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.

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