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Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning comedian, has died at 68

Comedian Louie Anderson dies at 68
Comedian Louie Anderson dies at 68 00:28

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

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

Actor Louie Anderson attends the 68th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 18, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  Frazer Harrison, 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.

In 2018, he told CBS' "Sunday Morning" he took the part seriously. Anderson grew up the 10th of 11 children in a housing project in St. Paul, Minnesota – a sweet-and-sour stew, he called it. His mom was sweet; his dad, an abusive alcoholic, was sour.

"You know, the great thing about my mom was she protected us," Anderson told correspondent Lee Cowan. "She took all the brunt, and this is such a great repay, and tribute. I get to pay her back."

Baskets | Season 3 Ep. 6: Christine Smokes Scene | FX by FX Networks on YouTube

In 2019, Anderson told CBS Local he never felt closer to his mother, the late Ora Zella Anderson.

"I think she could have been president. I think she was one of those people who could have been anything and, you know, to me she was everything," Anderson said.

He was a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show "Family Feud" from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and in 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 prime time 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," and was on the big screen in 1988′s "Coming to America" and in last year's sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.

In a magazine interview, Anderson recounted getting the role after he spotted Murphy, who he knew from working in comedy clubs, at a Los Angeles restaurant. Anderson said hello, then made a costly decision that paid off.

"Take Eddie Murphy's check and put it on my credit card, but don't tell him until after I leave," Anderson recalled telling a waiter. He ended up with a $600 charge, but Murphy called to thank him and offered to write a part for him in "Coming to America," Anderson said.

Last year, Anderson told CBS Local he jokingly advised Murphy in the early 1980s to have a "cleaner act." He said Murphy's use of profanities reflected how "real people" talked.

"I talk like my mom's in the crowd and my grandma's there too with a wooden spoon so she can hit me if I swear, so I'm more that guy, and I wanted families to be able to come and see my show," Anderson said.

Anderson's early jobs included counseling troubled children. He told CBS Local he started doing comedy "on a dare" in 1978. In 1981, he won a Midwest comedy competition, where he was spotted by veteran comic Henny Youngman, who was the contest's host, according to Schwartz.

Anderson worked as a writer for Youngman and then gained onstage experience while crisscrossing the United States. His big break came in 1984 when Johnny Carson, known for showcasing rising comedians on "The Tonight Show," brought him on to perform.

Anderson told CBS Local he could remember watching Bob Hope, Jack Benny and Richard Pryor on the show and was influenced by their performances. Anderson said his "Tonight Show" appearance boosted his career.

"The next day, I was working in Vegas, and the next week, I was opening for the Commodores and I had a deal from NBC," he said.

Anderson's books included "Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child," a collection of letters from Anderson to his late father; "Goodbye Jumbo… Hello Cruel World," a self-help book, and "The F Word, How to Survive Your Family."

His book "Hey Mom," published in 2018, was a tribute to the wisdom imparted by his mother and how-to tips on facing life's challenges.

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