With a career spanning more than 30 years in comedy, there isn’t much that Louie Anderson hasn’t accomplished.
The St. Paul native has performed standup all over the world, taken up residency in Las Vegas, voiced an Emmy award-winning cartoon based on his own life, and even hosted Family Feud. But this past January, Anderson took on a role he likely never imagined: the mother of Zach Galifianakis.
The new comedy series, Baskets, has become a major hit for FX, with Anderson receiving universal praise for his role of Christine Baskets, mother to twin brothers Chip and Dale Baskets, played by Galifianakis.
“Louis CK called me and told me that him and Zach were doing a new show, and that he wanted me to play a part,” he recalls of his introduction to the role. “So I said, ‘Of course’ and then he told me it was playing Zach’s mom. I figured, why not?”
In terms of where he draws inspiration for the role Anderson, who has 10 other siblings, says that his sisters have given him an unlimited supply of material.
“Each one of my sisters thinks the character is based on them, and I agree with them,” he laughs. “I figure if it makes them happy, I’ll let them all think it’s about them.”
In reality, the comedian has been incorporating his mother into his act for decades, meaning he was comfortable with the subject matter.
“I think the character reminds me of my mom,” he says with earnestness in his voice. “I’ve been including my mom in my act for 30 years, so it wasn’t really a stretch. My character, she’s very Midwestern even though she’s in California. There are parts of California that have a real Midwestern feel, like Bakersfield (where the show is set). That made it much easier for me to embrace the role.
“Plus at 62-years-old anytime you get a call for a job, especially from comedy royalty, it’s a good day.”
This May, Anderson is focusing on his other job, getting on stage and performing standup right here in Minnesota. Unlike other touring comics who stick primarily to the Twin Cities, Anderson is exploring the outstate area, with shows in Coon Rapids, Ham Lake, Mora, and Grand Rapids.
“It’s my goal to perform in every city in Minnesota,” he says of his decision to perform in smaller towns as opposed to the usual clubs, theaters or casinos. “I like coming to the smaller towns because these are audiences that might not get to see me otherwise. We have a lot of fun, and the audiences are great. A lot of them grew up on my standup, so it’s great being able to perform for them.”
While he doesn’t know the exact number of towns he’s performed in statewide, Anderson plans to continue growing his list and growing as a comedian.
“I feel like if you aren’t growing then you shouldn’t be doing comedy,” he says. “Don’t mail it in. I always have something more to prove.”
For Anderson that includes an all-new standup special, which he’s working on during his Minnesota shows.
“The special is going to be more of a departure from my past stuff; it’ll be more bawdy and bossy. I think it’s going to be great.”
Whether he’s talking about his upbringing, his family, or his own personal life, his goals for connecting with audiences haven’t changed.
“I want you to talk about the show all the way home, and I want you to talk about it tomorrow morning when you get up.”
While his track record and longevity have helped him to become one of the most beloved comics to ever come out of the Twin Cities, Anderson says he is enjoying the influx of new fans coming to his shows thanks to the success of Baskets.
“There are a lot of new fans coming to the shows,” he says. “There are two types of people who watch Baskets: people who watch with the whole family, or young people. It’s a nice feeling to see young people coming to see me for the first time.”
Regardless if you’ve seen him 20 times or you just heard his name for the first time thanks to the premier of Baskets, Anderson is someone who enjoys bringing his best every night. But as a long-time stand-up and an actor on a successful television show, the question remains: would he rather be remembered for being an outstanding comedian? Or would you want to be known as the best television mom of all time?
“Can’t I do both?” he laughs. “I think that’s the reality of my career: some people are going to know me from the first half because of my standup, and others are going to know me from the show. But I know that without the first half of my career, this second part wouldn’t be possible. They’re both great and I’m really enjoying them both equally.”
Even if it means wearing a dress most days.