“Hi! I’m Moira Rose. And if you like fruit wine as much as I do, then you’ll appreciate the craftsmanship and quality of a local vintner.” With her deranged and drunken delivery of that line, Catherine O’Hara birthed a comedy icon in season one of “Schitt’s Creek.” The Canadian series has slowly gained traction here in the States, with much thanks due to O’Hara’s wild performance as washed-up soap opera actress Moira Rose. It’s time O’Hara gained traction with Emmy voters as well.
O’Hara plays the narcissistic Moira with a sense of insanity rarely seen in mainstream comedies. Her go-for-broke performance includes a speech pattern with overly elongated vowels and an elastic face that can conjure extreme emotions without any dialogue. She is also aided by an absurd collection of asymmetrical wigs and a black-and-white wardrobe that looks pieced together by delusional “Project Runway” rejects. It’s a dream role for a comedic actress, and O’Hara sinks her teeth into it with unmatched verve.
This year’s fifth season wasted no time in providing O’Hara with another perfect showcase. In the premiere, “The Crowening,” Moira is gleeful to be on location in Bosnia shooting her first acting gig in ages: “The Crows Have Eyes 3: The Crowening.” The director of the schlock horror film glumly states that with a plot centered on apocalyptic mutant crows “we know what we’re making,” but Moira earnestly replies, “a timely allegory about prejudice.”
Her convictions surrounding the artistic merit of the C-list film provide the biggest laughs of the episode. Eventually we glimpse Moira in her crow costume as O’Hara hams it up with a prosthetic beak nose and feathered coat. Perched atop a giant nest, O’Hara delivers a monologue about prejudice against her feathery ilk in a hysterical “crow” voice — think a demented version of Yoda. Only O’Hara could sell Moira’s sincerity for such a ridiculous scene.
Given the stomach pains O’Hara gives viewers from laughing, it’s crazy that she has never won an Emmy Award for acting — Moira Rose-level crazy. In fact, O’Hara’s only acting nomination at the Emmys was Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for “Temple Grandin” in 2010. She hasn’t been nominated since then.
O’Hara did win an Emmy Award in 1982 as a writer. She was part of the team that won for the variety series “SCTV Network 90” (for the episode “Moral Majority Show”). Fellow “SCTV” alum Eugene Levy was also part of that winning writing team, and now he once again co-stars with O’Hara to play Moira’s husband Johnny on “Schitt’s Creek.”
O’Hara has spent years creating outrageously funny performances. Her work in “Beetlejuice” and “Home Alone” are classics. She has played truly wacky women in Christopher Guest’s movies; I particularly love her criminally underrated portrayal of an actress caught up in awards season hoopla in “For Your Consideration.” Moira Rose from “Schitt’s Creek” is destined to be similarly remembered as one of O’Hara’s crown jewels. It’s time to invite this comedy queen back to the Emmys for one of her most delicious performances.
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