Louie Anderson, longtime comic and game show host who won an Emmy for his supporting role as Christine Baskets in the FX series “Baskets,” has died at age 68.
He passed in Las Vegas following after undergoing treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma. His publicist confirmed his death to Deadline Friday.
Perhaps best known for his brilliant, subversive turn in the 1988 comedy “Coming to America,” he scored the role as the sole white person in the groundbreaking comedy. Anderson chalked it up to his nice-guy Midwestern roots.
His role as Maurice — the seemingly mild-mannered McDowell’s clerk — produced one of the most iconic soliloquies in comedy. “Hey, I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. But now … now I’m washing lettuce,” said Anderson’s sad-sack Maurice with withering underdog determination. “Soon I’ll be on fries; then the grill. In a year or two, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”
In the late ’80s, Anderson — a Saint Paul, Minnesota, native — was at the swanky Beverly Hills celeb-magnet restaurant the Ivy, where Eddie Murphy and his entourage happened to be dining. Anderson footed the entire bill for Murphy and his group, with explicit instructions not to tell the waiter it was him until Anderson left: “Don’t tell him ‘til after I leave. I’m not doing it to be a big shot. I’m doing it because I’m from the Midwest and that’s how we would do [it],” Anderson recounted to the “Sway in the Morning” satellite radio crew in 2017.
The next morning, Anderson received a call from Murphy. He not only offered thanks for the gesture — “Nobody ever bought me anything,” Murphy told Anderson — but also said he wanted to cast Anderson in “a little movie called ‘Coming to America.’”
Marveling at comedic karma, Anderson said, “That’s life, isn’t it? It was the best $660 I ever spent.”
“That’s a big movie in my life, first big job,” Anderson to Sway in 2017, recalling his breakthrough role in the film.
Anderson also said he gave some unsolicited advice to Murphy in the 1980s, when both were on the stand-up circuit in LA: “I’d always go, ‘Eddie, you’re too dirty on stage – be clean. You can be funnier being clean, you’ll just do twice the business,’” Anderson recalled to Sway in the same 2017 interview. “And he’d just look at me,” added Anderson.
But the “Raw” comedian must have listened to Anderson: 1988’s Coming to America smoothed his normal edges, and became the highest-earning film that year for the studio and the second-highest-grossing film at the US box office.
Of his later-life, award-winning television role, Anderson said he based his “Baskets” character on his own mother, who died in 1990.
“Christine is me being able to draw from my mom,” he told The Post in 2017. “There’s joy for me in . . . giving a chance for my mother to shine in the spotlight . . . for all she did for me, to pay it back and step aside and let her shine through loud and clear. Anybody who knew my mom can’t get over how many things I’m using from her.”
At the time he also told The Post that he hoped to return to television again but in a male role — and a drama — at some point.
“I would like to do a drama show and I’d like to play a man again,” he said. “I don’t know if [this role] will translate to people as me being an actor. I do have a lot of people who want to meet with me — a lot of times because they love the character. I’m grateful. I think people think, “Oh, he’s such a good actor,” which makes me believe I was worse than I thought, that I must’ve been quite shallow [before]. But I don’t hold that against anybody.”
In 2018, Anderson weighed in on his love of comedy. “I love the anatomy of a joke,” he told The Post. “It’s like archaeology — if you dig too deep, you miss it, and if you don’t dig deep enough, you won’t find it. It’s a kind of crazy thing.”