I’m sad to have to report that on the same day we lost the big man of rock, Meat Loaf, we also lost the big man of comedy, Louie Anderson. He died in Las Vegas at 68, just three days after being hospitalized with large B-cell lymphoma, a form of cancer he had been privately battling.
With his large frame, sweet demeanor and self-deprecating jokes about his weight, Anderson burst into national fame during the comedy boom of the ‘80s with a star-making debut on Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show.” He quickly became a mainstay in Vegas; appeared in a number of movies including “Coming to America” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off;” and popped up on many TV talk and variety shows, game shows such as “The New Hollywood Squares” (he even hosted “Family Feud” for three years), and sitcoms. Dennis Miller called him one of the few comics he would leave his dressing room early to watch.
He got three Emmy nominations and one win as Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy for playing the mother of two characters in the bizarre FX series, “Baskets” (it wasn’t about transgenderism; he was a male comic actor playing an overweight, older woman.) He also created and voiced the cartoon series, “Life With Louie,” based on his troubled childhood with 10 siblings. It showed how the bullying he endured over his weight helped him develop his sense of humor. He won two Daytime Emmy Awards for his performance. He also wrote four books, all self-help books from his personal viewpoint about dealing with childhood abuse, weight problems and self-esteem issues.
One of my favorite bits of his that remains timely was about how he complained to the government for years about a pothole in front of his house. Finally, he noticed some workmen pouring a driveway, asked if he could borrow a bucket of asphalt, dumped it in the hole himself…and neighbors streamed out of their houses, cheering him and throwing him an impromptu parade.
Those nostalgic for the days when comedians were funny and people didn’t scream about being offended by every joke might get a kick out of reliving Louie’s debut on Johnny Carson’s show from 1984. Here is it on YouTube. RIP, Louie.