LOS ANGELES — Louie Anderson, whose four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets,” died Friday. Anderson was 68 years old.
Glenn Schwartz was Anderson’s long-time publicist. He died in Las Vegas from complications of cancer. Schwartz stated previously that Anderson suffered from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
“’Baskets’ was such a phenomenal ‘second act’ for Louie Anderson. I wish he’d gotten a third,” Michael McKean said on Twitter. George Wallace wrote: “You’ll be missed, Louie. You are an amazing friend. One in a million.”
Anderson was a round, portly man with a round face. He used his weight and his troubled childhood in Saint Paul to fuel his stand-up routines.
Anderson compared himself with another comedian in 1987 when he spoke to The Associated Press.
“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. It is more fun for a family to have fun with their family’s problems than it is for them. The difference between Cosby and myself is that he sees it from an adult perspective and I tell it from a child’s viewpoint.”
He had a life-long battle with weight, but said in 1987 that he’d put a stop to using his size as stage material.
“I’ve always been big,” he said. “But I don’t do fat jokes anymore.”
Anderson’s life as one 11-year-old child in a dysfunctional family was an inspiration to him in later years. This reflection and inspiration is evident in both his screen and best-selling books.
His latest book, 2018’s “Hey Mom,” was a tribute in letters to the lessons he learned from her and how-to tips on facing life’s challenges. He also gave the late Ora Zella Anderson a shout-out for his “Baskets” role.
“I just started writing with one letter, saying, ’Hey Mom, I’m playing you on TV. You should see it. I hope you’re a part of it…” Anderson told The Associated Press that year.
He won the best supporting actor Emmy in 2016 for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, mother to twins played by Zach Galifianakis, in the FX series “Baskets.” Anderson, who received three consecutive Emmy nods for the role, credited his mom with elements of the character.
Anderson’s early jobs included counseling troubled children. After winning the 1981 Midwest Comedy Contest, Anderson changed his mind. He was then spotted by Henny Youngman who, according Schwartz, hosted the contest.
Anderson began his career as a Youngman writer and gained experience on stage while traveling across the United States. His big break came in 1984 when Johnny Carson, known for showcasing rising comedians on “The Tonight Show,” brought him on to perform.
He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and in frequent late-night talk show appearances.
Anderson voiced an animated version of himself as a kid in “Life With Louie.” He created the cartoon series, which first aired in prime time in late 1994 before moving to Saturday morning for its 1995-98 run. Anderson received two Daytime Emmy Awards in recognition of his role.
He made guest appearances in several TV series, including “Scrubs” and “Touched by an Angel,” and was on the big screen in 1988′s “Coming to America” and in last year’s sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.
Anderson spoke out in a magazine interview about how he got the job after meeting Murphy at a Los Angeles restaurant. Anderson said “hello” and made the costly decision to pay off.
″Take Eddie Murphy’s check and put it on my credit card, but don’t tell him until after 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.”
Sisters Shanna and Lisa Anderson are his survivors.