Joe Flaherty, SCTV And Freaks And Geeks Star, Is Dead At 82

 Harold Weir smiling at dinner table in Freaks and Geeks.
Harold Weir smiling at dinner table in Freaks and Geeks.

The comedy world took a big hit in the first half of 2024, as SCTV and Freaks and Geeks cast member Joe Flaherty has died. The actor and writer reportedly passed away on Monday, April 1, and was 82 years old at the time of his death.

News of Flaherty's death was confirmed by his daughter Gudrun Flaherty (via Variety) through the organization Comedic Artists Alliance, which was previously invovled with fundraising efforts specifically for the Maniac Mansion vet to have access to a 24-hour healthcare profider. He'd been suffering from an undislosed illness prior to his passing.

Below is the statement shared by Gudrun Flaherty:

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.

After his recent illness took hold, Flaherty is said to have made the decision to avoid spending the rest of his days in a hospice or other healthcare facility, and opted to remain at home, which is why the 24-hour care provided was necessary.

At that time, the actor's fellow comrades from the SCTV world reached out to the public through the CAA, which Flaherty himself helped inspire. He, Catherine O'Hara, Andrea Martin, Eugene Levy and Martin Short put on a benefit comedy show back in 2008 to raise money and support for an SCTV crew member dealing with cancer treatment. That effort was followed later by another benefit performance at Second City Chicago's 50th anniversary, which gave birth to the Second City Alumni Fund. That charitable org was then expanded into the Comedic Artists Alliance in 2021 with a mission to offer help to everyone in the world of comedy beyond just the Second City elite.

Speaking to the strength of the community behind SCTV, which remains of the best sketch shows of all time, Gudrun Flaherty continued in her statement, saying:

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.

The total number of people who worked with Joe Flaherty is no doubt a stunningly large amount, considering how many star-studded projects he was part of during his nearly 50 years in the industry.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1941 as an "O'Flaherty," the actor followed his schooling with a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force before fixing his sights on stage drama, and made the fateful move to Chicago. (He formally changed his name due to another performer named Joseph O'Flaherty" being among the Actors Equity union. And his first big on-screen roles all came in 1976, with the film Tunnel Vision and a trio of TV shows, The Sunshine Hour, The David Steinberg Show, and SCTV, and he stuck with the latter for the entirety of its eight-season run.

Beyond his stellar sketch work, Flaherty was involved with a laundry list of films and TV shows, often involving his former co-stars, and usually in smaller but instantly memorable capacities. We've got 1941, Stripes, Back to the Future Part II, Happy Gilmore, Detroit Rock City, Freddy Got Fingered, and a solid Anchorman deleted scene, to name but a few highlights on the film side. He was even lovable enough to avoid being attributed to childhood trauma thanks to his and Dave Thomas's villainous roles in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird.

On the TV side of things, he fared just as well, and was involved with more voice acting on top of live-action roles. Fans might remember him from the Ed Grimley Saturday morning cartoon, the aforementioned Maniac Mansion, Police Academy: The Series, The King of Queens, Teamo Supremo, Family Guy, Frasier and more. For many people who came of age during the '90s and early '00s, he'll forever be known as A+ TV dad Harold Weir on the canceled-after-one-season series Freaks and Geeks.

Flaherty retired from acting in 2018, but the SCTV influence remains strong on shows like Only Murders in the Building, where Martin Short will soon reunite with Eugene Levy. Among show alums, he was preceded in death by Harold Ramis, John Candy, and Antonio Rosato.

We at CinemaBlend send our thoughts and condolences to Joe and Gudrun Flaherty's family and friends in this time of morning.