Louie Anderson, beloved stand-up comedian, actor, and game show host died Friday at the age of 68.
The comedian’s death was confirmed by Anderson’s publicist, noting the cause of death as complications from cancer; earlier this week, it was revealed that Anderson was being treated in a Las Vegas hospital for Diffuse large B cell lymphoma.
“Born in St Paul Minnesota, the three-time Emmy Award winner was one of the country’s most recognized and adored comics,” his rep added. “His career spanned more than 40 years. He was a bestselling author, star of his own standup specials and sitcoms.”
Anderson notably overcame what he described a tough childhood in Minnesota, the 10th of 11 children in a poor household with a loving mother but an “abusive alcoholic father.” “We had to decide whether we would shut off the gas or the lights, because we could only pay one of them,” Anderson told Conan in 2019. “We always shut off the lights because my mom had a thousand candles.”
Throughout the Eighties, the affable Anderson made brief but memorable appearances in films like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off(as a flower deliveryman) and Coming to America, with Anderson reprising the role of lettuce-washing McDowells employee Maurice in Coming 2 America earlier this year.
The following decade, Anderson’s childhood served as the inspiration for the animated seriesLife With Louie, as well as the short-lived sitcom The Louie Show. Anderson was also recruited to serve as host of Family Feud from 1999 to 2002 and was a stalwart on Hollywood Squares during the same period.
While never out of the spotlight, Anderson enjoyed a career renaissance in 2016 with his acclaimed role in the Baskets, playing Christine Baskets, the mother of Zach Galifianakis’ twin characters. Anderson received an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for the role.
Anderson based his portrayal of Christine Baskets after his own mother, a frequent inspiration and subject in his comedy. “It’s a great part,” Anderson toldCBS Sunday Morning of the role in 2018. “Christine Baskets is everywoman. There’s a whole bunch of Christine Baskets in the world, and nobody’s representing them, and I am.”
“Mom! We did it!” Anderson said in his Emmy acceptance speech. “I haven’t always been a very good man, but I play one hell of a woman. This is for my mother, Ora Zella Anderson, who I stole every nuance, shameful look, cruel look, loving look [and] passive-aggressive line from.”
Soon after, Anderson would appear in shows like Search Party (as a bumbling lawyer) andYoung Sheldon. Anderson was also the author of several books that dealt with his childhood and self-esteem issues, includingDear Dad – Letters From an Adult Child and Hey Mom, featuring letters Anderson wrote to his late parents, and the self-help bookThe F Word: How to Survive Your Family.
Many in the comedy world who worked or were friends with Anderson paid tribute to the beloved comic following news of his death.
“Baskets was such a phenomenal ‘second act’ for Louie Anderson. I wish he’d gotten a third. RIP,” Michael McKean tweeted. Comedy Central tweeted, “Louie Anderson was a warm and hilarious presence in comedy. He’ll be missed.”
“Louie was a friend and supporter of mine since the 90s,” director Paul Feig tweeted. “He was always such a lovely man, always caring for those he worked with, always generous. And always so very funny. Thank you, Louie, for everything.”
Daniel Kreps/Rolling Stone