Louie Anderson, comedian, Emmy winner for ‘Sneakers’, dies at 68

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Louie Anderson, whose four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as the mother of adult twins on the television series “Baskets,” died Friday. He was 68 years old.

Anderson died in a Las Vegas hospital of cancer, said Glenn Schwartz, his longtime publicist. Anderson had a type of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Schwartz previously said.

“’Baskets’ was such a phenomenal ‘second act’ for Louie Anderson. Wish he had a third,” Michael McKean tweeted. George Wallace wrote: “We will miss you, Louie. What an awesome friend. One in a million.” Gilbert Gottfried posted a photo of himself, Anderson and Bob Saget, who died Jan. 9, with the caption, “Two good friends who will be missed.”

A portly, round-faced Anderson used his girth and a turbulent childhood in Saint Paul, Minnesota as fodder for his early stand-up routines.

In a 1987 interview with The Associated Press, Anderson compared himself to another comedian who plagued his childhood for humor.

“Bill Cosby and I had similar goals,” Anderson told AP. “I wanted parents to be able to bring their children and children to be able to bring their parents to my concerts. I think a family that can laugh at family problems is better off. The difference between Cosby and me is that he sees it from an adult point of view and I say it from a child’s point of view.

He struggled with weight all his life, but said in 1987 that he had stopped using his height as stage material.

“I’ve always been tall,” he says. “But I don’t make big jokes anymore.”

Later, her life as one of 11 children in a family led by a troubled father and devoted mother served as a deeper source of reflection and inspiration for Anderson, both in her work on screen and in his best-selling books.

His latest book, “Hey Mom,” released in 2018, was a written tribute to the lessons he learned from her and practical advice for coping with life’s challenges. He also hailed the late Ora Zella Anderson for the role of “Baskets.”

“I just started writing with a letter, saying, ‘Hey mom, I’m playing you on TV. I hope you see it. I hope you’re part of it…” Anderson told AP that year.

He won the Best Supporting Actor Emmy in 2016 for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, mother of twins played by Zach Galifianakis, in FX’s “Baskets.” Anderson, who received three consecutive Emmy nominations for the role, played it with restraint and with specific touches he attributes to his mother.

“Nuance is what I’m looking for, tiny things rather than bigger things. Mom did things with her eyes or her grimace or her disappointed lips — or her passive aggression,” he told the AP in 2015 with a laugh. “Rolling eyes were big in our family.”

Anderson, born March 24, 1953, was the 10th child of Ora and William Anderson. Her father played trumpet with the great musician Hoagy Carmichael and, Anderson said, was an alcoholic.

After his father’s death, Anderson learned how difficult his childhood had been and forgave him, he told People magazine in 2018.

Louie Anderson’s early jobs included advising troubled children. He changed course after winning a comedy contest in the Midwest in 1981, where he was scouted by veteran comedian Henny Youngman, who hosted the contest, according to Schwartz.

Anderson worked as a writer for Youngman, then gained stage experience traveling across the United States. His big breakthrough came in 1984 when Johnny Carson, known for showcasing up-and-coming comedians on “The Tonight Show,” brought him in to perform.

He was a familiar face elsewhere on television, including as the host of a revival of the “Family Feud” game show from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and frequent talk show appearances from end of the night. He continued his stand-up appearances, in Las Vegas where he lived and on the road.

Anderson voiced an animated version of himself as a child in “Life With Louie.” He created the award-winning cartoon series Humanitas, which first aired in prime time in late 1994 before switching to Saturday mornings for its run from 1995 to 1998. Anderson won two Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.

He made guest appearances on several television series, including “Scrubs” and “Touched by an Angel,” and was on the big screen in 1988’s “Coming to America” ​​and the Eddie Murphy comedy sequel. last year.

In a magazine interview, Anderson said he got the role after spotting Murphy, whom he knew from working in comedy clubs, at a restaurant in Los Angeles. Anderson said hello, then made a costly decision that paid off.

“Take Eddie Murphy’s check and put it on my credit card, but don’t tell him until I leave,” Anderson recalled telling a waiter. He ended up with a $600 charge, but Murphy called to thank him and offered to write a part for him in “Coming to America,” Anderson said.

His books included “Dear Dad – Letters From An Adult Child”, a collection of letters from Anderson to his late father; “Good-bye Jumbo… Hello Cruel World,” a self-help book, and “The F Word, How To Survive Your Family.”

The other performers recalled her sweetness. “You were as graceful and kind as you were funny. Sleep well!! Make ’em laugh in heaven,” Viola Davis tweeted.

Rita Rudner, a longtime friend who worked onstage with Anderson, said in a statement, “He was a kind, generous and talented man who leaves behind a legacy of laughter, love and fries.”

“Oh dear. Another great comedian. Another great Vegas star. Such a sweetheart. We will miss you #LouieAnderson,” Penn Jillette tweeted. “Rest now, Louie. You did well,” wrote tweeted Jane Lynch.

Anderson’s survivors include sisters Lisa and Shanna Anderson.


Associated Press reporter Katie Vasquez contributed to this story.

Daniel K. Denny