A Real-Life Family Feud

Talk Show Host Repairs Family Ties

With all the talk about dysfunctional families these days, one entertainer has found a way to draw from his personal experience and turn it into comic fodder for a well-known game show.

Correspondent Bernie Goldberg reports for 48 Hours on the sobering life story of Louie Anderson, the new host of Family Feud.

One of the staples of the TV game-show circuit is Family Feud. In it, family members compete for $10,000 in prize money.
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"They yell at each other sometimes, 'You're so stupid!'" Anderson gives as a sample.

"You know the ride home's got to be brutal. Don't you think? No radio on," he continues. "'One hundred and eighty-two points and you had to say cantaloupe!'"

Anderson makes a fitting host for Family Feud, because behind the scenes he's been the central character in a real-life family feud. By his own admission, it could be called the Anderson Family Feud.

He has 10 brothers and sisters, and by all accounts he's the most successful of the lot when it comes to money.

Does this mean he gets plaintive calls starting with "Louie?"

"I haven't had a request in 15 minutes," says Anderson, who is 37.

"I'll give you an example," he offers.

The conversation might start off, "Hi, Louie. How are you?" he explains.

"Good. How are you?" the dialogue might continue.

"And I'm waiting for it," Anderson explains. "'Well, you know, my car broke down.' It would be some kind of situation, you know," Anderson says. "Little Eddie robbed a bank, and he needs money to get out of jail."

"Well, isn't every successful person in every family the bankbook?" Anderson says. "Everybody wanted to make it. One guy makes it. In a family when one guy makes it,...'Hey ain't you going to help us out?'" he says.

"I'm lucky I don't resent them anymore for it," he admits.

"Yeah, because I used to resent them. I hated them for doing that to me, because I felt like that's all I was good for," he says. "You think, 'These are my older brother and sisters; tey shouldn't do this to me.'"

His family is what you might term "interesting."

According to Anderson, one brother was a safecraker; another was homeless; yet another brother is sometimes a pretty big gambler. "I have to think of which one is which. Because some have multiple things," Anderson declares, adding that a sister has psychological problems.

His father, also named Louie, played trumpet in Hoagey Carmichael's band and drank a lot. He has passed away, along with Louie's mother.

"I was 10th of 11 kids in an alcoholic, abusive poor family," Anderson puts it plainly. "We all want things that we can't have. And I found comedy."

"I don't want to give you the wrong impression of my dad," Anderson says on stage, during his act. "He never hit us....He carried a gun. He never shot us....just click, click."

"Yeah, my father never hit me though," Anderson says. "He used to beat my older brothers and sisters."

"Hey, Mom, does this bother you?" Anderson says on stage. "Keep it up, keep it up. All of a sudden, click, click....Geez, is he home today?"

"He was the kind of guy if we'd be out, all 11 of us, out for dinner, and somebody'd be looking at us," Anderson recalls. "All of a sudden my dad thinks that they were looking at him."

"'What's the problem? How would you like me to come over there and kick your ass?' Out of nowhere," Anderson remembers. "And my mom would go, 'Oh my God.'"

Anderson suggests that a lot of people had parents like that.

While flipping through some photos of his parents, Anderson declares that this is the first time he's seen a picture of the two where they looked really happy. "Thank God, they were in love for some time," he says.

Anderson grew up in a housing project in St. Paul, Minn.

Roger Anderson wants his brother Louie to support him, so that he can retire.
Walking into store he used to frequent as a kid, Anderson declares, "There's the old freezer case; that's the absolute old one." He adds, "If my mom was here, she'd make us take this home....One of the kids could sleep in there."

While Anderson might boast, "I could make that into a routine," underneath it all there's a lot of damage. His life story might be considered funny when one first hears it, but there's another way to view it.

"I had to make something good out of it," Anderson says.

In fact, he's making a documentary about his family's difficult past. He's calling it Complicated Laughter. In it, his brothers and sisers share their feelings for Louie Anderson and his money.

"He's brought our family together," Louie's sister Shana says. "I feel like our family has never been together."

"I have no idea how much he makes. I feel bad he don't tell me," says brother Roger. "I never feel like I'm taking advantage of him as far as I'm concerned....I'd like to retire and have Louie take care of me. That's the way I think; I'm that kind of a person."

Anderson's reaction to such a statement? "I was horrified but then I thought: At least he's honest about it."

"I realized that I would be doing the exact same thing in their position," Anderson says. "You know my brothers and sisters are all wonderful, loving people on their own terms. Why didn't they get this break?"

Complicated Laughter is Anderson's way of dealing with all the years of his troubled family life. But it's also a gift to his family.

"This will be a fabulous thing for them," says Anderson. "They'll know where they came from. They'll know what to do. There'll be a path."

So Anderson, comedian and host of Family Feud, says he's at peace with his own family feud. And the lessons he's learned are really nothing to laugh about.

Declares Anderson on stage: "I would trade everything I have to have had a happier childhood."

This type of lesson he often shares with his audience at the end of a show.

He says he'd give up the fame. "For happiness as a child? In one second," he says.

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