“I Am Chris Farley”: A family portrait of a fearless, troubled comic genius

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Here comes Chris Farley, entering his own documentary “I Am Chris Farley” doing cartwheels. It’s his first appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” and it’s utterly delightful to see how Farley charms the pants off the normally reserved, arch host (Letterman is every bit Farley’s opposite) with his physical explosions of comedy and puppy-dog excitement at just being there.

In many ways, Farley never stopped doing cartwheels, right up until his tragic death of a drug overdose in December 1997. Eager to please, almost desperate for a laugh, and fearless about how to go about getting one, the through-line in “I Am Chris Farley” is of a kid who was driven to entertain. His brother John tells the story of a fourth-grade Chris leading the school bus in a rendition of “Joy to the World” on the way to school. With his shirt off, of course.

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