The classic Saturday Night Live sketch featuring Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze has drawn some criticism in more recent years, but former SNL writer and comedian Robert Smigel remembers it quite fondly. In the 1990 sketch, Farley and guest host Swayze portrayed two wannabe Chippendales dancers auditioning for a spot. As Swayze would be named by People magazine as the Sexiest Man Alive soon after, the obvious gag is that Farley didn't stand a chance.
Over three decades later, the segment remains one of Farley's most memorable performances. Still, time hasn't been quite so kind to the sketch, as it's come under fire more recently. The argument some have is that Farley dancing with his shirt off is not how the legendary comedian should be remembered, while others have lambasted the skit for poking fun at Farley's physical appearance.
From Smigel's point of view, the sketch, which was written by Jim Downey (Billy Madison) is not something for Farley's fans to be upset about. In a recent appearance on The Howard Stern Show, Robert Smigel was asked about the backlash over the classic Chippendale sketch. The former SNL writer mentioned having discussions with some of Farley's other famous friends who had criticized the skit in the biographical book I Am Chris Farley.
"I was in a debate about it with some people who wrote Chris Farley's book, which was everybody weighing in on Chris' life and what happened to him. And I think someone in the book said, 'that sketch was the first step in killing him' because it was like he had no respect for himself by doing that sketch."
Smigel also insists that the segment actually showcased Farley's talents in dancing and physical comedy, seeing it as an empowering and inspiring move for the late comedian rather than something negative.
"What was amazing about the sketch and what people forget is that Farley was incredibly nimble. He was an athlete and he danced incredibly well in that sketch, and he had this fantastic energy. In a way, it was a very empowering sketch, and I think that is what people felt the first time they watched it. Like, 'Look at this guy go and be completely proud and unashamed, and just going for it.' He's an amazing physical comedian. He was the most explosively funny person, and I think most people who worked [with him] at that time would agree with that."
In I Am Chris Farley, Bob Odenkirk - who wrote the famous sketch with Farley as motivational speaker Matt Foley - had some harsh things to see about the Chippendales skit. The Better Call Saul star says he didn't like that the Chippendales segment was what Farley "became known for," going on to call the material "f*cking lame, weak bullsh*t."
"I always hated it," former SNL performer Chris Rock also said. "The joke of it is basically, 'We can't hire you because you're fat.' I mean, he's a fat guy, and you're going to ask him to dance with no shirt on. OK. That's enough. You're gonna get that laugh. But when he stops dancing you have to turn it in his favor. There's no turn there. There's no comic twist to it. It's just fucking mean."
Rock does have a point. Maybe the sketch ending with Chris Farley getting the surprise win over Patrick Swayze would have helped the segment feel like it had a stronger payoff. For what it's worth, fans have also praised the way Swayze's character is unassuming of anything and treats Farley with respect and class, appearing genuinely surprised to have gotten the win in the end. In any case, Farley remains one of the most beloved comedians of all time as one of the funniest personalities of the 90s, and these continued discussions show how much he's still missed. This news comes to us from The Howard Stern Show.