How A Behind-The-Scenes Chris Farley Joke Became One Of His Best Saturday Night Live Bits

Oftentimes it wasn't what Chris Farley did that made him so funny, but rather how he did it. Such is the case for a one-off "Saturday Night Live" skit that never made it past the dress rehearsal of a 1994 episode. In the skit, "Weekend Update" correspondent Jerry Sozio offers an editorial about something that occurred "in the supermarket the other day."

The audience never finds out exactly what happened to Sozio in the supermarket because he laughs so hard about it, he just keeps repeating himself over and over, trying to get it out. If the bit feels like something Farley might have done himself, that's because it was. According to one of Farley's "SNL" co-stars, the entire bit was inspired by a classic Farley backstage gag that he'd break out all the time.

Although it never made it to air, it is not uncommon for axed sketches from the taped dress rehearsals to eventually see the light of day via "best of" collections or the internet. Such is the case with Jerry Sozio.

'So I says to the guy'

The 2008 Chris Farley biography "The Chris Farley Show" is a treasure trove of stories from the comedian's life and career. One anecdote comes from friend and "Saturday Night Live" co-star Norm Macdonald. As Macdonald tells it, Farley would annoy castmates and others backstage with a running joke. As noted by The Ringer, the comedian recalled the joke to the book's authors, Tom Farley Jr. and Tanner Colby. Farley would say:

"I seen my friend Bill the other day, and I says to him, I look him right in the eye and I says to him, I says, I says to Bill, I says to him, get this, what I says to him, I says... "

The joke with no punchline would get funnier the longer it lasted. "He'd do it 200 different ways," Macdonald said. "It would just get funnier and funnier and funnier. When you can reduce something to four words and be funny for 25 minutes without an actual joke or punch line, that's genius. It's not even really comedy anymore. It's almost like music, like jazz variations."

Macdonald got such a kick out of Farley's gag that he convinced "SNL" brass to allow Farley to take the sketch beyond backstage.

The joke's on us

The character was named Jerry Sozio and labeled a "Weekend Update" news correspondent. The sketch was slated for the final episode of season 19 (also memorable as Phil Hartman's last show as a regular cast member). During the show's taped dress rehearsal, Sozio made his one and only on-screen appearance. Without any setup (very apropos for a joke that is all setup), "Weekend Update" host Kevin Nealon introduced Farley's character.

It took the audience about 30 seconds to figure out that the joke was that there was no punchline coming. Once in on the joke/non-joke, the audience began to laugh as Farley found pure joy in finding different ways to say, "I says to the guy." It's hard to discern if Sozio's laughing fits during the sketch are part of the act or Farley legitimately cracking up in delight as his backstage creation comes to life in real-time on camera.

"SNL" executive producer Lorne Michaels decided to cut the sketch from the live show because of time. Unfortunately, time is exactly what the sketch needed. As Macdonald pointed out, the longer Farley rants, the funnier the gag gets. And though the audience seemed taken aback at first by the uniqueness of a bit with no punchline, it's a sketch that gets better with each viewing. I imagine the audience would have been eager to see how long Farley could stretch out the bit in the next go-around during the live show.

It's almost like the entire experience is just another joke on us by Farley. Not knowing if Jerry Sozio would have ever caught on is like waiting, forever, for a punchline that never comes, as he entertains himself, finding new ways to spit out, "So I says to the guy..."