When it comes to nice guys in the field of entertainment, comedian, actor, author and game show host Louie Anderson is at the top of that list.
He’s genuinely one of the sweetest people I’ve ever professionally worked with and one of the few comics I can call a friend.
So, it was no surprise when I called and asked him if we could talk a little bit about living in the era of COVID-19 he didn’t hesitate for a minute.
Anderson has had a long connection with the Tahoe area because his mom and dad lived nearby just down the mountain in Carson City.
“It’s bittersweet for me as my parents retired there and both died there in Carson City,” he said. “But I love going there and my mom loved coming up to Tahoe when I played there, bringing her friends and people still come up there when I’m performing and would tell me stories about my mom. She was a bit of a celebrity herself.”
It’s no surprise that Anderson harvests much of his comedy based in large part on his family experience growing up and the stories are so funny that people can instantly identify with them. I’ve opened for him several times when he would perform up here in Tahoe and loved sticking around after my set watching from backstage how he connects with his audience and seeing the smiles on their faces.
Anderson has a long list of credits including his career-launching performance on The Tonight Show.
He has appeared in countless movies, one of my personal favs was his role working as a fast food employee in John Landis’ film, “Coming to America” which starred Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall.
Anderson created the cartoon series, “Life with Louie” and has written four books, including Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too, which was published in 2018. And my mom loved him when he was host of the TV game show, Family Feud, from 1999 to 2002.
Anderson got the role of a lifetime playing Christine Baskets, showcasing his range as a comedic actor in the FX comedy television series, “Baskets” in which he received three consecutive primetime Emmy Award nominations (for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series) and won the award in 2016.
Anderson performed a stand up show called “Louie: Larger Than Life” in Las Vegas from 2003 through 2012 that originated at the Union Plaza hotel downtown before moving to the Excalibur, South Point and Palace Station casino hotel.
When I asked him how he’s been doing and if he’d been catching up on things he had otherwise been putting off during this down time he said,
“Oh, my God I went through so much stuff,” Anderosn said.
“What am I doing with all this stuff? It’s so crazy! But I feel great though. I mean, some days I get kinda down but I’m trying to think of a book to write as I’ve been toying with that idea and my book, ‘Hey Mom’ just came out with a new cover for paperback so that was fun. And I did this movie, “Call Your Mother” about comedians and their mothers that was really good, really fun and really different and working on another special as well.”
Sounds like he has no shortage of projects even while in lock down and made it clear that he’s very grateful for what he has when one considers how others are trying to cope getting through all this.
Like many during this pandemic, entertainers have been lending their time to assist in any way possible and that includes comedians.
When NBC partnered with Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios and Funny or Die, Louie lent his talents in a two-hour comedy special that aired Sunday, May 10, benefiting Feeding America.
And like many out there, Anderosn is catching up on binge watching and when I told him it took a pandemic to finally get Netflix hooked up (yeah, yeah, I know don’t judge me okay?) he gave me a list of shows to watch and what he’s been binge watching
“I finished ‘Ozark’ and just finished watching the Michael Jordan fantastic documentary if you’re a sports fan, and after all these years I’ve started on ‘Homeland.’ I watched it early on and I thought I don’t know if I’m gonna like this ‘cause it’s pretty serious but it really got me. I’m in Season 3 now.”
When I asked how he thought comedy was going to re-emerge after the green light has been given he said, “I think all comics are worried right now will things come back and will there be any more stand up comedy?”
There will be comedy yes but how it’s presented of course is going to be a challenge.
Those venues that had seating capacities over 200 or more have the best advantages because when factoring in social distancing you can still have an audience but will be tougher for the bottom line.
I think it’s going to be a combo of those aching to finally get out and hear what a comic’s perspective is on all this coupled with being close to people indoors even with social distancing.
It’s going to take time I’m sure but even with a vaccine one day it’s going to take time wanting to be around other folks.
Anderson did share an observation when talking over the phone.
“I told my mom, I wish you were around, you’d be so happy my hands were this clean,” he said.
Like most comics when I asked Louie if he felt okay during all of this he would start serious and then bring in the humor but ultimately had a profound message to share.
“Well, you know first of all I was very worried because I felt very vulnerable as I’m fat,” he said.
“I have a little asthma and oh yeah, did I mention Howie that I’m fat? So, you know I fit into that category. Mostly though I went back and forth like you where some days were better than others but you know overall I’m just so grateful and humble by the idea that I have no room for complaints or feeling sorry for myself because of all the people who are truly struggling that have lost loved ones that are on the front lines. I mean, I have so much respect and gratitude for all those front line people from the people who clean the hospitals to the doctors who operate on people and everyone in-between. It’s almost like there’s a war going on and you can’t see the enemy.”