Another great has passed, and though we will always have his body of work to enjoy, there is nothing like seeing a master comedian at work. If you never had the chance to see Louis Anderson weave comedy gossamer live on a stage, you really missed something.
Comedy can be many things, but in my forty-nine years as a comedian I have never seen anyone do comedy the way Louis did. He gently, unhurriedly, delivered the most poignant, incisive, empathetic, hilarious, honest comedy I’ve ever seen. He was so gentle the harsh truths of his and all our lives didn’t sting. But they certainly hit their mark. He took his time onstage, as if spontaneously thinking of what to say next, yet the show was so beautifully written, so well reasoned, it surprised and delighted at every turn.
Louis could play anywhere, because his act was so human, so humane. He could probably do the same show at a retirement home he’d do to Hell’s Angels and get a standing ovation in both places (okay, maybe not a full standing ovation at a retirement home). We worked outdoor, out of control, wide open county fairs together back in the day. Open air stages in the bright sunlight of late afternoon. Motorcycles speeding by right in front of us, laughter, eating, running, shouting, music; I don’t remember but I think the money must have been great for us to venture into that comedy hell. And yet there was Louis, as quiet as ever onstage, having faith that they’d come around, lean in, start to listen, always triumphing in the end. He emanated vulnerability, the seeming opposite of much comedy, but it made people love him.
I loved the show “Baskets”, where Louie played Christine, a character based on his mother. Not a moment’s hesitation for the audience to suspend disbelief. His Christine was so real, so believable as a put upon woman dealing with two sons and romance and life, and never once gave us a distorted parody of what someone who had no idea of women’s lives thought a woman should be. What a heart he had! There was a scene at the end of one of the episodes where Louis as Christine puts on her black bathing suit and all alone, walks into the water, finally enjoying the relief of it, looking at the lights, breathing out, and I cried my eyes out. I wished she was my mother.
He was so full of love, onstage and off. He never walked by a panhandler without giving, he never left a waiting fan without an autograph or photo no matter how many he’d already done. He kept in touch with friends and went above and beyond. The last time I saw Louie was right before the pandemic when our mutual friend Doug Kleiman took me to New York’s Cutting Room to see Louie’s act. That show blew me away. To have been in comedy that long and still come up with a show as strong and stunning as in the beginning is no easy thing. I was floored. He was fantastic.
Please don’t say to me “Sorry for your loss”. We weren’t close friends, but part of the comedy family where we all seem to keep tabs on each other. With his voice silenced, I would say to you rather, “Sorry for our loss”.
Comedian Elayne Boosler screams out the blues and breaks free from society’s constraints, all to the sound of her idol Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother & the Holding Company’s 1968 album Cheap Thrills.
Funny Jean Smart very smart for playing wisecracking lady comic in “Hacks.” Now Emmy nominated she cites a few other female funny gals she’s fond of.
Jean Smart: “I’ve always loved watching comedians, Roseanne Barr was hilarious, loved Phyllis Diller as a kid, I remember Ellen DeGeneres’ first appearance on the Johnny Carson show and of course Joan Rivers, especially the early stuff. But of any woman I think my character is closer to Elayne Boosler in terms of rhythms and things like that. I like playing a comedian without the real risks of being a stand-up.”
Your intrepid tale teller and humble hilarity hounder found Boosler, a ‘Tonight Show’ regular over the last 30 years vacationing in Italy. It was late there. She was still funny.
Elayne Boosler: “I am thinking of suing Jean Smart. I cannot believe she is using my name to further her career.” Bawdy Boosler guffawed and then got serious. Elayne Boosler: “I can’t believe she even KNOWS my name! I am beyond fatutsed–that’s flattered in Brooklyn–that she knows my work and beyond that, that it has even one teensy molecule of contributing to the outstanding character she plays on one of the best, funniest and most enjoyable shows ever.”
Also Emmy bound, Smart’s also smart costar Hannah Einbinder. She was already a comic. On the show she’s brought in to punch up Smart’s punchless punchlines. Elayne Boosler: “I think the dynamic between Hannah Einbinder’s character as an ‘alternative’ comedian, and Ms. Smart’s character as a comedian, is brilliant. I look forward to having my name mentioned at least eight to eleven more times. Not many people know this, but Ms. Smart also based her character in ‘Mare of Easttown’ on me. I am thinking of living in Italy. I would only come back to hand Ms. Smart her Emmy for Hacks.”
By the way, schlepping to Italy, was Boosler visiting ruins? In a small local cafe sipping espresso? No. Her very ciao Bella behavior. Elayne Boosler: “I just finished watching Friday’s Mets game.”
Come back Elayne, the Mets play on TV here too.
Tom and Julie celebrate the life and career of the legendary Charles Grodin (1935-2021) with help from legendary guests Martin Short, Elayne Boosler, and Merrill Markoe. They talk Clifford, Grodin’s infamous appearances on Carson and Letterman, Midnight Run, the invention of cringe comedy, The Heartbreak Kid, unlikeability, Real Life, and more.
When I started performing at The Comedy Store in 1976, Paul Mooney was already a star there, leaving audiences exhausted from laughter. I remember so many of his great bits. They were always funny first, but also always packed with cultural awareness and justifiable anger. Paul was a justice crusader his entire life. He was funny, smart and fierce; scary if you didn’t know him and sometimes scary even if you did.
One day I ran into Mooney down my street at Ralph’s grocery store (comics are always amazed to see each other in daylight). I invited him up the block to my house for coffee.
“I don’t drink coffee.” (And remember, he really liked me.)
“Well how about a cup of tea?”
“Oh, you wanna bring a black man up to a fancy white neighborhood to see a fancy white people’s house you think he’s never seen before?” That was Mooney’s first response to everything and anything you might say to him.
“Paul, let’s go to the movies.”
“Oh, you think a black man never saw a movie before? He needs a white lady to get him into the movies?”
He agrees to come over for tea. In those days, I drank only one kind of tea. I thought it was the most special delicious tea I’d ever had. So Paul’s sitting at the kitchen table and we’re talking, and I’m boiling the kettle and putting the cups on the table. And he’s talking and I put the box of tea on the table and go back to the sink, and I realize I don’t hear him talking any more.
“Paul? Paul?” He’s nowhere to be found. I hear his car pull out of the driveway. I don’t know what happened. Then I see it. There on the table is the box of tea: “Plantation Mint”.