Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk still fondly remembers his time working with the late, great Chris Farley at the Second City many years ago, recently reflecting on their time creating Farley’s iconic Matt Foley character. An over-the-top motivational speaker, Matt Foley is very well known for his Saturday Night Live sketches, often speaking about how he lives “in a van down by the river.” It’s one of Farley’s most memorable characters, but some may not realize Odenkirk developed the original sketch with Farley.
In a new interview on this week’s Conan, Odenkirk spoke with host Conan O’Brien about his relationship with Chris Farley. As explained by Odenkirk, the character’s origins came from the pair improvising an anti-drug speech after one of their shows. At the time, Farley used the distinctive voice that he’d later use for Matt Foley, and it really stuck with Odenkirk. This led to Odenkirk scripting out the sketch that would eventually introduce the character on SNL when he was hilariously portrayed by Farley. As explained in the interview:
“It was just that voice of a coach who just really doesn’t know what he’s saying but is trying to put a lot of emphasis in it, and I just went home with that voice in my head. It was very funny, and I sat down with a legal pad and wrote up that sketch exactly the way it’s done – although Robert Smigel added him smashing the table at Saturday Night Live.”
Odenkirk also touches on how impressed he was with the audience reception to the bit, noting it was a hit every time they performed it. After he was asked by his daughter what his favorite was from his career, Odenkirk realized it still seems to be the “eight shows a week with Chris doing the motivational speaker.” Commenting on Farley’s drive as a performer to make everybody laugh, from the audience to the other performers, Odenkirk also notes how the late comedian made every take on the sketch unique. “It was the greatest, it was pure awesomeness,” Odenkirk stresses.
In Farley’s first SNL sketch as Matt Foley, the character is introduced by two parents (Phil Hartman and Julia Sweeney) looking to set their teenage son (David Spade) and daughter (Christina Applegate) straight with a motivational speaker. Acting very animated, Farley’s antics as the character make it impossible for Spade and Applegate to hide their laughter, and fans watching would begin quoting Matt Foley’s line about “living in a van down by the river” for years to come. Based on his popularity, the character was brought back for additional sketches, serving as one of Farley’s most beloved SNL characters.
Odenkirk’s comments on working with Farley echo those from Spade, Adam Sandler, and other comedians who’ve had the chance to work with the legendary entertainer. As one of the most hilarious performers of all time, Farley definitely made an incredible impression on anyone who’s seen him in movies and television, and it must have really been something special to have worked alongside him. You can check out the clip of Odenkirk speaking about creating the Matt Foley character below, courtesy of Team Coco on YouTube.