Comedian Louie Anderson died in Las Vegas this morning at the age of 68. He’d entered the hospital earlier in the week for treatment of lymphoma, publicist Glenn Schwartz tells Deadline.
“The three-time Emmy Award winner was one of the country’s most recognized and adored comics,” Anderson’s rep said in an official statement. “His career spanned more than 40 years. He was a bestselling author, star of his own standup specials and sitcoms.”
Born in St. Paul, Minn., Anderson was one of 11 children. He began his comedy career in the late ’70s, performing in clubs around the Minneapolis area.
Anderson then headed west and got an early taste of television during a 1984 appearance on The Tonight Show. He seemed poised for further success when he was cast in a lead role for the television series Perfect Strangers. However, after shooting the pilot episode opposite co-star Bronson Pinchot, producers determined the show’s chemistry wasn’t quite right. When the series went to air, Anderson’s role had been recast, with Mark Linn-Baker taking over the part.
In 1995, Anderson branched into the world of Saturday morning cartoons with Life with Louie. Based on the comedian’s real-life childhood, the series found Anderson voicing his younger self, as well as various other characters on the show. The series was a moderate hit for Fox, airing for three seasons and earning Anderson two Emmys in the process.
Watch Louie Anderson’s First Appearance on ‘The Tonight Show’
Other television projects included the short-lived sitcom The Louie Show, which aired for half a season in 1996 on CBS. Anderson became the host of Family Feud in 1999, helming the game show until 2002. He then turned heads playing family matriarch Christine Baskets over four seasons from 2016-19 on the FX series Baskets, a role which earned him another Emmy nod. Anderson partly based the character on his own mother, and took a lot of pride in getting his embodiment of the role just right.
“I don’t play it cartoony. I don’t play a man playing a woman. I play a woman. I don’t know how to explain that other than I just know something happens to me, and I’m completely connected to that character,” Anderson told Salon in 2019. “It’s like those old movies where the ghost used to inhabit the character. I feel like that happens to me. I feel like there’s a channel going on, or there’s some sort of portal that opens up and allows me to have the complete sunshine of my mom or of all my sisters, or whatever it is.”
Outside of television, Anderson continued his successful stand-up career across the better part of four decades. He was a regular in Las Vegas, enjoying several residencies highlighted by a long-running stint at the Excalibur. “I’ve been to most of these hotels or the ground they stood on,” he told the Las Vegas Review Journal in 2006.
Throughout his career, Anderson battled weight problems, often mining his personal experiences for laughs. He underwent double-bypass surgery in 2003, then almost drowned in 2016 while participating in the reality series Splash. Anderson was rescued from the pool by NFL player Ndamukong Suh, who was also participating in the show.
His best-selling books included Dear Dad: Letters From an Adult Child, Goodbye Jumbo … Hello Cruel World, and Hey Mom.
More recently, Anderson shed some weight during the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m on the intermittent fast. One minute I’m eating, the next minute I’m not. Then I’m eating again,” he told Conan O’Brien in 2020. “I figure, that way, I’m only eating for 30 minutes out of 60, which is half. I’m trying to get down to 40/20 so I’m not eating for 40 and eating for 20.”
Anderson was still active up until his death. In 2021, he appeared on the Showtime series Twenties, as well as the film Coming 2 America.
In Memoriam: 2021 Deaths
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