Mike Hagerty, a Chicago kid who became a Second City improv star before embarking on a long career in film and television, died Thursday.
Hagerty, the son of a Chicago cop who attended St. Cajetan grade school and Marist High School, starred alongside Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell in “Overboard” and had roles on the television hits “Friends” and “Seinfeld” — to name a few of his gigs as one of the industry’s most successful character actors.
A glance at his face or the sound of his blue-collar Chicago accent could immediately spark a game of “What else was he in?”
Hagerty, 67, died of a sudden illness at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, according to friends and family.
He was scheduled to be in the Chicago area in the coming weeks to film the second season of HBO’s “Somebody Somewhere” in Naperville and surrounding suburbs.
In a January interview about filming the show’s first season in the Chicago area, he told WMAQ-TV: “I think I put on about 20 pounds when I was there, like I’m not heavy enough already, but you get me near a Portillo’s and I just go nuts. You can’t get that food in Los Angeles.”
He added: “I’m crazy about the town, I’ve always loved Chicago ... that’s my home and it will always be my home.”
Hagerty’s family issued a statement that read, in part: “His love of his hometown Chicago and his family were the cornerstone of his life. Mike, a devoted husband, is survived by his wife Mary Kathryn, his sister Mary Ann Hagerty, her wife Kathleen O’Rourke, and their daughter Meg. He will be sorely missed.”
Hagerty met Mary Kathryn at a small Chicago theater. Both were in their early 20s. He was working onstage. She had an offstage job.
According to friends, Hagerty flew her to Ireland and asked her to marry him at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. She said: “Of course. I was made to marry you.”
Kelly Leonard, an executive with Second City, said it was a sad day for the improv community.
“Mike was so iconic, the quintessential Chicagoan. I started here as a dishwasher in 1988 and he came back whenever he was in town, and he gave you the time of the day no matter who you were. He was awesome,” said Leonard.
He co-wrote and co-starred in three 1980s revues on the Second City mainstage: “Also Available in Paperback — A Retrospective,” “Orwell That Ends Well” and “True Midwest, or No, But I Saw the Movie.”
“Anybody who met the man or worked with the man was after the man to be his friend, and if they were a good person they were let in, and if they weren’t, they were not,” actress and Second City alum Meagan Fay said during a phone chat Friday.
“And if you were Irish you got extra points,” chimed in former Second City producer Cheryl Sloane, who was also on the call and noted Hagerty was a traditional Irish Catholic guy from the South Side through and through. And funny as hell.
“You could be trapped in a never-ending horrible scene in Second City that you couldn’t get out of and Hagerty could walk on stage and end it in a second with the biggest laugh of the night,” Sloane recalled.
“His humor came from watching the everyday guy make it through a day and the inherent humor of just life,” Fay said. “He was able to distill down a myriad of survival tactics of the common man that could reach everyone in a room no matter what your background was,” Fay said.
Asked if he ever fell into the trappings of Hollywood celebrity, both friends scoffed.
“Oh, God no,” Sloan said. “He liked bars that reminded him of Chicago.”
He preferred jeans, a T-shirt, suspenders and a tweed cap, refusing to give up the cap when he moved to Los Angeles in the 80s, they said.
His mustache was another call sign.
“There were a couple of parts where he had to shave it and we all revolted at the site of his upper lip,” Sloane said with a laugh.
“We sat around here last night trying to maintain sadness, which is in all our hearts, but you couldn’t help but erupt into laughter at everything we shared with each other about the man. He is now the king of comedy in heaven and I said last night, ‘Listen, we all just got a little funnier on earth because the funniest man on earth just went to heaven.”
Bridget Everett, Hagerty’s co-star on his most recent HBO project, said in an Instagram post Friday: “I loved Mike the instant i met him. He was so special. Warm, funny, never met a stranger. We are devastated he has passed. Mike was adored by the entire cast and crew of Somebody Somewhere. Our thoughts are with his wife and family.”