Actor and comedian Joe Flaherty dead at 82

Joe Flaherty performs onstage during the Second City 20th Anniversary show at the Vic Theater, Chicago, Illinois, December 16, 1979.
Joe Flaherty performs onstage during the Second City 20th Anniversary show in Chicago, 1979 [Getty Images]

Joe Flaherty, the American actor and comedian known for his roles on Freaks and Geeks and the sketch comedy series SCTV, has died at the age of 82.

Flaherty's death was announced by his daughter, Gudrun, who said it came after a "brief illness".

Born in Pittsburgh, Flaherty got his start in comedy as part of Chicago's improv group The Second City.

His career spanned nearly five decades, with credits on many beloved television comedies like Frasier and Family Guy.

In a statement, Gudrun said her father had an "unwavering passion for movies from the 40s and 50s", which influenced his career.

She added that he was particularly fond of his time on SCTV.

"He cherished every moment spent on the show, so proud of its success and so proud to be part of an amazing cast," she said.

Comedian Martin Short, Flaherty's former SCTV castmate, said in a statement: "There were very few people as wise or hilarious when it came to comedy, teaching improvisation and the art of character work as Joe.

"In SCTV we called him the anchor. In life, he was simply the funniest man in the room. I just adored him."

After eight years on SCTV, Flaherty was cast on the teen comedy-drama Freaks and Greeks as Harold Weir, the father of two awkward teenagers.

The series was cancelled after a single season but later became a cult classic and launched the careers of several young actors, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Philipps, Jason Segel and Linda Cardellini.

Flaherty was also known for a small but memorable role in the 1996 film Happy Gilmore, where he played a heckler who taunts the titular golf player, played by Adam Sandler.

The actor was beloved not only in his native US but also in Canada, where he had later moved to launch Toronto's arm of the improv troupe The Second City.

Cast members from SCTV, including Joe Flaherty (far left) around their star on the Walk of Fame in Toronto, Canada
Cast members from SCTV, including Joe Flaherty (far left) around their star on the Walk of Fame in Toronto, Canada [Getty Images]

He appeared in several Canadian sitcoms and had a guest appearance on Canadian sketch comedy show the Royal Canadian Air Farce.

Co-stars remembered Flaherty as a kind and talented comedian.

In a post on Instagram, Adam Sandler said he "worshipped Joe growing up".

"Couldn't be more fun to have him heckle me on the golf course. The nicest guy you could know. Genius of a comedian. And a true sweetheart Perfect combo," Sandler wrote.

"Much love to his kids and thanks to Joe for all the greatness he gave us all."

"I was so thrilled to be able to work with him," wrote Jennifer Tilly, who starred alongside Flaherty in the 1997 film The Wrong Guy.

"His performance was pitch perfect. A great comedian. Gone too soon."

Flaherty was married to Judith Dagley for 22 years until their divorce in 1996. He leaves behind two children, Gudrun and Gabriel Flaherty.