Chris Farley Getting Bored Off-Screen Led To Tommy Boy's Most Famous Scene

There have been few more versatile comedic weapons in history than Chris Farley. During his heyday in the '90s, Farley was probably the funniest man on the planet. During his time on "Saturday Night Live," he was the clear standout of the cast, the guy they'd send out to ensure laughter. He was that good.

If you were the director of a comedy in 1995, there's no star you'd rather have in your film than Farley. Maybe Jim Carrey. But for Peter Segal, the director of "Tommy Boy," there was no one better than Farley for the job. But Farley also got plenty of help from his good friend David Spade, and Segal knew that they had some expert comedic minds to lean on to fill in the gaps in the script, and that's just what they did. 

According to Deadline, one of the movie's funniest bits, Farley's "fat guy in a little coat" routine, was pulled directly from a running joke Farley did during his days on "SNL."

Gotta fill time

Starting out with a script that was only 66 pages long and in pretty rough shape, Segal knew they would have to scrounge for material to fill up the movie's runtime, according to a FanSided interview from 2020.

"Fred [Wolf] and I were desperate for material on this, once we knew what the basic vision of the story was going to be. We said, okay, we know the beginning, the middle, we don't really know the end but let's just start coming up with ideas about the road trip. And we just started putting our own experiences into it."

Luckily for them, they also had the comedic input of Chris Farley and David Spade. Despite their constant fighting, they were able to provide some of the film's funniest moments. For Farley's part, one of the film's most quoted lines came from something he did when he was bored at "SNL." According to the Deadline piece:

"Fat guy in a little coat was something Chris would do in the 'SNL' offices, but he never sang it. Just said it to annoy people. 'SNL' at that time had one of its greatest casts, with Mike Myers, [Adam] Sandler, Farley, Spade and Chris Rock. And they all felt Farley was the funniest of all of them. But when we shot it, Chris wasn't used to movie filming, where you had to aim the character this way, then turned it around and aimed it at the other person. He got a little bored when the camera turned onto Spade, and he started goofing around off-camera. He sang the lyrics to the song, and I was focused on Dave and didn't notice. Then my editor, Bill Kerr, said, 'Did you hear Chris off-camera, singing? Hilarious. Go back and reshoot it.'"

Entering the zeitgeist

It was a simple solution. You need another joke for your movie? Repurpose and enhance a bit that Farley used to make a room full of some of the funniest comedians in the world (and Rob Schneider) laugh behind the scenes. "Fat guy in a little coat" specifically was a hit, making a bigger cultural impact than you'd think a silly little gag like that would, according to Segal in the Deadline piece.

"A friend of mine from high school became a Top Gun pilot. He told me, you know, that's what all the Top Gun pilots sang as we got in our flight suits. Fat guy in a little coat. It stuck in the zeitgeist."

In general, "Tommy Boy" was a huge hit, landing among Paramount Pictures' best-selling movies of all-time on home video. It's easily the best of Chris Farley's movies, and along with his time on "SNL," has kept his legacy in comedy alive long after his passing. Farley's death was not only a tragedy in terms of losing a guy that everyone seemed to like but also in losing a man who could have gone on to be an even greater comedian and star. The guy was just getting started in movies, even being pegged to be the voice of Shrek before his death, and one can only imagine what he could have done if he had more time. For now, we have "Tommy Boy," and we can enjoy what Farley was able to give us.