Best in Show
Toronto-born comic actress and writer Catherine O’Hara first came to the attention of public as the regular performer and co-writer of the popular “Second City Television” (1976-1982), where she nabbed an Emmy Award for her outstanding writing. Her memorable characterizations in the show included rude nightclub comedian Dusty Towne, soap opera seductress Sue Ellen, Las Vegas scorcher Lola Heatherton, among others. Her professionalism and magnificent mimic talents propelled her forward onto the big screen.
O’ Hara is known for playing supporting roles in Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice (1988), the blockbuster hits Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), the animated film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill (1995), The Last of the High Kings (1996), Hope (1997, TV) and Home Fries (1998). She won a Genie Award for her brilliant scene-stealing performance in the Canadian indie Life Before This (1999).
The energetic and talented comedienne is also well associated with her frequent collaborator director/writer/actor Christopher Guest, with whom she has teamed up in several films, most notably Best in Show (2000) and A Mighty Wind (2003). The two films garnered O’Hara such awards as an American Comedy Award, a Canadian Comedy Award, a Florida Film Critics Circle Award and a Seattle Film Critics Award.
Recently appearing on the animated features Over the Hedge (2006) and Monster House (2006), as well as in Penelope (2006) and Guest’ For Your Consideration (2006), O’Hara will play a role in the comedy/drama The Great Farrell (2006). Her voice can also be heard in the forthcoming films Cat Tale and Where the Wild Things Are (both 2008).
On a more private note, the Canadian native is now a naturalized U.S. citizen. She has been married to Bo Welch since 1992 and has two sons with him. Along with her husband, O’Hara owns a cottage in Muskoka, Ontario.
Childhood and Family:
“I’m pretty much a good Catholic girl at heart. And I believe in family. I also have a basic belief that God takes care of me. I believe in prayer, even though I’m not that religious. I just have that foundation from my family. I mean when you think that you’re just a human being and one of God’s creatures, you can’t take anything that seriously.” Catherine O’Hara
One of seven children, Catherine O’Hara was born on March 4, 1954, in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. She went to the same high school as comedian/writer Robin Duke at Burnhamthorpe Collegiate in Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada.
In 1992, Catherine, known by family and close friends as Cath, was married to Bo Welch. They have two sons, Matthew and Dylan. Cath is the sister of critically applauded singer/songwriter Mary Margaret O’Hara.
Starting out as a waitress at Second City, Catherine O’Hara made her professional acting debut as a cast member of the theater troupe in 1974 and was cast as a regular performer when The Second City created the television series “Second City TV/SCTV/ SCTV Network” in 1976. Also co-creating and co-writing the show, O’Hara came to prominence for her sharp impersonations, including as Las Vegas scorcher Lola Heatherton, vulgar nightclub comedian Dusty Towne, buzzer-happy game show contestant Margaret Meehan, stage actress Sue Bopper Simpson and soap opera seductress Sue Ellen., and won a 1982 Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program.
By the time she left the show in 1982, O’Hara had resumed her credits with a regular role in the Canadian children’s series “Comining Up Rosie” (1976-1977) and voice-over works in television films Witch’s Night Out (1978) and Intergalactic Thanksgiving (1979). Also, she had ventured to feature films with the thriller Double Negative and the Donald Sutherland comedy vehicle Nothing Personal (both 1980).
In 1985, O’Hara emerged as a fruitful supporting player when director Martin Scorsese cast her as a demented Mr. Softee ice cream truck driver, Gail, in After Hours. She went on to make good reputation by supporting Meryl Streep in Heartburn (1986) as a gossipy reporter, and with a memorable portrayal of the social-climbing mother of Winona Ryder in the Tim Burton-directed Beetlejuice (1988). Meanwhile, she maintained her work on the small screen by appearing on a number of specials, many headlined by her “SCTV” cohorts, including Andrea Martin and Martin Short, and provided the voice of Miss Malone in the NBC animated film he Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley (1988).
