Radio, television, and film has a special place in my heart and is my connection to my past experiences and memories. When TOMMY BOY comes on, I remember that time my brother ripped my jacket running around the house as the fat man in a little coat. I remember my Mom falling off the couch laughing to the deer ripping through the top of Richard’s sweet ‘67 Plymouth Belvedere GTX. I remember getting sprayed by the car wash hose singing, “She’s a Maniac”.
To this day, TOMMY BOY is my 70-year-old mother’s favorite movie of all time. The reason for this? It is a movie that took us away from our day-to-day stress and sat us down in Sandusky, Ohio (or Toronto, if you want to be technical). For those 97 minutes, we would be sitting with Chris Farley and David Spade. You hold on to memories that cherry, kind of like your suitcase. Now let’s talk a little bit about the comedy duo behind this masterpiece.
Farley and Spade met on the set of Saturday Night Live in 1990. The two hit it off and shared an office during their tenure collaborating and mixing it up with one of the most talented casts in SNL history. David Spade has had the opportunity to share many of his stories over the years (if you haven’t listened to his appearances on The Howard Stern Show, you are missing out) and it is clear how much these two cared for each other. It was a brotherly bond. Put that into an improv comedy scene and you have two comics that are able to feed off each other and do what they do best, resulting in dialogue like this:
“The point is, how do you know the fairy isn’t a crazy glue sniffer? ‘Building model airplanes,’ says the little fairy. Well, we’re not buying it. He sneaks into your house once, that’s all it takes. The next thing you know, there’s money missing off the dresser, and your daughter’s knocked up. I seen it a hundred times.”
That is what happened and why TOMMY BOY was able to work. The original script was some 30 pages. Most of the best lines were adlibs and improvised on the set. For flavor, you toss in Rob Lowe, Bo Derek, Brian Dennehy and Dan Aykroyd. These were great additions to the cast.
You have very basic plot set up with Zalinsky (Aykroyd) coming to take over the family business with the help of the evil stepmother. No disrespect to writers, Terry Turner and Bonnie Turner, but it just doesn’t work without the magic of Farley/Spade. Taking a look back and it isn’t the plot that grabs you, it’s the relationship between Tommy (Farley) and Richard (Spade) and their road trip across the Midwest to save Callahan Auto Parts and their shenanigans in each town.
It’s that same chemistry that led to a quick follow-up in BLACK SHEEP. The two films are very similar in box office, plot and structure. BLACK SHEEP just wasn’t able to capture the same love from fans. It’s like we were handed a TOMMY BOY sequel, but with different characters and Gary Busey. The charm had already been captured and just didn’t hit the same way. I won’t kick BLACK SHEEP out of bed for eating crackers, but I sure won’t watch it over TOMMY BOY. Thank God Lorne Michaels seized the opportunity for the duo to move to the big screen and cement their place in the annals of comedy history.
25 years later, this one is still at the top of my list and is sure to be there in another 25 years. Chris Farley and David Spade gave us a gift and gave me some great memories to hold onto. Happy Anniversary TOMMY BOY.