What made Chris Farley famous is, ultimately, what also killed him. His public persona as an electric goofball couldn’t have been a sharper contrast to his private self: He was gentle, delicate man who was deeply self-conscious about his size. As fellow Saturday Night Live cast member Chris Rock said, via New York Magazine, “As funny as [Farley’s Chippendales sketch] was, and as many accolades as he got for it, it’s one of the things that killed him.”
Farley was relentlessly bullied as a child. He learned to mock himself as a defense mechanism, but his natural aptitude for comedy meant he never came to terms with his own insecurities, which were exacerbated by a public life. Compounding this were his issues with substance abuse. He went to rehab at least 17 times, and tried countless programs to get his weight under control. None of these methods lasted.
Towards the end of his life, Farley’s struggles were a matter of public record, but nobody outside those closest to him knew how bad they’d become. His life ended after he went on a four-day bender fresh out of detox: He collapsed in a hotel room and died of an overdose in 1997, at the age of 33. Though his life ended too early, his talent lives on.