Arts and Culture

Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning comedian, dies at 68

Comedian Louie Anderson
Comedian Louie Anderson performing his stand-up comedy routine inside Rocks Lounge at the Red Rock Resort in Las Vegas. Anderson died Friday at age 68.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images 2017

Updated: 5:15 p.m.

Louie Anderson, whose more than four-decade career as a comedian and actor included his unlikely, Emmy-winning performance as a mom to twin adult sons in the TV series “Baskets,” died Friday. He was 68.

Anderson died at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from cancer, said Glenn Schwartz, his longtime publicist. Anderson had a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Schwartz said previously.

Anderson said his Emmy-winning role in "Baskets" was inspired by his mother who raised 11 children — ages ranging two decades apart — in a St. Paul housing project.

"My mom loved the box store she loved the 80 cent star would be for the 99-cent store. My mom loved, we loved Jerry's chicken. We love all those things,” Anderson told MPR News in 2017. “And I tried to bring every single one of those things that I can from the east side of St. Paul right into Hollywood."

His strategy for putting that past onto the screen: Be natural.

"I try to forget the camera's there," Anderson said. "I think of myself in the kitchen, or wherever my mom and dad or we all were, I just think of it there. And what my mom might've been going through."

Actor and comedian Louie Anderson
Actor and comedian Louie Anderson posing with his Emmy for outstanding supporting actor in a comedy for the FX sitcom "Baskets" in 2016.
Frederic J Brown | AFP via Getty Images

Anderson won a 2016 Emmy for best supporting actor for his portrayal of Christine Baskets, mother to twins played by Zach Galifianakis. Anderson received three consecutive Emmy nods for his performance.

He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show “Family Feud” from 1999 to 2002, on comedy specials and 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 primetime in late 1994 before moving to Saturday morning for its 1995-98 run. Anderson won two Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.

He made guest appearances in several TV series, including “Scrubs” and “Touched by an Angel,” was on the big screen in 1988′s “Coming to America” and in last year’s sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.

Anderson also toured regularly with his stand-up act and as a stand-up comedian.

In his 2018 interview with The Current, Anderson encouraged others to keep pursuing their ambitions.

"I tell people, 'never give up.' I think it's too tempting — especially in the climate we're in — to give up,” he said. “I was over 60 when they brought me the Baskets character of Christine. I never saw it coming. It was a meteor. So, hang in there you guys."

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