Joe Flaherty, 'genius of a comedian' who starred in Freaks and Geeks, dies aged 82

Comedian Joe Flaherty, a founding member of the beloved Canadian sketch series SCTV, has died. He was 82.

His daughter Gudrun said on Tuesday that Flaherty died on Monday following a brief illness.

“Dad was an extraordinary man, known for his boundless heart and an unwavering passion for movies from the ’40s and ’50s,” she said in a statement.

“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, who was born in Pittsburgh, spent seven years at legendary comedy theatre The Second City in Chicago before moving north of the border to help establish the theatre’s Toronto outpost.

He went on to star alongside John Candy and Catherine O’Hara in SCTV — kind of like Canada’s answer to Saturday Night Live — about a fictional TV station known as Second City Television.

Flaherty’s characters included network boss Guy Caballero and the vampiric TV host Count Floyd.

Former cast mates also included Martin Short, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas and Andrea Martin.

He won Emmys in 1982 and 1983 for his writing on SCTV and continued to work in TV and film for decades.

In the 1999, Flaherty’s profile rose higher when he starred as the tough but loveable Mr Weir on Paul Feig’s cult TV series Freaks and Geeks.

Flaherty maintained deep ties to Toronto, serving as an artist-in-residence at Humber College.

Co-stars and peers pay tribute to ‘comedy legend’

Feig, who went on to direct comedies like Bridesmaids and The Heat, paid tribute to Flaherty’s impact.

“So sad to hear about dear Joe. He was my TV dad and a true comedy hero. Always happy to tell any story about your favourite SCTV sketch, he was just the greatest guy. I will truly miss him and always be grateful to have known him. Rest in comedy, Joe,” he said on X (formerly Twitter).

Freaks and Geeks co-star John Francis Daley also remembered his on-screen father.

“Joe Flaherty made me crack up so hard it ruined takes. My favourite days on set were the ones where we had scenes together,” Daley said.

A new generation of comedy fans was introduced to Flaherty through Adam Sandler’s 1996 comedy Happy Gilmore, in which he plays a jeering fan.

“Couldn’t be more fun to have him heckle me on the golf course,” Sandler said on X.

“The nicest guy you could know. Genius of a comedian. And a true sweetheart. Perfect combo. Much love to his kids and thanks to Joe for all the greatness he gave us all.”

Comedians and actors including Mark Hamill, Tom Green, Patton Oswalt and Jennifer Tilly also took to social media to express their condolences.

AP/ABC

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