Is Kevin James the New Chris Farley?

chrisfarley_kevinjames645.jpgI didn't make the rules, girls, but it appears that Kevin James has reached a point in his career where he can look back and say, "I'm like if Chris Farley had it together!" I'm going to get out this comparison's way and let the late SNL star and Zookeeper topliners' careers speak for themselves.

August beginnings in live comedy

Just as Chris Farley first gained notoriety on the stage at Madison's Ark Improv Theatre and Chicago's Improv Olympic and Second City, Kevin James kicked off his career with a very respected standup act. The future Zookeeper made countless appearances on the late-night talk circuit, and Comedy Central even anointed James as one of their 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time. Here's Farley talking with Jay Leno about conceiving SNL characters at Second City, followed by a medley of bits from James' standup special Sweat the Small Stuff. The jetski bit is still a winner.

A knack for playing harmless firebrands

It's fair to say that Chris Farley and Kevin James both their careers to that ineffable brand of wild, comic overreaction. In the still-hysterical "Gap girls" skit from SNL, Farley vaulted from prissy immaturity to Gorgon-like howls; on The King of Queens, James's transformations weren't as extreme, but they were no less a switch from "rational straight-man" to "infuriated, overly convicted blowhard."

A love of choreographed gyrations

In Farley's most well-known SNL sketch, Farley gyrates, undulates, and convulses alongside Patrick Swayze at a Chippendale's audition. It's hard not to flash back to that skit as you watch Kevin James gyrate, undulate, and convulse in this (unembeddable) Backstreet Boys parody of "Larger Than Life" from Canada's Just for Laughs.

Patrick Swayze & Chris Farley : Chippendales by tartenpion333

Movie careers built on characters with wacky jobs

California ninjas and 19th century frontiersmen! Mall cops and zookeepers! Whether you think Farley or James is the more versatile, inherently funny actor, there's no denying that their contributions to film depended on broad occupational roles. They even share some animalistic overlap; in Almost Heroes, Farley famously tangled with an aerie full of eagle eggs, and in Zookeeper, James dares to tangle with a lion played by Cher. Equally fearsome creatures, obviously.


  • Ben says:

    Oh no. That MJF/Shia thing got a lot of hits so now they're gonna keep publishing these x is the new y things.

  • peliculita says:

    He most definitely is NOT the new Chris Farley. Some people are trying to turn him into that, such as Adam Sandler, but he is not. Chris Farley had real talent and was actually funny. The only similarity is their heft.

  • denzack says:

    You just lost all cred with THAT question!

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Are you the new Einstein?

  • Ben says:

    Hey, you got me!
    Seriously though. You have to know you're gonna take flack every time you run one of these columns right? 'Tis an inevitability.
    If that's not the idea, why run em?

  • Ben says:


  • John says:

    Kevin James is honestly the luckiest man alive. He had a VERY mediocre stand-up act that for some reason led to a sitcom (and to call King of Queens mediocre is an insult to mediocrity). Chris Farley worked his way from small improv clubs in Chicago to SNL to movies- and he did that by using his impeccable comedic timing, his impressive physical comedy skills, and his ability to make you care about and relate to his characters in 3 minute sketches. In this comparison, are we meant to believe that Chuck and Larry is as good as Tommy Boy? To compare two people whose talents are so completely different (meaning only one of them had talent) just because they're both heavy is incredibly insulting.

  • peliculita says:

    (Although to be fair to you since I usually love your columns, I'm going to blame this article on it being Friday.)

  • angry reader says:

    At best he's the new Curly Joe

  • JohnDoe says:

    The author can't be serious about this, can they? The only people who consider Kevin James funny are the one who live in flyover country.

  • Dimo says:

    Louis, you're taking some heat on this one...just be happy you're not next door with Maggie Thatcher.

  • Alex says:

    Louis Virtel is the new Dixon Gaines.

  • Boricua in Texas says:

    Kevin James is a hack. His stand up work may have had a few good moments, but is largely forgettable. Most of his TV and movie work is formulaic and devoid of the special touch and uniqueness that someone like Farley brought to the table.
    Then again, Farley self-combusted and James is still around, seemingly without demons and laughing all the way to the bank.

  • "Most of his TV and movie work is formulaic and devoid of the special touch and uniqueness that someone like Farley brought to the table."
    Three words: Beverly Hills Ninja.

  • denzack says:

    A bigger question would be: Why would you suggest such a thing?

  • Sure, why the hell not?

  • jeff coe says:

    Another hard hitting piece of prize winning journalism from Movieline.

  • sosgemini says:

    It's kind of funny. While Farley was alive he was considered a second rate Belushi with a failing career. Then he died and all of a sudden he's a comedic genius who is someone other comedians should aspire to be. Please!!! I'm not saying Kevin James is all that great but his film career has way surpassed Farley's wildest dreams.

  • John says:
    Please, tell us which of these of brilliant works surpasses Beverly Hills Ninja.
    Also, a question: In this article, you seem to appreciate Farley's performances. But someone says that he, overall, had more inspired movies and characters than Kevin James (which, if you look at the above link, should be undeniable) you jump at the chance to point out that Chris Farley made a movie that wasn't great. So do you have any real opinions, or do you just argue whatever point you think of next?

  • Olivia says:

    Not.... even... CLOSE.

  • Eric says:

    Not.... even... CLOSE.

  • S.T. VanAirsdale says:

    First of all, I didn't write this article. I stand by it editorially, but I don't fall in ideological lockstep with it.
    Second, my comment was in response to a specific claim about Farley's "touch and uniqueness" versus James's "formulaic" work. I mean, Farley had one joke: Fat. Was it funny? Yes, it often was. But it was often no more ingenious than James's shtick in Paul Blart, which was also, "Hey, he's fat. Now he's fat on a Segway! Now he's fat on the ground. Fatty fat fat. Let's laugh at the fat guy." And something like Beverly Hills Ninja is as conceptually bankrupt as anything on James's resume.
    Speaking of which, your ad hominem dismissal of a guy's entire body of work on the basis of a comparison is specious at best. Hitch isn't half bad, Chuck and Larry is a risky performance directed into the side of a mountain by Dennis Dugan, and The Dilemma is about one-half really interesting, and it's the half about James and Winona Ryder. I really don't care where you stand on Farley vs. James, but let's give at least a little credit where credit is due.

  • Doug says:

    Is terrible the new great?

  • Sarah says:

    All I know is I find them both immensely likeable no matter how stupid their movies might be (though "Tommy Boy" is genius). I'm sure I'll hear a lot of "that says a lot about you" comments which is fine because it's the Internet. I just can't help but love people who can laugh at themselves and act like a jackass just to make me giggle.

  • Olivia says:

    I'd say no, seeing as Chris Farley was funny and Kevin James is not.