Fun­ny­man chan­nels mum

Louie An­der­son tells Julie Eley in LA how he tries to show the hu­man­ity of his Bas­kets char­ac­ter.

Sunday Star-Times - Escape - - FRONT PAGE -

Co­me­dian Louie An­der­son didn’t have to look far for in­spi­ra­tion for his Em­my­win­ning role in the SoHo com­edy Bas­kets – he mod­elled the part on his mum.

An­der­son, who plays Chris­tine Bas­kets – the mother of em­bit­tered rodeo clown Chip, and his twin brother Dale (both played by Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis), says: ‘‘It’s so crazy, isn’t it? I’ve turned into my mother. ‘‘My pock­ets are full of cough drops. ‘‘I’ve taken sev­eral of her ges­tures.’’ And even her jew­ellery. ’’I have a pair of her ear­rings that I wear. And I have her brooch that I wore on one of [Chris­tine’s] out­fits.’’

But he’s not quite sure how his mum, who died in 1990, would feel.

He likes to pic­ture her as part of a moth­ers’ realm in heaven, hap­pily cri­tiquing his per­for­mance and telling her in­ner cir­cle, ‘‘Well, he’s got some parts of me that are OK, but I don’t do that with my lips, I don’t roll my eyes, and I don’t like but­ter quite that much.’’

Even if An­der­son does have a fond­ness for dairy food in real life, the self-con­fessed food ad­dict who says his first words were ‘‘sec­onds, please’’, has been asked to curb his ap­petite by Bas­kets‘ ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and cocre­ator Jonathan Krisel. That’s be­cause An­der­son’s role has ex­panded as it strikes a chord with fans.

‘‘In sea­son one, I was con­scious to not make [his part] too big be­cause of, sort of, some phys­i­cal lim­i­ta­tions. I didn’t wanna over­tax him,’’ says Krisel.

‘‘But I told him af­ter the first sea­son, ‘I’m go­ing to write in more stuff and you gotta get pre­pared. Get into shape, get some of your demons un­der [con­trol] ... ‘Cause I’m go­ing to go for it and ... I don’t wanna kill you, but I’m gonna tax you’.

‘‘He lost a few pounds, you know. He went for it and a lot of his strug­gle that he was go­ing through, we just put right in the show. We shot a scene where Chris­tine is con­sid­er­ing do­ing gas­tric by­pass surgery and af­ter we shot it he goes, ‘You know I just went through this con­sul­ta­tion a cou­ple of weeks ago’.’’

But while the earnest bar­gain­hunt­ing Chris­tine may have dropped a cou­ple of dress sizes, An­der­son is quick to stress that his char­ac­ter re­mains es­sen­tially the same.

‘‘We are all search­ing for one thing in Bas­kets, the hu­man­ity,’’ says the three-time Emmy-win­ning fun­ny­man.

‘‘The hu­man­ity of this char­ac­ter, that’s my goal, to show Chris­tine with the amount of hu­man­ity she has, the amount of dig­nity she has, and the amount of strength ... I al­ways get a bit emo­tional ... to keep go­ing.’’

It’s hardly sur­pris­ing 63-year-old An­der­son tears up when ref­er­enc­ing his mother. He was one of 11 chil­dren, and his mother was their shield – pro­tect­ing them from an of­ten an­gry, al­co­holic fa­ther.

In sea­son two, Chris­tine’s fam­ily has moved in op­po­site di­rec­tions, with Chip rid­ing the rails and per­form­ing with a bunch of ‘‘hippy, trippy freaks’’.

How­ever, Krisel promises it won’t be long be­fore he is back in Bak­ers­field and, when he is, fans can ex­pect to see more scenes fea­tur­ing An­der­son, Gal­i­fi­anakis, and Martha Kelly – who plays Martha Brooks, a low-key in­surance agent who is Chip’s only friend.

For Kelly, the role is a dream come true as she con­fides, ‘‘I don’t have a big emo­tional range in real life so it’s nice that my char­ac­ter doesn’t ei­ther.’’

It’s a strange con­fes­sion from a woman who makes her liv­ing as a stand-up co­me­dian, so how did she ever find the courage to per­form in front of a live au­di­ence?

‘‘When I started I would drink be­fore I went on stage and that helped a lot,’’ she re­calls. ’’Then I quit drink­ing. I’m al­ways ner­vous but usu­ally it ends up be­ing re­ally fun.’’

Not so fun is when An­der­son or Gal­i­fi­anakis de­cide to go off script dur­ing scenes. De­scribed by Gal­i­fi­anakis as the worst im­prov actress he has ever come across, Kelly says, ‘‘I am al­ways paral­ysed by a change in the di­a­logue and stuff.’’

But it’s those very changes that An­der­son wel­comes, rel­ish­ing ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to make his co-stars laugh.

It’s a part he clearly loves and he knows just who to thank.

‘‘[It’s] just kind of one of those weird karmic things,’’ he says. ‘‘I’m pretty sure my mom had some­thing to do with it.’’

Bas­kets, Soho, Wed­nes­day, Fe­bru­ary 1. 9.30pm.

Louie An­der­son’s role in Bas­kets has ex­panded af­ter pos­i­tive au­di­ence re­ac­tion.

LUCY NI­CHOL­SON

Co­me­dian Louie An­der­son at this year’s Prime­time Emmy’s.

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