Inside the SCTV writers' room with Eugene Levy
Schitt's Creek actor turned out 'little sketches' during 'normal work hours' at SCTV
For Eugene Levy and his SCTV colleagues, a day at the office in 1983 was just like a normal workday — except for the laughter.
"I don't know how work is done. You go to work at 10 o'clock, 10 to six, it's like normal office hours," Levy told CBC host Bob McLean on Feb. 26, 1982. "And you just laugh ... we do, we just have a great time."
Levy, who was 36 at the time, was among the cast members of SCTV, a sketch-comedy series set at a fictional television network of the same name. Among his castmates were John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis, Catherine O'Hara, Martin Short and Dave Thomas.
More recently, Levy won a 2020 Emmy Award for lead actor in a comedy series for his work in Schitt's Creek, a show created by his son Dan Levy.
He was also nominated for a Golden Globe award in February.
Just in case no one knew Levy's work, he greeted the audience as Bobby Bittman, one of his SCTV characters. As the Globe and Mail would describe him over the years, Bittman was an "obnoxious comedian" and a "sleazy Las Vegas comic."
"How are ya?" he asked, gesturing with both hands and ending with a braying laugh.
"He's one of my nauseating characters," said Levy. "I'm sorry for doing that. I'm terribly sorry if I offended anybody."
Along with Candy, Levy also made up one-half of the accordion-playing polka duo the Shmenge brothers on SCTV.
McLean wondered if a writing session for the show was "wild and woolly" or "really serious."
Levy said it was neither, describing the laughter in the room and the process of working with his colleagues at the Second City, the comedy revue that had spawned the TV series.
Levy said the writing process involved everyone writing their "little scenes," followed by a table read and feedback.
"Then you go back and rework it. It's not that bad," he said.
Second City had started the television show "in 1976," said Levy.
"It started as a half-hour local show here in Toronto," he explained. "And after seven shows it got picked up for syndication.
The show had had "no promotion, no publicity," he said, but "fanatic fans" in different cities had boosted its popularity through word of mouth.
By 1982, SCTV's Mackenzie brothers, played by Moranis and Thomas, were the breakout stars of the show with a recurring sketch that poked fun at Canadian content regulations. It even spawned a subsequent album.
"They have done more for Canada than Saturday night hockey," Levy said. "It's phenomenal."
In 2018 some of the cast reunited for a taping of a forthcoming Netflix special from director Martin Scorsese.
Flaherty, Levy, Martin, O'Hara, Short and Thomas gathered at a Toronto theatre for a conversation moderated by talk show host Jimmy Kimmel.