The Farrelly Brothers, Peter, and Bobby are considered two of the best comedic film writers and producers of the 21st Century, a talent they cultivated beginning in their youth. They comprise the new breed of New England comedians such as Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien of Massachusetts or Seth McFarland of Connecticut, Adam Sandler of New Hampshire. Leno and McFarland have since moved to Rhode Island.
Raised in North Cumberland, Rhode Island, Peter, and Bobby Farrelly brought recognition to the Ocean State with their zany and outlandish films. Born in 1956 and 1958, respectively to Dr. Peter and Mariann (nee Neary] Farrelly, they moved to Rhode Island from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania after Peter was born.
Peter, a graduate of Providence College and Bobby, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute barely squeaked by with sub-par grades. PC later awarded Peter an honorary degree and it was rumored that our RI Heritage Harbor President Patrick Conley had Peter as a student, hence the secret to his great Hollywood success story.
A team effort, Peter and Bobby rely on each other to make their comedic talent work; “You need two people for comedy,” according to Bobby.
In 1994 Peter and Bobby got their first Hollywood break with the hit film comedy, Dumb and Dumber with Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels. The film, co-directed and co-written by the Farrelly Brothers was a box office success. They went on to direct some of the greatest Hollywood comedians.
Kingpin (1996) with Woody Harrelson, Bill Murray, and Randy Quaid, Me, Myself, & Irene (2000) with Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger, Shallow Hal (2001) with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow, Stuck on You (2003) with Matt Damon and Greg Kinnear, Fever Pitch (2005) with Jimmy Fallon and Drew Barrymore,
Heartbreak Kid (2007) with Ben Stiller, Hall Pass (2011) with Owen Wilson and Jason Sudeikis, Dumb and Dumber To (2014), both films with co-stars, Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, and There’s Something about Mary (1998) with Cameron Diaz, Matt Dillon, and Ben Stiller.
As popular filmmakers, the Farrelly Brothers often remember their Rhode Island roots. Most of their films refer to people or places in their native state. They sometimes use Rhode Island locales which serve as a backdrop or major setting. Quite often their relatives appear as walk-on characters. The Farrellys belong to a large Irish American clan and often attend Rhode Island family functions although Peter now lives in California and Bobby in Massachusetts.
The Farrelly humor is controversial, and some critics have been offended by their irreverence in the past. However, the brothers are not afraid to confront issues such as racism, obesity, and sexism.
As an example, “The Green Book,” (2018) Peter Farrelly’s greatest triumph was awarded an Oscar as best picture of the year. The film, which highlights the racism of the 1960s in America, focuses on the growing friendship of accomplished African American pianist Don Shirley, played by Academy Award winning actor, Mahershala Ali, and Tony “Lip” Vallelonga, played by Viggo Mortensen.
Peter Farrelly has also written two novels – Outside Providence, which was adapted for the cinema in 1999, and The Comedy Writer. Hopefully these two talented Rhode Islanders will once again produce another comedic masterpiece very soon.
John Parrillo, 2021