After Andover: Bobby Farrelly ’77 Captures Comedy and Serendipity in Filmmaking Career

Bobby Farrelly ’77, right, came to campus on Wednesday to speak at All School Meeting about his experiences at Andover and how they shaped his career as a famous filmmaker. His brother, Peter Farrelly, is pictured on the left.

Taking his eyes off the road while driving, Lloyd Christmas, played by Jim Carrey, leaned over to pinch Harry Dunne, played by Jeff Daniels, on the nose to stop his snoring in the film “Dumb and Dumber,” which was directed by Bobby Farrelly ’77 and his brother Peter Farrelly. While he was distracted, Carrey took a wrong turn east instead of west at a fork in the road. Only five hours later did they realize that they were driving in the wrong direction.

This scene was originally inspired by one of Farrelly’s personal experiences. Throughout his career as a film director, screenwriter, and producer, Farrelly’s main sources of inspiration have been real events that happened to him or that he heard from his friends. According to Farrelly, while these incidents are often changed slightly when put into a story, they always retain their base in reality.

“In ‘Dumb and Dumber,’ we exaggerated of course, but a lot of the silly things that those two guys did are just goofy things that my brother and I did growing up. We went on a trip once, one guy sleeps and the other guy drives and drives the wrong way for a long time. Things like that are things that have happened to us and so we take those incidents and we exaggerate them but put it in the story because we know that it could happen because it did happen,” said Farrelly.

Although he was not involved with filmmaking during his high school years, it was at Andover that Farrelly learned the value and necessity of hard work in order to achieve success. In addition, he also made friends who later influenced his writing through real life scenarios.

“It takes a lot of work to get it from just a seed of an idea all the way up to it being shown in a local theater… You’ve got to work hard when you’re here, otherwise you’re just not going to last long. As I went through my life I always was drawn to people who made me laugh, and I certainly had a lot of friends [at Andover] who fit into that mold and they helped me generate stories later on when it came time to write. I’d just draw on my own experiences and people who I knew, and that was a lot here,” said Farrelly.

Farrelly, along with his brother, initially moved to Los Angeles to pursue their beach towel business before becoming inspired to write screenplays and realizing their passion for it. The brothers developed their talent for screenwriting and comedy, ultimately finding an unexpected path to success in “Dumb and Dumber,” their first hit movie.

“The thing that stood out the most to me about Mr. Farrelly’s speech was how divergent his journey was… It helped strengthen his point — ultimately life is uncertain and you can never truly know where you’ll end up,” said Jackson Lee ’17, a member of Andover MovieMakers Club.

From a young age, Farrelly’s friends helped him realize his penchant for comedy. According Farrelly, even more rewarding than seeing his work played on a big screen is the reception from the audience, seeing them laugh at his jokes or reacting to the movie as he had hoped.

“My brother and I are just guys who always enjoyed a good laugh, and we were drawn to friends who responded, who also liked to laugh or make us laugh. We had an affinity for people that are like characters, people who are out of the norm, someone who just stands out a little bit, and those people set themselves up for comedy,” said Farrelly.

As a director, screenwriter, and producer, Farrelly’s favorite part about the filmmaking process is the filming of the movie and working with others. A true comedy writer, Farrelly attempts to make sure those who work with him are having as much fun as he is. Even while sharing advice with students, Farrelly works to create a comfortable environment.

Andrew Lin ’17, former co-head of Andover MovieMakers, said “I think, more personally, it was really cool to see that he was humble and willing to speak to us and just chat. That means as much to me as the advice.”