A gifted comic actor who also won acclaim as a writer and director, Eugene Levy was born on December 17, 1946, in Hamilton, Ontario, the home of McMaster University, where he enrolled after graduating from Westdale High School in the same city. Levy studied film at McMaster, and, in 1967, became vice president of the McMaster Film Board, a student film group where he met fellow aspiring moviemaker Ivan Reitman. (Other McMaster students at the time included Martin Short and Dave Thomas.) In 1970, Reitman began work on a low-budget horror movie called Cannibal Girls and cast Levy as Clifford Sturges. One of his co-stars was a struggling actress named Andrea Martin, who would later work alongside Levy's old pals Short and Thomas -- as well as John Candy and Joe Flaherty -- on the short-lived Canadian sitcom The David Steinberg Show. Levy and Martin's paths crossed again when they were cast in the Toronto production of the musical Godspell; the cast also included Gilda Radner and Paul Shaffer, in addition to Short, Candy, and Thomas. After Godspell closed in 1973 (just in time for the long-delayed Cannibal Girls to finally hit the grind-house circuit), Levy joined the Toronto company of the famed improvisational Second City comedy troupe, in which Candy and Flaherty were already cast members.
After two years as a part of Second City, Levy, Candy, and Flaherty decided to move to California to try their luck in the States; they didn't fare well at first, but their idea for a television series about a ramshackle, low-budget television station eventually blossomed into Second City TV, or (SCTV, for short). While the show, ironically, brought Levy and his friend's back to Toronto (where it was shot), it also became a solid hit in Canada and developed a loyal cult following in the U.S., and, moreover, launched the careers of Levy, Flaherty, Thomas, Candy, Short, Martin, and Catherine O'Hara in America. (After SCTV's initial run ended in 1981, NBC brought the show back in an extended version called SCTV Network 90, which featured a higher budget, more guest stars, and ran until 1983. Levy also won two Emmy awards as a member of the show's writing staff.) Levy and Candy also created an acclaimed spin-off from the show based around their characters of polka musicians Stan and Yosh Shmenge, a 1984 cable special entitled The Last Polka.