Joe Flaherty, Original ‘SCTV’ Castmember, Dies at 82

Joe Flaherty, the two-time Emmy-winning writer and Second City alumnus who sparkled as Guy Caballero, Count Floyd, Big Jim McBob and Sammy Maudlin as an original castmember on the landmark Canadian sketch comedy series SCTV, has died. He was 82.

His daughter, Gudrun Flaherty, told the Canadian Press he died Monday after a brief illness.

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“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.”

A native of Pittsburgh, Flaherty also was known for his stint as A-1 Sporting Goods owner Harold Weir (the father of Linda Cardellini and John Francis Daley’s characters) on the 1999-2000 NBC series Freaks and Geeks and for his turn as a Western Union man in Back to the Future Part II (1989).

And on the 1990-93 Canadian-American sitcom Maniac Mansion, created by SCTV teammate Eugene Levy, he played the scientist dad Fred Edison while writing and directing for the show as well.

A master of sketch and improv comedy, Flaherty got his start with the Second City comedy troupe at its Chicago flagship before moving to Toronto in 1973 to help open a new outpost in Canada.

From there, he segued to SCTV, which debuted on the Global network in Canada in 1976 and featured other original players Levy, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Andrea Martin, Dave Thomas and Harold Ramis.

Flaherty thrived on all six seasons of the show through 1984, playing such characters as Caballero, the shady, shameless owner of the fictional SCTV station; Floyd Robertson, the serious anchor of the Melonville Nightly News, and Count Floyd, the vampiric host of Monster Chiller Horror Theatre; the flashy talk-show host Maudlin; and McBob, the Farm Report host and movie reviewer who, with Candy’s Billy Sol Hurok, made celebrities “blow up real good.”

Meanwhile, Flaherty shared nine Emmy nominations for outstanding writing in a variety or music program on SCTV, winning in 1982 and ’83.

“We didn’t have a producer, nobody told us what to write, who to appeal to, we just wrote for ourselves,” he said in a 1999 interview with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We were the inmates running the asylum. We created our own little world and it paid off. … I wish we could do it again.”

The son of a production clerk at Westinghouse Electric, Flaherty was born on June 21, 1941, and raised in the Homewood section of Pittsburgh. As a teenager, he studied acting at the Pittsburgh Playhouse.

“I definitely think of myself as more of an actor than a comic — my training was in drama, I only fell into comedy accidentally,” he told the Globe and Mail in 2002. “And I think people are surprised when they meet me, because they expect me to be entertaining and funny, like a stand-up. I’m just not that way.”

SECOND CITY TV, John Candy (as Dr. Tongue), Joe Flaherty (as Count Floyd), Eugene Levy (as Woody Tobias Jr.), 1976-81
From left: John Candy (as Dr. Tongue), Joe Flaherty (as Count Floyd) and Eugene Levy (as Woody Tobias Jr.) on ‘SCTV’

Flaherty left Westinghouse High School to spend four years in the U.S. Air Force, attended Point Park College for a year and worked as a draftsman before moving to Chicago to take a job as a stage manager for Second City in 1969.

In the wings, “I watched it and just loved it,” he told Jen Candy (John Candy’s daughter) on a 2020 installment of her Couch Candy show. “Little sketches, funny bits, satiric bits, and then afterward they would improvise. I thought, ‘Wow, this is great. I’ve got to be a part of this.’ “

Flaherty was promoted to writer and performer and worked alongside the likes of Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and John Belushi. Four years later, he, Doyle-Murray and others headed to Toronto to set up shop there, and he had a hand in hiring Candy, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd and others.

Flaherty also did the National Lampoon Radio Hour in 1973-74 with Belushi, Radner, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase and spent a year in Los Angeles helping to open a Second City in Pasadena before returning to Toronto.

The success of NBC’s Saturday Night Live, which had bowed in October 1975, made satire a hot commodity and helped SCTV get a green light.

“Politically, it was charged. Saturday Night Live just took off. It helped us. The producers at Second City decided to start up a TV show. They wanted to keep the actors happy and give us a chance to do more,” Flaherty said in 2004.

While he was working on the first season of SCTV, he did double duty on another Canadian TV program, The David Steinberg Show.

On SCTV, Flaherty did impressions of Bing Crosby, Alan Alda, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, Peter O’Toole and others. And when Count Floyd wasn’t teasing such Monster Chiller Horror Theatre flicks as Dr. Tongue’s 3-D House of Slave Chicks and Blood-Sucking Monkeys From West Mifflin Pennsylvania, he was being thanked on Alice Cooper’s Special Forces album and introducing Rush’s “The Weapon” on the Canadian band’s 1984 Grace Under Pressure tour.

Flaherty and other SCTV performers reunited in 2008 for the first time in 24 years at Second City Toronto for a charitable fund-raiser, then got together a decade later at the Elgin Theater for An Afternoon With SCTV, a live event hosted by Jimmy Kimmel.

He famously heckled Adam Sandler’s character in Happy Gilmore (1996), had recurring roles on Police Academy: The Series and The King of Queens and taught comedy writing at Humber College in Toronto.

He also appeared on the big screen in Tunnel Vision (1976), 1941 (1979), Used Cars (1980), Stripes (1981), Heavy Metal (1981), Going Berserk (1983), Follow That Bird (1985), One Crazy Summer (1986), Innerspace (1987), Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989), Stuart Saves His Family (1995), Detroit Rock City (1999) and Freddy Got Fingered (2001).

Survivors include his younger brother, Paul Flaherty, who wrote for SCTV and other shows like Muppets Tonight, and his children, Gabriel and Gudrun. He was married to Judith Flaherty for 20 years until their 1996 divorce.

Mike Barnes contributed to this report.

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