Funnyman channels mum
Louie Anderson tells Julie Eley in LA how he tries to show the humanity of his Baskets character.
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.
Comedian Louie Anderson at this year’s Primetime Emmy’s.