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BH Interview: Catherine O'Hara Defends Envelope Pushing Comedians, Bemoans Dearth of Free Expression

BH Interview: Catherine O'Hara Defends Envelope Pushing Comedians, Bemoans Dearth of Free Expression


Veteran comic actress Catherine O’Hara is as busy as ever, even if you don’t always see her face on the big or small screen.

The SCTV alum and Home Alone star works nonstop in the animated realm, lending her comic timing and distinctive voice to projects like Frankenweenie, Where the Wild Things Are and Monster House.

Her latest vehicle, the new to home video A Monster in Paris, lets her bring a fanciful French tale to American audiences. The animated film casts her as Madame Carlotta, a woman trying to break up the film’s Beauty and the Beast-style couple.

Big Hollywood: You’ve been active in voiceover work for some time … Does bouncing between live action parts and roles like Madame Carlotta strengthen your creative voice?

Catherine O’Hara: I’d like to think we all get better at things the more we practice! I like new challenges and the chance to learn something by working with new people. Voice work is often for children’s entertainment and it’s wonderful to be part of the movies that people remember from their childhoods. 

BH: The film is a charmer, no doubt, and the fact that it’s a French production with an English cast means there’s plenty of universal humor in play. Are you finding different cultures have more in common, at least from a humor perspective, these days thanks to the rise of the Web and our interconnected world? 

CO: Yes, the best thing the internet has done is connect the world. It’s a wild frontier and can be wildly abused but it’s helped us understand the differences and similarities between all of us who share this earth. I’m happy the humor in this movie is universal but I’m also happy it has a distinctly French feel. It makes me want to visit France again.

A Monster in Paris

BH: Was creating Madame Carlotta much different since this was voicing an existing character in a French release given an English vocal makeover? Was it harder to make her your own, or was there enough flexibility where you could bring more of your personality to the performance? 

CO: I can’t help but bring something of myself to any role–it’s all I’ve got!–but [director] Bibo Bergeron was very clear about what he wanted and guided me to that. At the same time, he welcomed any ideas I had to offer. It was a fun session.

BH: Had SCTV arrived today and not when it did how would social media and the potential for viral videos affect its success?

CO: Oh man. It’s hard to imagine. It may have been seen by millions more people or it may have died a quick death! Our near anonymity allowed us the wonderful freedom to do whatever we wanted with our show and I’m not sure anyone gets that kind of self-expression anymore, in any medium. I also think it’s hard to parody TV now. It’s already a parody of itself. 

BH: The last few years have been rough for comedians, as fans will catch them telling button pushing jokes on their iPhones and, later, they’re forced to apologize. Are we too easily offended these days? Is this hurting comedy in general as performers know they must walk a fine line lest they be punished in the press? 

CO: Don’t you think social media has also been great for comedians? They don’t need a talk show or live gig to get their ideas and jokes out there to millions of comedy lovers. As for getting caught doing “too early” jokes, I pray it never stops good, smart comedians from pushing buttons. Who else gets to question authority without being taken down by lobbyists or faceless organizations? And what kind of press is punishing funny people for mouthing off? Oh dear, you’re depressing me (but thanks for the great questions)!

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