Eugene Levy travels the world -- whether he wants to or not

Eugene Levy
Eugene Levy initially passed on the offer for “The Reluctant Traveler,” which would take him outside of his comfort zone. Now he wants a Season 2.
(Pat Martin / For The Times)

Comedian Eugene Levy is a nature lover, which is why his arm is shoulder-deep in an elephant’s rectum. That’s where you’ll find him in Episode 6 of his Apple TV+ show “The Reluctant Traveler.” It’s not for laughs and it’s not for love, it’s just the 76-year-old “Schitt’s Creek” star taking a stool sample from an ailing pachyderm, something he never would have thought of doing sitting at home, which is generally where he’d rather be.

Instead, the series has him circling the globe in episodes set in Finland, Costa Rica, the Maldives, Venice, Utah, Lisbon, South Africa and Tokyo. Each one features five-star resorts, A-list cuisine and activities tied to local customs. In Finland, he goes ice fishing and tastes reindeer meat.


“I really didn’t like it but I chewed it and said, ‘This is pretty good!’ And they got all happy and that was great,” he recalls from his home in Toronto. “I could have said, ‘Honestly, I knew I wouldn’t like it.’”

“Schitt’s Creek” hotelier Eugene Levy hosts a travel show that finds him staying in luxury resorts and forced into uncomfortable adventures.

Feb. 23, 2023

It’s not a show about a grouchy old neurotic who learns to love to travel. Instead, it’s a show about a grouchy old neurotic who learns to deal with it. The scariest elements aren’t the deadly big five of the African savanna — lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. No, for Levy the most frightening thing of all is playing a role he’s never played before — himself.

“I was nervous about it because I never really wanted to be myself on camera,” he says. “As a character actor in comedy, I put on looks. I can take it as far as I want to take it because it’s not me. But hosting this thing and being yourself, talking about traveling and food and meeting people, that was completely new territory for me.”

Which is why Levy was so reluctant to participate in “The Reluctant Traveler.” But executives at Apple TV+ were huge “Schitt’s Creek” fans and thought the man who played Johnny Rose, co-manager of the sitcom’s Rosebud Motel, would be perfect to introduce audiences to many of the world’s finest hotels. When Levy’s agent first mentioned it, the comedian flatly rejected the offer. And when executive producer David Brindley insisted on a phone meeting, Levy took the call intending to politely list all the reasons he was passing.

The actor Eugene Levy stands in a boat in Venice's canals.
Eugene Levy in “The Reluctant Traveler.”
(Apple TV+)


“They said this is actually a better show because it’s with somebody who’s got a lot of issues about traveling,” he recalls. “So, when the idea was pitched back to me, I said OK, I get that. If I can be myself and not have to pretend to be excited about every single thing, that made sense to me.”

The first episode takes him to the frozen north of Finland, where he looks cold and uncomfortable and hardly happy to dine on reindeer. But by the fourth episode he inches toward embracing adventure. His fear of heights freezes him on a suspension bridge in the Costa Rican rainforest, and terrifies him during a desert copter flight in Utah. But at the same time, he begins to warm to the people around him, whether it’s Milo, a member of the Navajo tribe who invites him to his nephew’s traditional dance performance, or Alessandro, a third-generation Venetian gondolier who, nearing retirement, is preparing to hand his boat down to his son.

“I understand family, I totally get it,” Levy says, having co-created “Schitt’s Creek” with his son, Dan. The two co-starred as father and son while his daughter Sarah played café owner Twyla Sands. The Levys shepherded the show through six seasons, winning a record nine Emmy Awards in a single season for a comedy series and two Golden Globes.

Eugene Levy
(Pat Martin / For The Times)

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“I was just delighting in watching him work,” he says of his son. “And my daughter, I got such a kick out of watching both of them on camera. But I also got a big kick watching him in the writing room and how he started taking over the room, how quickly he developed into a really topnotch showrunner in such a short time. Just a lot of pride in that experience.”


Born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Levy was in his 20s when he auditioned for the touring production of “Godspell,” which was casting from nearby Toronto for performances north of the border. He and his buddy Martin Short tried out, as did such young hopefuls as Gilda Radner, who would go on to “Saturday Night Live” fame, and actor Victor Garber (“Titanic”).

“It was our very first professional show,” Levy recalls. “The call-back auditions are still so memorable to Marty and me. We still talk about it a lot, seeing Gilda Radner for the first time auditioning. Her audition song was ‘Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah’, and we though how cute is this girl? How sad that she doesn’t know what to audition with. Little did we know that’s all she needed. It was an amazing show, our first show. And the most exciting thing about it was we got a check every single week, $160 bucks.”

Eugene Levy standing alone in a remote location with a suitcase "The Reluctant Traveler" on Apple TV+.
Eugene Levy in “The Reluctant Traveler” on Apple TV+.
(David Bloomer/Apple TV+)

Also in the show were Andrea Martin and Dave Thomas, both of whom later joined Levy, Short and John Candy in the cast of the Canadian sketch comedy show “SCTV.” It ran from 1976 to 1984, launching the careers of numerous comic greats and winning Levy two Emmys for his writing. It’s the subject of the upcoming “An Afternoon With SCTV,” a long-awaited Netflix documentary directed by Martin Scorsese.

“I know he loved the show, which is why he wanted to do it,” Levy says of the renowned filmmaker. “It was a great show. I know I was in it but I have enough objectivity to know it really was a great show.”


With the film tied up in post-production, Levy says he hopes to see it before he dies. Or at least before the second season of “The Reluctant Traveler.” “I’m more confident being on camera now than I was when the show started,” he says. “The basic principle of this is don’t be afraid to try something when it comes to traveling. I was always the one to say, ‘Knowing me, I’m not going to like it. So why would I even bother?’ And now at least I can say I was there.”