Although considered to be at one of the high points of his 30-year-career as a stand-up comedian, Louie Anderson wouldn’t mind if journalists scrapped the word “resurgence” for something a bit more poetic.
“This isn’t really a resurgence,” Anderson, 64, told the me during a phone interview earlier this month. “This is a brand new third act of my life. It’s like the window has opened and people can hear me. They have rediscovered me.”
What they have rediscovered is Anderson doing what he has been doing ever since he made his professional TV debut on “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” in 1984—making people laugh. The only difference this time is that he’s doing it while wearing colorful blouses.
In the hit FX comedy series “Baskets,” Anderson plays Christine Baskets, the mother of twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets (both played by Zach Galifianakis). The role earned Anderson an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series last September.
During our interview, Anderson, who is making a tour stop at the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio, Texas, on Sunday, March 26 at 7pm, talked about his success on his new TV show, growing old, and why he doesn’t do political humor on stage.
Did you actually come to San Antonio to shoot your scene in “Cloak and Dagger” in 1984?
Um, I’d have to look that up. Was I in that movie?
Yes, you had a small role. You played a taxi cab driver.
Ah, OK. No, we were on a street at Universal Studios.
Oh, that’s too bad. Compared to other cities, San Antonio doesn’t have too many major films we can claim.
So, then, yes! Let’s say yes. Yes. That’s how you fix that. You can start the rumor.
You made your first appearance on national TV in 1984. A lot of what you did back then was self-deprecating humor, which I know you still do now. How much has your material changed?
I like to tell people I do all the F words—family, food, father, being fat, being over 50. All the clean F words, I guess. I do a lot of food stuff. Did I mention food? I have a lot of fun. Stand-up is my first love and the thing I would put at the top of my résumé.
You’re turning 64 on Friday (March 24). Do you plan to use the Beatles’ song as an intro to all your shows?
That’s really a great song, isn’t it?! I was at a birthday party recently for somebody who was turning 64 and they played that song when they walked in. It’s certainly a song of my era. But I’d rather be 46. It’s always better to be younger because parts wear out and you can’t just go out and get them like knees and the back. I’m in pretty good shape, but I think 64 might change it all—change the perspective. If you were to ask me if I feel 64, I would say no. I just did a Funny or Die and I felt very young.
When you go on stage now to do stand-up, does it feel like a job or is it still as fulfilling as it was early in your career?
Oh, yeah, if not more so because now there is a whole new group of people getting to see me. It’s like I have a whole new audience. That gives me a boost right there. I’ve always believed this: You have to get up for your show. You have to be there—be present. You have to do a great job. Don’t mail it in. If you’re there 100 percent, your audience will also be there.
You mentioned that you are a clean comedian. Do you think there was a time in your career where you could’ve made the decision to go the other way and become offensive or controversial?
I think I could’ve been a completely different comedian, yeah. But I think for me, it wouldn’t have worked. What’s innate for me and comfortable for me is what I’m doing. If the dirtier or edgier stuff became more important to me, I would do it. So, I think for me I wanted to reach the family. I wanted people to be able to bring their kids and their parents to my show. Also, you get a lot more jobs on TV when you’re clean. At least that’s how it was when I started out.
So, along with staying clean, something else I noticed, especially now that everyone is doing it, is that you don’t talk politics. Why don’t you go there?
Yeah, I don’t talk too much about politics. In real life, if you did a survey of your audience, you might be surprised who your fan base is. [Politics] is not my thing. I guess I could be very political. I think everyone is political with their own beliefs, but I want people to have the greatest time they can [at my shows]. I want them to be able to forget their troubles. I want them to leave behind the newscast and just relax.
But you’re active on Twitter, so all you have to do is tweet something to Donald Trump and you’d be in the headlines the next day if he tweeted you back.
Oh, yeah. I do do an impression of him in my act. People can come and see that. [Trump] looks a lot like my oldest brother, so whenever I see him I always think of my older brother. But [politics] really isn’t me. It’s not where I’m going. I have a lot of beliefs and I love this country, but I’m a stand-up comedian. I mean, so many people are doing the political stuff and I’m glad. I think there’s an appetite for it, but my appetite is for a taco shell made out of chicken.
I know you pulled your inspiration for your character Christine Baskets on “Baskets” from your mother. What would she think of your portrayal? Would she find it funny?
Yeah, I think she’d really like it, but then she’d try to correct me. She’d be like, “You know when you’re doing that one thing, Louie? It’s not the same way I would do it.” I get it, mom. It’s OK. I get it. So, she would love it. She would feel special because it’s definitely a homage to her. She’s be thrilled.
The second season of “Baskets” is coming to an end this week.
Do you hope the ride continues and FX says yes to a third season? What would that mean to you? (Editor’s Note: After this interview, Netflix renewed “Baskets” for a third season).
Well, what I love is what’s next for the family and what’s next for Christine. The writing is so good. The people are so terrific. There’s just so much great stuff going on. I just feel the ride is getting up on that big hill and getting ready to go on another season. Everybody, I’m sure, would be excited to do it. I try not to think about that too much. I try to be present. I miss working on it when I’m away and I love working on it when I’m there.
You’ve joked before that you’re the most successful Anderson child—you come from a family of 11 children. Can you give me an example of what your brothers and sisters do for a living?
Oh, yeah. I had one brother who was a locksmith and also spoke to police departments about crime. Two of my sisters were homemakers. Both had six kids, so they were full-time moms. My other sister was a hairdresser. My other sister owned a flower shop. So, they had small businesses. I have a brother who is a carpenter and another who worked for a pawn shop for years. My other brother was a high school janitor. He’s the brother that was much funnier than I was, actually.
What is an Uncle Louie like?
You know, I love all the kids. I’m doing a benefit for one of my nephews who is deaf to help raise money for his school in Minnesota. I try to give advice, but try not to tell people what to do with their lives. I try to be loving and caring and kind and understanding. I want them to know they can confide in me. I want the best for them. I have one nephew who is a stand-up comic. He’s doing really well. He doesn’t mention he is my nephew, which I really think was the smart way to go. He wanted to make his own way. I want them to be able to do things and try things and get the most out of their lives.