Like most Saturday Night Live viewers, Julia Sweeney couldn't stop laughing watching Chris Farley as the motivational speaker who lived in a van down by the river. The only difference is she was on live TV next to him at the time. And she's still kicking herself for it 27 years later.
"I break all the time and I hate it about myself," Sweeney, an SNL cast member from 1990 to 1994, confessed while speaking on a "Women of SNL" panel alongside Cheri Oteri, Laraine Newman, and moderator Will Forte, during a virtual Groundlings Diversity Festival on Sunday night.
Norman Ng for Edie Baskin/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images
"I'm not laughing at me. I'm laughing at this person who's committing so much who's two feet away from me," Sweeney said, adding that it has happened more often doing improv than her time at the legendary NBC comedy show, with the notable exception of the Farley sketch.
"When Chris Farley did the 'down by the river' Matt Foley, I was in that. They had to cut around me because I was laughing. Because it was like I had the best seat in the house for the funniest friggin' thing that was happening on the planet."
In the May 1993 sketch, Sweeney and Phil Hartman play parents trying to get their troubled teens (David Spade and episode host Christina Applegate) back on track by enlisting a down-on-his-luck motivational speaker named Matt Foley. It was Farley's debut as the clumsy pants-adjusting character who quickly became a fan-favorite and reappeared seven more times throughout the comedian's run on the show.
"Spade was laughing too," Oteri reminded Sweeney during the panel.
"Yeah, Spade was laughing too. But they were mad at me," Sweeney said. "They had to change camera angles and that's terrible. That is terrible. I just feel awful about it actually."
"It probably added to it," Oteri offered as comfort. "It was almost understandable."
"I don't want to be like that," Sweeney said, still scolding herself as Oteri and Newman laughed.
"What an amazing thing to have been part of," Forte marveled.
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