When season 20 of the show was dubbed a disaster, NBC decided to make wholesale changes. The majority of cast members either quit or were fired, with only Norm MacDonald and David Spade kept on the payroll for the following season. Head writer Jim Downey was dropped, as were Adam Sandler and close friend Chris Farley. According to Sandler, Farley (who passed away in December 1997 following a four-day binge) was the one who broke the news to him, though he later realized that his manager had been subtly hinting at what was coming — he told his client that he should “look for something else to do” outside of SNL. “I like it here,” was Sandler’s response (via New York Daily News). “Then Farley ran into my office, saying ‘We’re getting fired.'”
Farely’s death from accidental overdose at the age of 33 hurt Sandler badly. When he spoke to The Daily Beast in 2014, the actor revealed that he still missed him dearly. “He was a tour-de-force on the show and dominated,” Sandler said. “He could dominate anybody. There’s nobody that can walk into a room and take over better than Farley, I haven’t seen anyone since he’s gone that’s taken that spot. He’s the strongest presence I’ve ever seen.” When Sandler returned to host SNL in 2019, he closed the show with an emotional tribute to his fallen comrade. The song, which referenced some of Farley’s most iconic SNL sketches, moved people to tears.