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Joe Flaherty, Freaks and Geeks actor, dies aged 82

Joe Flaherty promoting ‘Monster Chiller Horror Theatre’ in 1982  (Jim Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Joe Flaherty promoting ‘Monster Chiller Horror Theatre’ in 1982 (Jim Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Joe Flaherty, the comedian and actor who played sitcom dad Harold Weir in Freaks and Geeks, has died. He was 82.

In a statement, Flaherty’s daughter Gudrun said of her father: “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.”

Among those paying tribute on social media have been the Mad Men actor Joel Murray, who wrote on X/Twitter: “We’ve lost another of my idols. RIP Joe Flaherty 1941-2024”.

Jennifer Tilly, who starred alongside Flaherty in 1997 comedy The Wrong Guy, wrote: “I was so thrilled to be able to work with him. His performance was pitch perfect. A great comedian. Gone too soon.”

The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean recalled telling Flaherty that he’d purchased his 1982 comedy album Count Floyd, which featured tracks like “Reggae Christmas Eve in Transylvania”. Jean wrote: “He said ‘You’re the one!’ RIP my hero Joe Flaherty.”

Spinal Tap star Michael McKean added: “RIP Joe Flaherty. Lovely guy and good grief, he was funny.”

Flaherty was born in Pittsburgh in 1941, the eldest of seven children. He served in the US Air Force for four years before starting his acting career in theatre.

After moving to Chicago, Flaherty became a member of the Second City Theatre. There he honed his skills as a sketch comedian alongside the likes of John Belushi and Harold Ramis. After seven years in Chicago, he moved to Canada to help launch Second City in Toronto. There he became one of the original writers and performers on the long-running sketch show SCTV, developing characters such as his horror host Count Floyd.

Flaherty appeared in a number of classic comedies, including cameo appearances in Back to the Future Part II and Happy Gilmore and a regular role in the television adaptation of the Police Academy series.

He was best known for his role in Paul Feig’s Freaks and Geeks, playing father-of-two Harold Weir. In one Halloween-themed episode he donned a cheap vampire costume in reference to his Count Floyd character.

Flaherty was married to Judith Dagley for 22 years, until they divorced. They had two children, Gudrun, who is also an actor and writer, and Gabriel.