addict, but we also do a disservice if we define an individual solely by their illness.
Perhaps it is fitting that this prayer was found in Chris’ wallet. It is not a new prayer and the author is unknown. It is known as The Clown’s Prayer. It has been popular among comedians and performers for decades. Maybe it is a prayer for all of us who aspire to be “fools for Christ’s sake.” (1Corinthians 4: 10):
As I stumble through this life,
help me to create more laughter than tears,
dispense more cheer than gloom,
spread more cheer than despair.
Never let me become so indifferent,
that I will fail to see the wonders in the eyes of a child,
or the twinkle in the eyes of the aged.
Never let me forget that my total effort is to cheer people,
make them happy, and forget momentarily,
all the unpleasantness in their lives.
And in my final moment,
may I hear You whisper:
"When you made My people smile,
you made Me smile."
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