Joe Flaherty, ‘SCTV’ and ‘Freaks and Geeks’ actor, dies at 82

Joe Flaherty, the actor, writer and comedian known for his roles on the Canadian sketch comedy series “Second City Television” and “Freaks and Geeks,” died on Monday. He was 82.

Flaherty’s daughter, Gudrun, confirmed the news to Variety in a statement through the Comedic Artists Alliance, which had previously raised funds for Flaherty to obtain a 24-hour care provider.

“After a brief illness, he left us yesterday, and since then, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with this immense loss,” Flaherty said. “Dad was an extraordinary man, known for his boundless heart and an unwavering passion for movies from the ’40s and ’50s. His insights into the golden age of cinema didn’t just shape his professional life; they were also a source of endless fascination for me. In these last few months, as he faced his health challenges, we had the precious opportunity to watch many of those classic movies together — moments I will forever hold dear.”

Flaherty was a writer and performer on “SCTV,” in which he starred with John Candy, Catherine O’Hara and Martin Short. The Canadian show, airing between 1976 and 1984, featured various sketches that were presented as programming on the TV station/network of the fictional town of Melonville.

Flaherty was known for his celebrity impressions on “SCTV,” including Kirk Douglas, Richard Nixon, Art Garfunkel, Gregory Peck and Alan Alda. He also appeared on the show as a myriad of original characters, including SCTV president Guy Caballero, Big Jim McBob and Count Floyd. “SCTV” was nominated for nine Primetime Emmy Awards for outstanding writing in a variety or music program, and took home two.

Flaherty was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on June 21, 1941. He started out performing at The Second City in Chicago, writing and acting in several Mainstage revues. He starred in “The Next Generation,” “Justice is Done or Oh, Cal Coolidge” and “Cooler Near the Lake” with Brian Doyle-Murray and Harold Ramis.

He also acted alongside John Belushi in “Cum Grano Salis,” “No, No, Wilmette” and “43rd Parallel or Mr. McCabre and Ms. Miller.” Flaherty subsequently appeared on “National Lampoon Radio Hour” with Belushi, Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Doyle-Murray and Ramis. After spending seven years in Chicago, Flaherty relocated to Toronto, where he helped establish the Second City Toronto and worked on “SCTV.”

Flaherty appeared in several other television shows and films throughout his career, with some of these credits including “Back to the Future II,” “Happy Gilmore,” “Freaks and Geeks,” “One Crazy Summer,” “National Security,” “Detroit Rock City,” “Family Guy” and “The King of Queens.” He portrayed patriarch Harold Weir in “Freaks and Geeks,” a heckler named Donald in “Happy Gilmore” and the Western Union courier in “Back to the Future II.”

Flaherty was ill prior to his death and chose to spend the remainder of his life at home instead of a care facility. His “SCTV” collaborators took to social media to help raise funds for Flaherty through the Comedic Artists Alliance.

Martin Short wrote of Flaherty at the time, “We are writing to our friends because we believe ‘SCTV’ meant something to you, and that would not be the case if it were not for Joe Flaherty. He was a mentor, a director, and an inspiring improvisor who gave us many of the tools we are still using in the careers he helped us kickstart. And he made us all laugh!”

Gudrun’s statement continued, “Cinema wasn’t merely a hobby for him; it profoundly influenced his career, particularly his unforgettable time with ‘SCTV.’ He cherished every moment spent on the show, so proud of its success and so proud to be part of an amazing cast. Recently, the ‘SCTV’ cast reminisced, saying, ‘All of us “SCTV” castmates owe him a huge debt of gratitude; he was the creative anchor that kept us honest and inspired.’ It’s a testament to his indelible mark on everyone he worked with.”

“Above all, he was a loving father. No matter the occasion, he was always there to offer a laugh or wisdom when I needed it most. His absence has left a void in my life that feels insurmountable at the moment. As I try to navigate through this grieving process, I take solace in the memories we shared and the incredible impact he had on those around him. His spirit, humor and love will be a part of me forever.”

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