Chris Farley's Matt Foley Character On SNL Called For Some Creative Camera Work

On "Saturday Night Live," breaking is a complicated thing. Back when Jimmy Fallon was a cast member, for instance, he cracked up on camera so often that it became a nuisance to both the audience and his fellow cast members. Tracy Morgan described Fallon's schtick as "taking all the attention off of everybody else and putting it on you, like, 'Oh, look at me, I'm the cute one.'" Morgan apparently forbade Fallon from breaking in any of his sketches — "I told him not to do that s*** in my sketches, so he never did" — which seems to imply that Fallon's laughter was more of a calculated act than he might've wanted us to think. 

Other times, the sketch is so funny that you can't really blame the cast member for laughing. Sometimes, the cast members breaking actually elevates the sketch, turning it from something that might've been forgettable to something that'll be remembered for years to come. Obvious examples are Disneyland Debbie Downer sketch, or the first Californians sketch, and perhaps most famously: the Van Down By the River sketch. Chris Farley's performance as a motivational speaker had nearly every other cast member cracking up from the moment he stepped on stage. 

The most blatant break in the sketch is David Spade as the teenage son, who often tries in vain to cover his face with his hand. Christina Applegate, playing the teenage daughter, also breaks repeatedly, although she's lucky enough to be able to hide from the camera behind her hair in a way that doesn't seem too obvious. The other performer who laughed a lot in the sketch, who you wouldn't really notice unless you were in the audience for it, was Julia Sweeney, playing the mother. That's because the cameras kept cutting away from her.

A beloved sketch

It's easy not to notice if you didn't know about it, but there are a few moments in this sketch where cameras are clearly cutting Julia Sweeney's character out of the frame, most notably around when Foley's talking to the father (Phil Hartman) about the son's writing dreams. You'd expect the camera to be pulled back to show all three characters, but the camera stays tight on just Hartman and Farley. "Spade was laughing too. But they were mad at me," Sweeney said in a 2020 "Women of SNL" panel. "They had to change camera angles and that's terrible. That is terrible."

Sweeney's said that her breaking problem was more frequent in her improv days before "SNL," but that the Farley sketch was the big exception to the rule. "I'm laughing at this person who's committing so much who's two feet away from me," she said. "It was like I had the best seat in the house for the funniest friggin' thing that was happening on the planet." 

Although it isn't Sweeney's laughter that the sketch is known for, she did play a role in one of the most beloved sketches of all time, one that works even with all the altered camera angles. Chris Farley would reprise his role as Matt Foley in seven more sketches with the same basic concept, none of them ever quite capturing the same energy as the original. Despite that, Sweeney still feels bad about breaking all these years later. "I just feel awful about it actually," Sweeney said, even though no reasonable person in the world would really blame her for laughing.