How Chris Farley Changed Sarah Silverman’s Life Forever (And Never Even Knew It)

One small moment on the ‘SNL’ stage formed Silverman’s comedy mantra
How Chris Farley Changed Sarah Silverman’s Life Forever (And Never Even Knew It)

While Sarah Silverman is arguably one of the most successful stand-ups of the century, that comedic talent didn’t translate into sketch stardom on Saturday Night Live. Part of that was due to youth and inexperience — Silverman was only 22 when she was hired as a featured player and writer on SNL Season 19. That meant her stint on the show was, in her words, “quick and painful.” But the experience wasn’t a complete disaster, she wrote in her book The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee. In fact, she explained, one moment from that year continues to have a positive effect on her mental health every day. 

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The moment likely seems innocuous from the outside. Silverman and her SNL castmate Chris Farley had arrived at rehearsal early that day. The two waited on the main stage of Studio 8H, legs dangling off the edge of the platform. “Can you believe this?” Farley gushed. “Can you believe we’re sitting on the same stage that John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd were on? Performing on the same stage they performed on?”

Farley was a few seasons into his SNL career at this point, so he should have been more jaded than rookie Silverman. And yet “he teemed with all the excitement and thrill and wonder that I should have had as a first-year SNL-er,” marveled Silverman. In fact, “jaded” was the last word she would use to describe Farley: “Chris was downright awestruck, even three years into his tenure at SNL, in the thick of becoming a comedy legend.”

Silverman realized that she’d been too gripped by fear to experience what Farley was feeling, “so earnest and joyful.” It was one small moment, but that “quiet, coincidental moment with Chris made me realize, ‘I’d better feel this, now,’” she wrote, “and it remains a kind of mantra for me.”

How did Farley feel about changing Silverman’s life forever? He had no idea it was happening. “He was most likely passing the time, filling in an awkward encounter with a newbie with some friendly words,” she continued, “but it meant the world to me and has made the rest of my life a better place.”

Thanks to Farley’s unintentional example, Silverman has spent the time between takes on her own television shows yelling at the cast and crew, “You guys!! Can you believe this?? We’re making a real TV show!! This is going to be on motherfucking TELEVISION!” 

“They laugh at me, but I mean it,” Silverman continues to maintain. “It’s a joy.”

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