Louie Anderson, who rose to fame as a stand-up comic, then channeled the spirit of his late mother for his Emmy-winning turn as Christine Baskets on the FX series Baskets, has died. He was 68.
Anderson died Friday in a Las Vegas hospital of complications from cancer, his longtime publicist Glenn Schwartz told The Hollywood Reporter. Anderson had been undergoing treatment after being diagnosed with a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Louie Perry Anderson was born on March 24, 1953, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The second-youngest of 11 children (six boys and five sisters), he grew up poor in the Roosevelt Homes housing project. He blamed his father, Louis, an abusive failed musician who battled alcoholism, for the family’s woes and praised his mother for filling the household with love and hope. Anderson, who said he had a “lifelong food addiction,” claimed his weight problem was the result of the turmoil at home. After graduating from Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul, Anderson spent several years counseling troubled youngsters.
In 1981, Anderson took first place in the Midwest Comedy Competition, hosted that year by Youngman, who hired him as a writer and helped shape him as a performer. Anderson’s breakthrough came in November 1984 when he made his national TV debut on The Tonight Show. A few months later, Louie Anderson was featured alongside Bob Saget, Rita Rudner and Sam Kinison on HBO’s ninth annual Young Comedians special.
Louie Anderson made his film debut as a taxi driver in Cloak & Dagger (1984), then showed up in the 1986 films Quicksilver, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Ratboy. In 1988, he starred with Richard Lewis and Richard Belzer in The Wrong Guys and had his memorable cameo in Coming to America. He voiced his younger self as well as his father on 1994-98’s Life With Louie, winning two acting Daytime Emmys along the way.
In 1996, Louie Anderson headlined the CBS sitcom The Louie Show. In 1989, Anderson published “Dear Dad: Letters From an Adult Child”, a series of emotionally charged letters he wrote to his late father that explored the sense of shame and insecurity he felt growing up and how it fueled his comedy. Next came a tribute to his mom, 2018’s “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, but You Can Read Them Too”.
Mentored by legendary stand-up Henny Youngman, the Minnesota native was named one of “100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time” by Comedy Central in 2004. Anderson’s portrayal of Christine in Baskets earned him his Primetime Emmy in 2016, the first of three straight years with a nomination. He also hosted a revival of the game show Family Feud.
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