Comedian Louie Anderson died Friday morning in Las Vegas of complications from cancer, according to a representative. He was 68.
Anderson, a longtime stand-up comic who won an Emmy in 2016 for playing the mother of Zach Galifianakis’s twin characters in FX’s “Baskets,” had worked on-screen since the 1980s. He appeared in 1988’s “Coming to America” as the longtime McDowell’s employee Maurice, a role he reprised in the film’s sequel, released last year. He also hosted the game show “Family Feud” for three years, beginning in 1999.
In 1994, Anderson co-created the animated sitcom “Life with Louie,” based on his experience growing up in Minnesota with 10 siblings (though the show itself takes place in Wisconsin). He voiced the fictional Louie, as well as other members of his family. The series lasted three seasons and won two Daytime Emmys.
“Life with Louie” contributed to Anderson landing his role in “Baskets,” according to a 2016 Vanity Fair interview that also said series co-creators Galifianakis and Louis CK were sold by an impression Anderson did in a stand-up routine of his own mother. But rather than lean into what he described as a “cartoonish” approach to playing someone of another gender, Anderson used his own voice while playing Christine Baskets.
“I think that’s what gives this something, some reality,” Anderson said, adding that “it seemed like I was made to play this part.”
Christine was “a version of my mom, but a combination of my five sisters and my sister-in-laws,” according to Anderson. His mother figured into much of his work - whether literally, such as with his 2018 book “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too,” or with the lessons she imparted.
Last year, for the 20th anniversary of 9/11, Anderson recalled to Vulture how she inspired him to be “thoughtful and comforting” to the audience that came to see him perform in Las Vegas soon after the tragedy.
“I’m a descendant of people pleasers, caregivers, and comforters,” he said. “I used my mom’s adage: ‘Be nice to people, Louie. You never know what kind of day they’ve had before they’ve seen you.’ But I did know what kind of day we all had. We had to go on and not let anything or anyone stop us from living.”
Many of the early social media tributes to Anderson made note of his kindness. Comedian Travon Free, who described Anderson as “a very dear friend,” noted that the longtime comic would often “put me and a couple of other comics he loved up in a hotel in Vegas and pay us to open for him when we needed money.”Actor Henry Winkler tweeted that Anderson’s “generosity of spirit will cover the world from above.”
“We are so lucky you were on earth for a moment, spreading your humor all over like bars of living gold,” Winkler wrote.
Sharing a photo of himself alongside Anderson and Bob Saget, who died earlier this month, comedian Gilbert Gottfried wrote, “This photo is very sad now Both good friends that will be missed.”