SNL writer Robert Smigel defends Chris Farley Chippendales sketch: He was 'explosively funny'
Looking back, Smigel calls the Saturday Night Live sketch "very empowering."
Longtime SNL writer Robert Smigel appeared on The Howard Stern Show on SIRIUSXM on Wednesday and mentioned the continued controversy over the piece after the host asked if it was one of his favorites.
"It's a great sketch. You know what? I was in a debate about it with some people. They wrote Chris Farley's book [The Chris Farley Show], which was everybody kind of weighing in on a person's life, and what happened to him, and I think somebody in the book said something like, 'That sketch is the first step in killing him...'" Smigel told Stern.
The writer and creator of Triumph, the Insult Comic Dog, explained that some people took offense with the sketch, suggesting it was disrespectful to the now-late actor and comedian who danced and stripped shirtless alongside a fellow Chippendales auditionee played by real-life dancer, Swayze.
"What was amazing about the sketch and what people forget is that Farley was incredibly nimble," Smigel told Stern of Farley's performance. "He was an athlete, and he danced incredibly well in that sketch, actually. And he had this fantastic energy. And like, in a way, it was like a very empowering sketch. And I think that's what people felt the first time they watched it, like, 'Look at this guy go and be completely proud, just unashamed and going for it.'"
After Smigel looked back on the sketch with a lens of body positivity and self-love, both he and Stern praised Farley's chops as a physical comedian. Farley was on SNL at the same time as Adam Sandler, Mike Meyers, Dave Spade, Tim Meadows, and the also now-late Phil Hartman. Asked if Farley was the highlight of the bunch, Smigel said he couldn't compare the castmates.
"He was the most explosively funny person. I think most people who were at that time would agree with that," Smigel said.
Earlier this year, Chris Rock, another SNL alum whose seasons overlapped with Farley's, appeared on Stern and took issue with the Chippendales sketch. Stern called it the funniest one he ever saw Farley tackle, but noted Rock had an issue with it.
"Here's the thing: The sketch is funny. I'm not going to say Farley dancing as a Chippendales dancer isn't funny. But at the end of the sketch, the guy comes up to Farley and goes, 'You're fat, disgusting,'" Rock explained.
Rock argued that if the sketch's casting producer had actually gone up to Swayze at the end and said, "'You're just not our type. We like our dancers more like so and so here,' it's still funny and Farley feels better about himself."
The Fargo alum said that his friend, who died in 1997, had insecurities.
"He felt ugly, he didn't feel attractive. He didn't feel like people really wanted to be around him and that sketch kind of fed into that," Rock claimed.