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”.