Joe Flaherty, “Freaks and Geeks” and “SCTV” actor, dies at 82

The comedian also appeared in films such as "Happy Gilmore" and "Back to the Future Part II."

Joe Flaherty, the actor and comedian known for his work as Harold Weir on Freaks and Geeks and his several years as a writer and star of SCTV, has died. He was 82.

Flaherty's daughter, Gudrun, confirmed his death in a statement obtained by Entertainment Weekly through the Comedic Arts Alliance.

"My dad was a kind, sweet soul who blessed all who knew him and those who loved his work," she said. "Thank you to everyone who cared for him; he loved that he was able to make people laugh. He will be so deeply missed, but we are eternally grateful to God for him being in our lives." No cause of death was disclosed.

Flaherty’s death comes two months after members of the iconic improv comedy group Second City organized a fundraising campaign to support him while he battled an undisclosed illness. In a statement about the event, his friend and SCTV costar Martin Short explained that Flaherty’s health has taken a turn for the worse.

“Our beloved SCTV cast member, Joe Flaherty, is very ill. Joe is aware of the gravity of his failing health and would like to spend whatever time he has left at home rather than in a facility,” Short said at the time. “We are writing to our friends because we believe SCTV meant something to you, and that would not be the case if it were not for Joe Flaherty.”

He continued, “He was a mentor, a director, and an inspiring improviser who gave us many of the tools we are still using in the careers he helped kickstart. And he made us all laugh!”

<p>Jim Russell/Toronto Star via Getty</p> Joe Flaherty in 1982

Jim Russell/Toronto Star via Getty

Joe Flaherty in 1982

Following the news, several of Flaherty’s former costars and comedic contemporaries paid tribute to him on social media.

In an emotional post, Flaherty's Happy Gilmore costar Adam Sandler wrote, "Oh man. Worshipped Joe growing up. Always had me and my brother laughing. Count Floyd, Guy Caballero. Any move he made. He crushed as border guard in Stripes. Couldn’t be more fun to have him heckle me on the golf course. "

He concluded, "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."

Mad Men actor Joe Murray, who shared the screen with Flaherty in the 1986 movie One Crazy Summer, was the first to break the news.  “We’ve lost another of my idols,” he wrote on X.  “RIP Joe Flaherty 1941-2024.”

Actress Jennifer Tilly responded with a tribute of her own. “Joe Flaherty played my dad in The Wrong Guy, I was so thrilled to be able to work with him. His performance was pitch perfect. A great comedian. Gone too soon,” read her post.

Born in Pittsburgh in 1941, Flaherty began his comedy career at the legendary Second City in Chicago. He spent a year appearing on the National Lampoon Radio Hour before eventually relocating to Toronto to establish a new theater troupe for Second City. This led to him joining SCTV, the Canadian sketch show, as one of its original writer/performers. He spent eight years on the hit series, in an ensemble that included Short, Eugene Levy, John Candy, Dave Thomas, Catherine O’Hara, Rick Moranis, and more.

<p>Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty</p> Joe Flaherty in 'Freaks and Geeks'

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty

Joe Flaherty in 'Freaks and Geeks'

Flaherty went on to appear in several TV shows throughout the 1990s, including a series regular role on the sitcom Maniac Mansion. One of his most memorable performances came in 1999, when he joined the cast of NBC’s short-lived dramedy, Freaks and Geeks. He played the embarrassing yet well-intentioned Harold Weir, father to the main characters Lindsay (Linda Cardellini) and Sam (John Francis Daley). While the show only lasted a single season, it remains a well-regarded cult classic.

Daley was among those who paid tribute to the actor, writing on X, “Joe Flaherty made me crack up so hard it ruined takes. My favorite days on set were the ones where we had scenes together. What a lovely guy.”

Flaherty also made brief but memorable appearances in several hit films, including Happy Gilmore where he heckles the titular character, calling him a “jacka--". In Back to the Future Part II, he plays the postal worker who delivers Doc Brown’s 70-year-old letter to Marty McFly. Additional credits include Police Academy: The Series, The King of Queens, Clone High, and the Canadian series Call Me Fitz.

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