Catherine O'Hara Reveals Why She Quit "SNL" After a Week
She was cast on the late-night sketch show in 1980.
Catherine O'Hara is a legendary comedic performer, thanks to roles in Schitt's Creek, Home Alone, and several Christopher Guest movies, including Best in Show and Waiting for Guffman. And her career almost took another turn that would have certainly been memorable. O'Hara was cast on Saturday Night Live for its sixth season, which began airing in 1980. But she decided to quit the series before ever filming an episode and recently opened up about why she walked away from many comedians' dream job.
In a new interview with People, O'Hara explained that she left SNL out of loyalty to a sketch comedy show she was already tied to: the Canadian series SCTV. She said that she and her co-stars were often left waiting to learn what the future of SCTV would be.
"Our producer would get a deal with a network, and we'd have a show for a season or two, and then that deal would go away. There'd be a break, then we'd do the show again," the 69-year-old told People of SCTV's unpredictable schedule. During a break between seasons and not knowing whether or not the Canadian show would return, "I got asked to be on Saturday Night Live," O'Hara said. "And of course I said yes. Who doesn't want to do that?"
But, soon, SCTV was picked up for another season, so she decided to quit SNL after only a week. "Basically I said, 'Oh, sorry, I gotta go be with my [comedy] family,'" the actor explained. Other SCTV alums include John Candy, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, and O'Hara's future Schitt's Creek co-star, Eugene Levy.
The Emmy-winning actor said that she now thinks it was "stupid" that she didn't wait to see what would happen with SCTV before agreeing to the SNL job.
"Yeah, not cool to take a job and leave it. You know what I mean?" she said. But, O'Hara added that "it all worked out the way it was supposed to," especially because one of her long-time friends, Robin Duke, was able to take her spot on SNL. O'Hara was involved in some form—whether as an actor, writer, or guest—with all six seasons of SCTV, which aired between 1976 and 1984.
In her People interview, O'Hara also addressed a rumor that she was intimidated out of SNL by a co-worker. "There's been BS stories about I was supposedly scared by somebody," she said. While she didn't share any more information in the new interview, she's talked more about it in the past.
As reported by Vulture, in the book Live from New York about SNL's history, executive producer Dick Ebersol said that writer Michael O'Donoghue was the reason O'Hara left the show. O'Donoghue had written for SNL in the '70s and returned for Season 6. "[I]n that very first meeting with Michael, when he was telling everybody the show was [expletive], and spraying all over the writers' wall the word 'DANGER,' it really scared Catherine O'Hara—scared her right off the show," Ebersol said. "She packed up her stuff and went home to Canada that night."
O'Hara cleared up the story during a 2013 appearance on the podcast WTF With Marc Maron. "I lasted about a week and a half, but it was just the writing period," she said (via Vulture). "We weren't into doing shows. I just was so uncomfortable, and I can't even explain why. I was just in the wrong place. It was wrong for me … I remember Michael O'Donoghue, he said [he] scared [me] off or something and he didn't … I saw him enough at parties. I wasn't frightened of him."
O'Hara did eventually return to SNL: She hosted the show in 1991 and 1992.