Catherine Anne O'Hara OC (born March 4, 1954) is a Canadian-American actress, writer, and comedian. She first drew notice as an actress in 1974 as a member of The Second City improvisational comedy troupe in Toronto. She landed her first significant television role in 1975 starring opposite John Candy and Dan Aykroyd in the main cast of the Canadian sitcom Coming Up Rosie (1975–1978). The following year she and Candy began work on Second City Television (1976–84) where she drew acclaim for both her work as a comedic actress and writer, notably winning a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series in 1981. Candy was also her costar in her first feature film, the 1980 comedy Deadly Companion. Her other early film work includes the 1983 cult animated film Rock & Rule, the black comedy After Hours (1985), and the comedy Heartburn (1986) with Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Kevin Spacey.
O'Hara has appeared in several films directed by Tim Burton, beginning with the role of Delia Deetz in the 1988 film Beetlejuice. Other roles she has portrayed in Burton films include the voices of Sally/Shock in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Susan Frankenstein in Frankenweenie (2012). She has also frequently collaborated with director and writer Christopher Guest, appearing in the mockumentary films Waiting for Guffman (1996), Best in Show (2000), A Mighty Wind (2003), and For Your Consideration (2006). In 2000 she won a Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role for the film The Life Before This. She is also known to audiences as Kate McCallister, the mother of Kevin, in both Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), and for her voice work in multiple animated films like Pippi Longstocking (1997), Bartok the Magnificent (1999), Chicken Little (2005), Over the Hedge (2006), Monster House (2006), Brother Bear 2 (2006), Barbie in the 12 Dancing Princesses (2006), Where the Wild Things Are (2009), A Monster in Paris (2011), and When Marnie Was There (2014). Her other film credits include Dick Tracy (1990), The Paper (1994), Wyatt Earp (1994), Tall Tale (1995), Home Fries (1998), Surviving Christmas (2004), Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), Penelope (2006), Killers (2010), and A.C.O.D. (2013).
In 2010 O'Hara was nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie and the Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film for her portrayal of Aunt Ann in Temple Grandin opposite Claire Danes. For her work on the television series Schitt's Creek (2015–present), O'Hara has won two Canadian Screen Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, at the 4th Canadian Screen Awards in 2016 and the 5th Canadian Screen Awards in 2017. Her other notable television appearances include the recurring roles of Dr. Georgina Orwell in the Netflix series A Series of Unfortunate Events and Carol Ward in Six Feet Under, and the voices of Jackie Martin in Glenn Martin, DDS, Miss Malone in The Completely Mental Misadventures of Ed Grimley, Kaossandra in Skylanders Academy and Liz Larsen in Committed. She has also hosted Saturday Night Live twice during her career, and made numerous guest appearances on sitcoms, variety shows, and late night television.
O'Hara was born in Toronto, Ontario, into a large family of Irish descent. She was raised Catholic and is the sixth of seven children. She attended Burnhamthorpe Collegiate Institute, where she first met fellow comedian Robin Duke.
O'Hara started her comedy career in 1974 as a cast member of The Second City in her native Toronto. She was an understudy for Gilda Radner until Radner left for Saturday Night Live. Two years later, this theater troupe created the sketch comedy show SCTV, for which O'Hara became a regular performer. Her memorable characterizations on the show included Las Vegas scorcher Lola Heatherton, buzzer-happy game show contestant Margaret Meehan, raunchy nightclub comedian Dusty Towne, soap opera seductress Sue Ellen, and stage actress Sue Bopper Simpson.
In the late 1970s, she provided voice-overs for a number of cartoons, work which would continue throughout her career. During a short time in the early 1980s when SCTV was in between network deals, she was hired to replace Ann Risley when Saturday Night Live was being retooled in 1981. However, she quit the show without ever appearing on air, choosing to go back to SCTV when the show signed on with NBC. Her SNL position was then given to fellow Canadian Robin Duke, who had also replaced O'Hara for a season on SCTV. O'Hara also starred in The Nightmare Before Christmas.
O'Hara began her career on television, apart from SCTV, in the mid-1970s. She appeared in the 1976 television film The Rimshots, the children's television series Coming Up Rosie for a year, and television specials, such as Witch's Night Out and Intergalactic Thanksgiving. But it was her performances on SCTV that earned her fame in Canada, which is why she returned to the show, not only as an actress but as a writer for both SCTV and SCTV Network 90, which earned her an Emmy Award for outstanding writing and two Emmy Award nominations. She also has written for SCTV Channel.
O'Hara has appeared in a number of television series and television films and continues to work in television. During the '90s, she made guest appearances on Tales from the Crypt, Oh Baby, Morton & Hayes and The Larry Sanders Show. She served as actress and director on Dream On and The Outer Limits, the revival of the '60s series of the same name. O'Hara has guest-starred on top-rated television series including Six Feet Under and Curb Your Enthusiasm. In May 2008, it was announced that she had signed on to star in the upcoming ABC dramedy Good Behavior. Her role in the 2010 television film Temple Grandin earned her three award nominations: a Primetime Emmy Award, a Satellite Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
O'Hara has also had a successful career in film. She made her feature debut in the 1980 film Double Negative, which also starred her SCTV co-stars John Candy, Eugene Levy, and Joe Flaherty. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, O'Hara appeared in many supporting roles, including Martin Scorsese's After Hours and Heartburn, with Meryl Streep. She had more notable roles in Beetlejuice, the blockbuster hit Home Alone and its sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. In 1992, O'Hara worked alongside Jeff Daniels in the comedy There Goes the Neighborhood. O'Hara continued to appear in many films during the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century. She received roles in four of Christopher Guest's mockumentary films, three of which earned her awards and nominations: Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration. Her role in 1999's The Life Before This won her a Genie Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. She also appeared in episodes 6, 10 and 11 on the tenth and final series of the UK Whose Line Is It Anyway? In 2006, she starred with Christina Ricci in the fantasy feature Penelope. O'Hara has served as a voice artist in a number of animated movies, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, Chicken Little, Over the Hedge, Monster House, Brother Bear 2 and Frankenweenie.
Since 2015, O'Hara has starred alongside Eugene Levy as Moira Rose in the CBC sitcom Schitt's Creek. Her role has earned her two Canadian Screen Awards for Best Lead Actress in a Comedy Series, at the 4th Canadian Screen Awards in 2016 and the 5th Canadian Screen Awards in 2017.
Celebrities impersonated on SCTV
O'Hara met production designer Bo Welch on the set of Beetlejuice. They were married in 1992, and together have two sons, Matthew (b. 1994) and Luke (b. 1997). She is the sister of critically acclaimed singer-songwriter Mary Margaret O'Hara, and is a singer-songwriter in her own right, having written and performed songs in Christopher Guest's film A Mighty Wind. She is a naturalized U.S. citizen. She currently lives in Los Angeles, California with her husband and children.
Awards and nominations