Joe Flaherty: Adam Sandler pays tribute after death of SCTV Freaks and Geeks and Happy Gilmore star

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Adam Sandler is among the comedians to have paid tribute to the late Joe Flaherty

Adam Sandler, John Francis Daley and Martin Short were among the co-stars remembering US actor and comedian Joe Flaherty, known for his roles in Happy Gilmore and Freaks and Geeks, following his death aged 82.

Flaherty, who got his start on the sketch comedy show Second City Television, later known as SCTV Network, alongside stars including Catherine O’Hara, Short and Eugene Levy, died on Monday after a “brief illness”. A statement from his daughter Gudrun given to US outlet Variety said Flaherty had faced “health challenges” in the past few months, although his cause of death was not disclosed.

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Among those remembering him was Hollywood actor Sandler, who played the title role in the 1996 comedy film Happy Gilmore, alongside Flaherty, who played a memorable role as Donald – a heckler who taunts the titular golf player (Sandler).

“Oh man. Worshipped Joe growing up. Always had me and my brother laughing. Count Floyd, Guy Caballero. Any move he made,” Sandler said, sharing a series of pictures of the actor on Instagram. “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. Much love to his kids and thanks to Joe for all the greatness he gave us all.”

Born in Pennsylvania, Flaherty was a writer and performer on SCTV. He became known for his celebrity impressions and a myriad of characters, including Guy Caballero, Big Jim McBob, and Count Floyd. He won two Emmy awards in 1982 and 1983, both for outstanding writing in a variety or music program.

His SCTV co-star Short said in a statement given to the PA news agency: “In over 50 years of our friendship, 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.”

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After eight years on SCTV, Flaherty was cast in the teen comedy-drama Freaks And Geeks – which launched the careers of several young actors, including James Franco, Seth Rogen, and Jason Segel.

Freaks And Geeks co-star John Francis Daley, who played Sam Weir, the on-screen son of Flaherty who played Harold Weir in the 1999 TV series, paid tribute on X, formerly Twitter. “Joe Flaherty made me crack up so hard it ruined takes. My favourite days on set were the ones where we had scenes together. What a lovely guy,” he said.

Freaks And Geeks creator Paul Feig also said he was “so sad” to hear of Flaherty’s death – describing him as “my TV dad and a true comedy hero”. “Always happy to tell any story about your favourite SCTV sketch, he was just the greatest guy. I will truly miss him and always be grateful to have known him. Rest in comedy, Joe,” Feig added on X.

Other TV show and film credits for Flaherty include appearing as the Western Union courier in Back to the Future II.

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