After supporting roles in Dick Tracy and Betsey’s Wedding (both 1990), O’Hara experienced a huge victory with the big hit Home Alone (1990), portraying the forgetful parent of Macauley Culkin, Kate. She reprised the role for the 1992 successful installment Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and then did a fine voice-over as Sally, a lovely creation in the Frankenstein tradition, in Tim Burton’s animated A Nightmare Before Christmas, the next year. Her budding career was further solidified with appearance in the popular films such as Ron Howard’s The Paper (1994), Lawrence Kasdan’s Wyatt Earp (1994, starred Kevin Costner, Dennis Quaid and Gene Hackman) and the Steve Martin vehicle A Simple Twist of Fate (1994). O’Hara received good respond for her supporting role of Calamity Jane in Tall Tale: The Unbelievable Adventures of Pecos Bill (1995).
Cementing her status as one of Hollywood’s offbeat sweethearts, O’Hara took on the supporting part of clumsy travel agent and the wife of Fred Willard in director/writer Christopher Guest’s Waiting for Guffman (1996). She also offered one of her best screen roles as the flamboyant Irish spouse of Gabriel Byrne in The Last of the High Kings (1996) and received critical praise as the dance coach dealing with a drinking problem in the TNT film Hope (1997), directed by Goldie Hawn. Then in 1998, O’Hara delivered a tour-de-force performance as the scheming, malicious mom of two adult sons (Luke Wilson and Jake Busey) who enlists their help to scare her deceitful husband to death in the quirky romantic-comedy Home Fries, which also starred Drew Barrymore. She rounded out the decade with the impressive portrayal of Seena in the Canadian independent film Life Before This, from which she was handed a 2000 Genie (Canada’s equivalent to the Oscar), for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role.
O’ Hara again attracted the attention of public when she rejoined director/writer/actor Christopher Guest, actor Fred Willard and fellow “SCTV” veteran Eugene Levy for the 2000 Best in Show, a behind-the-scenes mockumentary about the cruel world of dog show competitions. Significantly playing Cookie, an ex-good-time girl turned loyal wife of Levy’s mensch salesman Gerry, she took home an American Comedy for Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture and a Canadian Comedy for Pretty Funny Female Performance. After being featured as a tipsy mother in the Jack Black and Colin Hanks comedy Orange Country (2002), O’Hara again collaborated with Eugene Levy and Christopher Guest for the comedy film A Mighty Wind (2003), where she starred as a part of the redundant 60s folk singing duo Mitch and Mickey, as well as wrote and performed songs for the film. For her bright efforts, she netted a Florida Film Critics Circle for Best Ensemble Cast and a Seattle Film Critics for Best Music.
The next years found roles in the miserable Ben Afleck-James Gandolfini comedy Surviving Christmas (2004), Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), which based on the children’s book by Daniel Handler, The Wool Cap (2004, TV), starring William H. Macy and Don Rickles, the comedy Game 6 (2005, opposite Michael Keaton and Robert Downey Jr.) and the animated film Chicken Little (2005, the voice of Tina/Alien Mom). She also reprised her role of Carol Ward in the Alan Ball-created series “Six Feet Under” (2005), a role she had during 2003 season.
Recently, O’Hara’s voice could be heard as a porcupine named Penny in the animated comedy Over the Hedge (2006), based on the comic strip by T. Lewis and Michael Fry, and as a mom in Monster House (2006). She also found herself acting with Christina Ricci, James McAvoy and Reese Witherspoon in Penelope (2006) and re-teamed with Christopher Guest for his newest film, For Your Consideration (2006).
O’Hara is scheduled to star with Rupert Everett and Bruno Ganz in the upcoming comedy/drama The Great Farrell (2006). She also will provide her voice for the animation feature Cat Tale (as Bessie) and Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are, both for 2008 release.
- Florida Film Critics Circle: Best Ensemble Cast, A Mighty Wind, 2004
- Seattle Film Critics: Best Music, A Mighty Wind, 2003
- American Comedy: Funniest Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture, Best in Show, 2001
- Canadian Comedy: Pretty Funny Female Performance, Best in Show, 2001
- Genie: Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role, The Life Before This, 2000
- Gemini: Earle Grey, 1995
- Emmy: Outstanding Writing in a Variety or Music Program, “SCTV Network 90,” 1982