Pop Goes The News — Canadian actor Frank McAnulty died Sunday, according to friends. He was 60.
The Second City veteran had small roles in TV series like Schitt’s Creek and Covert Affairs and appeared in made-in-Toronto films like 2008’s Kit Kittredge: An American Girl.
McAnulty reportedly suffered a heart attack Sunday afternoon at a shopping plaza on Lake Shore Boulevard East at Leslie Street in Toronto.
“We have lost a great friend, wonderful teacher, and one of the kindest human beings I have ever met,” friend Kevin Frank shared on Facebook.
Comedian Debra McGrath remembered McAnulty as “a lovely man.”
“Aw rats,” commented Elvira Kurt. “Such sad news.”
Facebook is flooded with tributes to McAnulty.
“Frank’s contribution to the theatrical and comedy community over the last 4 decades has been immeasurable,” opined comedian and award-winning writer Robert Pincombe.
“Frank touched a lot of people in his life. He was funny, beyond kind and super supportive, giving many, many people a leg up. He was also a firebrand and quick to speak up loudly at any unfairness.
“And he made a killer pad thai noodles.”
McAnulty left his mark on the Canadian entertainment industry. He taught improv and acting classes at The Second City for three decades, developed The Second City Workshop Centre in London, Ont. and contributed to The Second City Almanac of Improvisation.
But, McAnulty became part of The Second City somewhat by accident. Forging a career behind the scenes — in his 20s he worked as a camera operator for televised sporting events — he decided to sign up for classes at The Second City while working as assistant director on the 1981 series Strange But True starring Barry Morse.
McAnulty was eventually invited to perform.
Andrew Alexander, CEO of Second City, said in a statement: “We are so grateful to have had him in our community. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”
Comedian Debra DiGiovanni shared: “Frank was my first improv teacher. Knowing him led me to stand up.”
Actor David Sparrow remembered McAnulty as “a talented, caring, generous actor, teacher and friend.”
News of McAnulty’s death came late Tuesday, after concerned friends contacted police when he missed a gig and failed to show up for a dinner. An appeal for information was shared on Facebook.
Fellow actor Burke Lawrence has been taking care of McAnulty’s beloved dog Manny.
“Frank was such a part of our comedy education,” actor Gary Jones commented. “He was mental. A big kid on-stage and every scene was a chance to soar with him. And who can forget that laugh? That nutty giggle?
“Oh, God, I’m so so sad but so honoured to have spent time with him and learned from him. Safe journey, Frank. Love you so.”
Born in Sarnia, Ont. to Scottish parents who traveled the globe, McAnulty spent most of his childhood speaking Spanish in wealthy households in South America — including Aruba and Colombia.
Back in Canada, McAnulty married Laura McGhee, with whom he frequently performed on stage (he played Jesus in McGhee’s touring fringe festival show Joyride in the mid-90s.)
His many screen credits included the 2000 movie Frequency and a 1995 episode of Due South. The roles were small — janitor, desk sergeant, burglar, thug, and drunk man.
He also appeared in five episodes of Howie Mandel’s 2009 practical jokes series Howie Do It.
McAnulty’s final TV appearance was as a “mourner”at a funeral in an episode of Schitt’s Creek that aired last year.
McAnulty auditioned three times for Saturday Night Live, including twice for Toronto-born executive producer Lorne Michaels and once for SNL writer Al Franken (now a U.S. senator).
He also auditioned to be the face of A&W in the Canadian restaurant chain’s ubiquitous commercials — a role that went to American actor Allen Lulu.
“I was always funny but I never thought of myself as a funny person,” McAnulty told Moniquea Marion on her podcast Fuck Yes! in 2014. “I didn’t speak English well so I think I had to be funny to make friends.
“I didn’t want to get beat up because I had red hair, freckles … so I think comedy was a defence mechanism. I never thought of myself as being funny. I thought of myself as kind of funny.”
McAnulty told Marion he never took his career for granted.
“It’s a gift to perform for people. It’s an honour,” he said. “How many people get to do this?
“A short, fat bald guy gets laid because he’s on stage.”
Sean Browning, who knew McAnulty for nearly 20 years, paid tribute on Facebook.
“One of my first improv teachers, your class at Second City was where I first met my comedy partner Matt,” he wrote. “When I was out of work you got me my first job in casting, a job that lasted over 12 years. You helped shape my life, my friend.
“Whether it be beers, laughs or thoughtful talks, you were encouraging to a whole community.
“Through tears I say thank you.”
BELOW: A 2015 video promo for a comedy revue directed by Frank McAnulty.
This post has been updated since first published.