April 15th, 2024

Joe Flaherty was the ‘only guy’ who could get Eugene Levy to break character

By Nicole Thompson, The Canadian Press on April 3, 2024.

Former cast members of SCTV are reunited at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival on Saturday, March 6, 1999 in Aspen, Colo. From left front row are: Dave Thomas; Catherine O'Hara; Andrea Martin; Eugene Levy; and Martin Short. In the back row are Joe Flaherty, left, and Harold Ramis. Eugene Levy says his "SCTV" castmate Joe Flaherty was the only comedian who could get him to break character on stage.THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/E Pablo Kosmicki

Eugene Levy says his “SCTV” castmate Joe Flaherty was the only comedian who could get him to break character on stage.

Flaherty’s death Monday at age 82 prompted an outpouring of grief from his Second City colleagues, with whom he stayed close throughout his life.

Flaherty was considered the elder statesman of the group, and was one of the driving forces behind Second City’s presence in Toronto.

He was also an original cast member on the “SCTV” series, which followed the on- and off-screen antics at a fictional TV station.

The show was scripted, but Levy says Flaherty’s biggest strength was improvisation.

He says he always knew to prepare himself for comedic genius when Flaherty got a mischievous look in his eyes.

“When you saw his eyes dancing on stage, you knew that his brain was churning up something incredibly funny. And you just had to brace yourself for it, certainly if you’re working with him on stage, because he was the only guy who could really get me laughing on stage in a very unprofessional way,” Levy said by phone on Tuesday.

The pair also worked together on “Maniac Mansion,” a children’s sitcom about an eccentric inventor played by Flaherty, which Levy adapted from a video game.

“Even though our shows were scripted, you know, he would always add something that would make a scene work even better than what was on the page,” Levy said.

“His ideas were the kind of ideas that made TV work so well — the kind of ideas that nobody else could have thought of. Nobody else could have had the same take on a subject.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 3, 2024.

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