‘SNL’ Star Julia Sweeney Feels Guilty for Almost Ruining Chris Farley’s Iconic Motivational Speaker Sketch — ‘I Just Feel Awful About It’

There are so many iconic skits from Saturday Night Live (SNL). But ask any fan of the show their favorite, and inevitably they’ll mention the hilarious bit about motivational speaker Matt Foley warning two surly teens to get their life together. Comedian Chris Farley shines as the down on his luck speaker who’s living “in a van down by the river.”

Even close to two decades after the skit premiered, audiences still crack up watching Farley act out the beloved character. And now, his co-star Julia Sweeney admits she almost ruined the scene completely because it was just too hilarious.

Chris Farley made Matt Foley come to life on ‘SNL’

Chris Farley as Matt Foley
George Foreman and Chris Farley as Matt Foley | Al Levine/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

The bit about the struggling motivational speaker is funny at face value. However, most fans agree it was Farley’s exceptional comedic skills that really brought the character to life and made it one of the most memorable skits from the show.

Matt Foley wears a too-tight plaid sport coat, black horn-rimmed glasses, and khaki pants that won’t stay up. He looks sweaty and disheveled, which is exacerbated by his frequent yelling and excessive coffee drinking. He’s known for getting rude with the people he’s coaching and falling into bouts of self-pity. The character relies on physical comedy including erratic, exaggerated movements and even breaking furniture.

After the initial appearance in May 1993, Farley would go on to reprise the role of Matt Foley eight more times on SNL. There were even talks of a movie version of the character, though that idea came to a halt following Farley’s tragic death in 1997.

Julia Sweeney couldn’t stop laughing the first time she met Matt Foley

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The whole point of SNL is making people laugh. However, the actors must keep straight faces and stay in character no matter how much they’re enjoying the material. SNL alum Sweeney said she has a hard time with that even on a normal basis.

“I break all the time and I hate it about myself,” she said during a Women of SNL panel, Entertainment Weekly reported. “I’m not laughing at me. I’m laughing at this person who’s committing so much who’s two feet away from me.”

Unsurprisingly, it happened during the first Matt Foley appearance, too. “When Chris Farley did the ‘down by the river’ Matt Foley, I was in that,” Sweeney recalled. “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.”

She wasn’t the only one laughing at the ‘SNL’ skit

Though the comedian was hard on herself for breaking character, she wasn’t the only one who kept laughing at Farley’s incredible talent. Another panelist reminded Sweeney that David Spade, one of the main characters in the skit, kept losing his composure as well.

“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.”

Looking back at the first legendary appearance of Matt Foley, it’s totally understandable that Sweeney and Spade couldn’t remain neutral even though they are professionals. We’re still laughing about it now.