Our favourite fool
Why Toronto’s comedic dynamo Eugene Levy rules the roost
Clockwise from top: Eugene Levy and Catherine O’Hara from the Christopher Guest film Best In Show, the cast of Godspell, Levy is front and centre between Gilda Radner and Jayne Eastwood, Dan Ackroyd and Eugene Levy from a Second City production
This month marks yet another installment in the silly teenage comedy series American Pie. And there is only one person who has appeared in all 10 of them: Eugene Levy. Through these films, American audiences have come to know and adore what Canadians have known for decades: Namely, that Levy is a brilliant comedian and has the rare ability to make people shudder with laughter simply by raising his eyebrows. And, it all started right here.
Levy is a product of Hamilton but began his comedy career, as many of the greats have, in the Second City improv comedy troupe. Through Second City, and its television offshoot SCTV, Levy established himself as a first-rate comedic actor through his memorable characters, including Earl Camembert, Bobby Bittman and Stan Schmenge as well as his impersonations of everyone from Neil Sedaka to Howard Cosell.
Levy has rarely carried films himself — excluding a starring role in the movie Armed and Dangerous, opposite the late, great John Candy — instead opting for brilliant and memorable character parts. Never were his comedic skills put to better use than in the films of Christopher Guest. Levy had hilarious turns in four of Guest’s funniest films, including Waiting for Guffman, Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration, in which the stars were given the outline of the plot but worked out the dialogue by improvisation. The technique would eventually come to define the term “mockumentary.” Levy, along with Guest and Michael McKean, won a Grammy Award for Best Song from a Motion Picture in 2003 for the title track to A Mighty Wind.
He has also received numerous other awards for his work, including two Emmy Awards and five Canadian Comedy Awards, and he became a member of the Order of Canada in 2011. But perhaps most important to his true fans is the fact that unlike other comedic actors from north of the border, Levy decided to live and work right here in Toronto.
That’s why Eugene Levy is our favourite April fool.