Comic Kevin Farley’s busy life

Brother of the late Chris Farley gets lots of work
Comic Kevin Farley’s busy life
Photo by Russell Baer
Kevin Farley

Kevin Farley was back home in Madison earlier this month to watch the fireworks with his mom, Mary Anne Farley, and recharge his batteries for the stand-up comedy tour that will take him to Colorado, Nevada, Washington and Florida before month’s end.

Kevin stayed at The Edgewater–thereby “avoiding family drama,” he jokes. And when he mentioned the hotel it was hard not to think back to the first time we met, also at The Edgewater.

That was in June 1994, and the occasion was a Madison Magazine “Best of Madison” party that was unforgettable for a number of reasons. One was the presence of Kevin’s brother, Chris Farley, and the crime of the century that was unfolding all night long on television.

More on that momentarily.

First, let me note that in the more than two decades since that memorable night at The Edgewater, Kevin has steadily built a career for himself in show business by being versatile, indefatigable, resilient and–yes–funny.
When we spoke last week, I was unsurprised to learn he’s currently involved in a variety of projects beyond his stand-up tour.

Farley, who lives in West Hollywood, is acting in the CMT series “Still the King,” the second season of which starts Tuesday, July 11. The show stars Billy Ray Cyrus as a one-hit wonder country music star–“Not a stretch,” Kevin notes–who crashes and burns and winds up paroled from prison.

Farley plays his parole officer. “Kind of a lonely guy,” Kevin said, and the Cyrus character’s biggest fan. “He has to let me hang out or I’ll report him,” Kevin says of the plot.

Farley also provides voices for several characters in the Netflix animated series “F is for Family” that is currently in its second season and was recently renewed for a third.

And he’ll appear with Bob Odenkirk in an upcoming episode of “Drunk History” on Comedy Central.

Farley says building a career like his is a matter of staying busy, making connections and not being afraid to fail.

A decade ago Farley co-wrote and directed (with Matt Berman) a feature film called “Hollywood and Wine.” The stars included Norm Macdonald and David Spade. The movie has its admirers but it quickly faded from view. Around the same time, Kevin had the leading role in a comedy directed by David Zucker of “Airplane,” fame.

That film, called “An American Carol,” was a satire of a Michael Moore-type documentary filmmaker. It, too, did not find an audience, though Zucker told me at the time that Farley was “brilliantly hilarious” as the Moore character.

Allow me to note that during my email exchange with Zucker I made the mistake of saying he had become a “respectable” figure in Hollywood, after starting in Madison with the notorious Kentucky Fried Theater. Zucker responded: “I have worked hard to establish a reputation for the past 37 years as an offensive and tasteless Philistine and I resent any insinuation that I am respected.”

Farley said last week he has not given up on writing and directing feature films. He laughed, saying, “I’m always trying to find a rich guy who will give me 500 grand.”

The Edgewater looks a lot different than it did back in June 1994 when Kevin and I cohosted Madison Magazine’s “Best of Madison” awards show at the hotel.

I was the magazine’s editor at the time. The previous December, I’d traveled to New York to watch Chris Farley perform on “Saturday Night Live” for a cover profile of the Madison native I would write for the February 1994 issue.

It was an admiring piece. Chris was sober and a gracious host during my trip. Once Kevin, who was beginning his own comic career, agreed to cohost the Edgewater party, Chris said he’d come. His arrival brought a manic energy to an evening that had already taken a strange turn.

It was the night of the infamous O. J. Simpson slow speed Bronco chase, and what I remember is sitting in a hotel suite–the magazine was allowed one gratis–watching TV while Chris and Kevin and John Roach, our new columnist, and a Farley family friend, provided running commentary.

Can you imagine?

“I’ll never forget it,” Kevin said. “It was surreal.”

For the Farleys, there was more laughter–and tears–to come, enough to fill a book, which indeed it did. A very good one, too: “The Chris Farley Show: A Biography in Three Acts,” by Kevin’s brother Tom Jr. and Tanner Colby. “A real honest book,” Kevin said, when I asked him about it some years ago.

It was good to talk to him last week, good to see him happy and busy, still coming home to watch fireworks with his mom.

Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.