Joe Flaherty Dies: ‘SCTV’ And ‘Freaks And Geeks’ Actor Was 82

Joe Flaherty Dies: ‘SCTV’ And ‘Freaks And Geeks’ Actor Was 82

Joe Flaherty, a writer and performer on the influential and beloved sketch comedy series SCTV and a series regular on Freaks and Geeks, died Monday following a brief illness. He was 82.

His death was announced by his daughter Gudrun Flaherty, who said in a press statement, “After a brief illness, he left us yesterday, and since then, I’ve been struggling to come to terms with this immense loss. 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.”

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Last month, Flaherty’s former improv group Second City organized a fundraiser to help support the actor during his illness. A message shared by his former SCTV co-star Martin Short, stated “Our beloved SCTV cast member, Joe Flaherty, is very ill. Joe is aware of the gravity of his failing health and would like to spend whatever time he has left at home rather than in a facility. 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 improviser who gave us many of the tools we are still using in the careers he helped kickstart.”

Joe Flaherty as Guy Caballero
Joe Flaherty as Guy Caballero

Born Joseph O’Flaherty in Pittsburgh on June 21, 1941 – he eventually dropped the “O” because the name was already taken by another Equity member – Flaherty began his comedy career at The Second City in Chicago, and appeared on the National Lampoon Radio Hour from 1973-74. He moved to Toronto to help launch a Second City troupe there, and in 1976 became a founding cast member of the Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV that would feature some of the most influential comedians of the era. In addition to Flaherty, the show starred John Candy, Harold Ramis, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Dave Thomas and Short.

In a series that spotlighted any number of vivid comic characters, Flaherty proved a central presence on the weekly show that was set in a fictional TV station in the equally fictitious Canadian town of Melonville. Flaherty portrayed the station’s owner-manager Guy Caballero, who used a wheelchair only to solicit respect and sympathy.

Among Flaherty’s other popular characters were the station’s horror movie host Count Floyd, whose Monster Chiller Horror Theater featured movies so bad — and frequently very non-horror — that the host would be forced to unconvincingly stammer, “Oooh, that’s scary, kids,” and Big Jim McBob, whose “Farm Film Report” (with John Candy) was a sort of Siskel & Ebert for fans of movie explosions. The segment made a catchphrase of “that blowed up real good.”

(L-R) Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and John Candy from ‘SCTV’
(L-R) Eugene Levy, Joe Flaherty and John Candy from ‘SCTV’

After SCTV stopped production in 1984, Flaherty appeared in such films as Johnny Dangerously, Innerspace, Who’s Harry Crumb, Back To The Future Part II, Stuart Saves His Family and Happy Gilmore.

But he would find his second signature role as an alternately angry and befuddled dad in 1999 on the short-lived cult favorite Freaks and Geeks, the Paul Feig-Judd Apatow coming-of-age drama about high school students in 1980s Detroit. Like SCTV, the series launched the careers of numerous actors, including Linda Cardellini and John Francis Daley (who played Flaherty’s kids), James Franco, Seth Rogan, Jason Segel and Busy Philipps.

Following Freaks‘ untimely cancelation after just one season, Flaherty went on to make appearances in The King of Queens, Slackers, Even Stevens, That ’70s Show, Frasier, Family Guy, and American Dad, among others.

In her statement, Gudrun Flaherty said that her father “cherished every moment spent on” SCTV, and was “so proud of its success and so proud to be part of an amazing cast.”

“Recently,” she said, “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,” she continued, “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.”

In addition to his daughter, survivors include son Gabriel and brother (and SCTV writer) Paul Flaherty.


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