GETTING ‘TO WORK WITH FUN GANGS’
Catherine O'Hara reveals the secret to her comedic genius
Catherine O’hara plays well with others.
The 64-year-old Toronto actress-comedian is best known for her hilarious ensemble work in the classic Canadian ‘70s sketch show SCTV and a string of smartfunny Christopher Guest mockumentaries starting in the mid-‘90s.
There were also notable appearances in Home Alone films and Tim Burton movies (she met husband-production designer Bo Welch on the set of 1988’s Beetlejuice).
“I just love being in a gang of talented people,” said O’hara.
“I’ve never been drawn to the idea of doing a onewoman show. I didn’t feel this way about (fellow SCTV castmate) Andrea Martin’s one-woman show but they often make me wonder, ‘Don’t these people have any friends they’d like to work with?’ (laughs).
“I love being surrounded by talented people who teach me so we can challenge each other, inspire each other. I feel very fortunate that I have gotten so many chances to work with fun gangs.”
More recently, O’hara is co-starring with SCTV-GUEST movie alum Eugene Levy in CBC’S Schitt’s Creek, which is back for its fifth season airing Tuesdays. They’re also part of a North American tour for Schitt’s Creek Live hitting Toronto’s Sony Centre on Feb. 25. We spoke with O’hara down the line from her adopted home of L.A.
What did getting the Order of Canada recently mean to you?
My husband and sons (Matthew and Luke) and I went to Ottawa for that lovely ceremony. It is an honour. I don’t know, just a nice gift that I won’t claim to deserve but it’s awfully nice. I was happy for my sons to be there and to hear all the amazing accomplishments by these other people, not me, but scientists and doctors and humanitarians.
You were also at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre in May for the SCTV reunion taping directed by Martin Scorsese for Netflix, but left most of the talking to others. How come?
I was quite stunned by the overwhelmingly kind reaction from the crowd and some of the people, like Rick
(Moranis) was just on his game and so great with storytelling. The whole time I’m sitting there I’m thinking, ‘Should I tell that? No, I shouldn’t tell that. Oh no, don’t interrupt.’
When do we get to see the finished SCTV reunion special?
It’s ever-evolving. You know Martin Scorsese — he takes on a lot of projects and he’s happy to work on them for five, 10 years, whatever it takes to get where he wants it to be. I’m game for that. Who knows what else we’ll shoot to go with that? But I think it’ll probably take a bit of time.
If Scorsese asked you to revisit SCTV characters such as Lola Heatherton would you do it?
One of the ideas that I wanted to do is treating the network as a real network and seeing some of those people who worked at the network now. So you would see Lola now, so whatever age Lola would be. But then we talked about, ‘Oh, no let’s just have the clips. Let’s just use the material we’ve made.’
You know there’s thousands of hours of material. So really there’s no definite plan here. There’s a lot of ideas still up in the air. But, you know, it’s hard to be an ensemble, let alone our ages, having not worked together in 30-40 years, whatever it is.
How often do you see your fellow SCTV castmates other than Levy obviously?
I get to see Marty Short quite a bit. But, no, the most I saw of anybody in the cast was when we had several meetings leading up to that (Elgin taping) and I imagine we’ll get back into gear in a month or so and we would talk about getting together again and see where we should go from here.
Why do you think you and Eugene in particular keep working together?
I think it’s him offering me the job. That’s the way it works (laughs). That’s how I got the job on Schitt’s Creek. So he and Chris Guest work the outline scripts for those improvised movies and they cast me so I guess I owe this all to Eugene for hiring me all these years! We never really were a team at Second City or at SCTV.
What’s the format for Schitt’s Creek Live?
We’ve only done it once and we did it in Los Angeles. (Show co-creator-co-star) Daniel (Levy, son of Eugene) was testing out the idea and it sold out in two hours, which was a shock and a delight. But we did a trivia game where the cast was up against four or five people from the audience. And Daniel was the moderator for these shows so that alone brings out a lot of different stories that wouldn’t be told otherwise. And they put together a lot of great footage that will not be seen elsewhere, sort of different scenes and behind-thescenes stuff.
The cast of Schitt’s Creek: Annie Murphy (left), Eugene Levy, Catherine O’hara and Daniel Levy.