In the world of comedy it takes a lot to stay relevant, especially if your career spans over three decades. But Louie Anderson has figured out a way to stay on the radar, transcending generations of fans with his work on the stage, screen, and in print.
He's a respected comedian, Emmy Award-winning actor, and best-selling author. Whether you know him from his stand-up specials, movie and TV roles, or poignant and hilarious books, Anderson boldly puts everything he's got into his art.
Recently he has garnered critical acclaim for his role on the FX series, "Baskets," in which he plays the matriarchal role of Christine Baskets. He won a 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for this role.
"It's a wonderful third act," Anderson says. "I think it was something that I was meant to do. I'm having the most fun time doing it. It's meant everything to me. It's definitely been a gift. It's hard to explain. Even when I see the pictures of myself, I go, 'Wow, is this me?' I really disconnect Louie Anderson from the part in that sense. It's kind of a surreal event, to be honest with you. I kind of become the character. I don't know how much I have to do with it or how much it just happens. I try not to analyze it because I think that's the worst thing to do to something you're doing so well."
A major influence on the character of Christine is Anderson's own mother, who he always felt belonged in show business.
"She was smart, interesting and funny," Anderson said. "She had a lot of friends. She could hold court, not in the way of somebody telling jokes, but in the way of entertaining. She was a giant personality and a really unique human being. She loved people and knew how hard their lives could be. She had a light about her that shined brightly."
One of the perks of the success of "Baskets" is it is broadening Anderson's fan base.
"Here, there, and everywhere people are watching 'Baskets,' Anderson said. "When I do a show I see new people and new faces in the audience. I have such a wide range of demographics from the cartoon, 'Family Feud,' all that stuff."
Anderson says that he's "really, really enjoying" his life right now and that he's "having a blast doing stand-up." But in his 30-plus-year career, there were times when he didn't feel that way.
"I didn't want to do it for a while. There were a couple of years there that I really didn't want to do it," he said. "But like every stand-up, there's a curse that we live with that you have to do it. You don't think you're going to do it and then you'll go, 'This could be a good routine. Maybe I'll work on that a little bit.' The last 11 years I've been doing stand-up pretty steady. I'm a stand-up first and everything else is second. I did get tired of it for a while, but I'm not sure it had anything to do with the stand-up, maybe just more me."
Like all good artists, Anderson, 64, is also evolving as a performer, becoming more interested in the darker material he did early on in his career. In a recent interview on NPR's "Fresh Air," Anderson said, "I'm at this precipice right now that I feel like I'll be changing myself on stage," but wondered, "Am I going to betray my audience?"
"I think there's a lot more in stand-up that I haven't done and would like to explore," Anderson said. "Maybe my fans would bristle at some of the material. It certainly isn't where I'm going to become Dirty Louie. When I started out I did a lot more of the darker stuff. I got away from it because of TV and because I wanted to make money. I wanted to be an opening act for all of these people that were asking me to open their shows, like Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, Glen Campbell, Ray Charles. In those days you couldn't do that kind of stuff in front of them.
"I'm raising the register of my stuff, trying to take it here and there," he said. "I don't know where it's going to take me, but I think my stand-up is better. Sometimes people just want one thing, so we'll see. I'm funnier than I've ever been. That's how I grade myself. If I'm really funny and people are dying out there in the audience and standing up at the end, then I'm doing my job."
He also offered some free advice to comedians and writers.
"You have to have a routine with writing," he said. "Writing is work. Writing is rewriting. I always tell comics, 'The best joke you have is underneath the joke you're already telling. Don't quit at the first joke. There's a better joke underneath there.'"
Anderson knows that his comedy has made an impact. He says his biggest contribution has been "making people feel less alone and feel better. Those are the things I know I've given to people." And since comedy is a two-way street, his fans return the favor.
"I feel very loved by my fans," he said. "My heart is wide open. I think to be a great stand-up, your heart has to be wide open."
No matter where he performs, no matter what the material, Anderson aims to leave an impression.
"Good stand-up is like a good song," he said. "It stays with you a while."
Sat. April 1, 7pm
835 NW Wall St., Bend