Let­ter-per­fect Louie An­der­son

‘Talks with Mom’ still in­form his stand-up rou­tine

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - Showtime - Broward - - SPOTLIGHT - By Phillip Valys

For co­me­dian Louie An­der­son, laugh­ter al­ways de­rives from per­sonal pain. His weight prob­lems, a bit­ter and dis­tant al­co­holic fa­ther, his over­whelm­ingly tol­er­ant mother — all fa­mil­iar top­ics in his 40-year standup ca­reer — gave An­der­son a mo­ment of clar­ity two years ago on the set of the ac­claimed FX com­edy “Bas­kets.”

Af­ter win­ning an Emmy Award in 2016 for play­ing the show’s over­pro­tec­tive, Costco-ador­ing ma­tri­arch, Chris­tine Bas­kets, a role heav­ily in­spired by his re­al­life mother, Ora Zella An­der­son, the comic de­cided to write his late mom a let­ter.

One let­ter be­came sev­eral, An­der­son says now by phone. and the project yielded his mem­oir “Hey Mom: Sto­ries for My Mother, but You Can Read Them Too,” re­leased in April. Each let­ter cel­e­brates his mother, who died in 1990 but raised An­der­son with end­less af­fec­tion and a bot­tom­less tray of grilled-cheese sand­wiches. In the book, whose cover shows An­der­son wear­ing his full Chris­tine Bas­kets wig and house­dress, the co­me­dian re­calls grow­ing up in Min­nesota, a drunk­endriv­ing ac­ci­dent with his fa­ther and the times he chas­tised his mom.

“When I re­ally started putting a mi­cro­scope on [my re­la­tion­ship with my mom], I just re­al­ized, ‘Wow, Louie, you were self­ish,’” An­der­son, 65, says from his home in Las Ve­gas. “‘You should have been a lot nicer to your mom.’”

An­der­son will come bear­ing more fam­ily tales for a per­for­mance Satur­day at the Broward Cen­ter in Fort Laud­erdale. On his way to South Florida, An­der­son tells SouthFlorida.com how he landed the role of Chris­tine Bas­kets, his re­cent com­edy spe­cial “Big Un­der­wear” (re­leased in April on Ama­zon) and his cur­rent re­la­tion­ship with co­me­dian Louis C.K.

Mom isn’t here, but I still talk to her all the time. “Mom, what about this?” She was al­ways a good sound­ing board and hi­lar­i­ous to me. One day, I wrote a let­ter to her af­ter I had been do­ing “Bas­kets.” I pecked it out on my phone and ac­ci­den­tally sent it to my pro­duc­ing part­ner and my man­ager. To my sur­prise, they said it could be a book. I said, “I don’t know, that’s a lot of work.” Then, the let­ters just started com­ing to me. I had to ask my broth­ers and sis­ters stuff, and had to do some real soul-search­ing, and it turned into a book where I learned so much more about my mom. I just started feel­ing, “Wow, my mom re­ally sac­ri­ficed a lot for me, and I didn’t re­al­ize how much.” Moms al­ways do it un­con­di­tion­ally. I have more ap­pre­ci­a­tion for my mom be­cause I’m play­ing a mom on TV.

Well, I wrote this one let­ter beg­ging for for­give­ness af­ter I chas­tised her for her choice of out­fit for a party at Ford’s The­ater. I call my­self the “re­gret­ful, care­less and oc­ca­sion­ally even cruel 10th child.” But I’d also ask tough ques­tions. I asked her, “Mom, why did you give up one of your chil­dren to live with your sis­ter? Was it be­cause you couldn’t have it, or you had so much go­ing on?” And I would ask her, “Why did you stay with our dad so long?” I feel like I know these an­swers, but I can’t ask her any­more. I get a phone call from [cocre­ator] Louis C.K., and he’s like “I’m here with Zach Gal­i­fi­anakis, and we want you to do a char­ac­ter. We want you to play the mother.” And I go, “Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssss.” I was in­stantly ex­cited. I al­ways thought I’d play my fa­ther, be­cause I was so good at that voice in standup.

I play the part on “Bas­kets” com­pletely true, as a real per­son, not as a car­toon. I play it as some­one who’s tak­ing care of two fra­ter­nal twins [both por­trayed by Gal­i­fi­anakis], and I’m a very ma­ter­nal per­son, any­way. You know, some­thing hap­pens to me on set be­fore I play Chris­tine Bas­kets. I make sure Louie An­der­son dis­ap­pears com­pletely in her char­ac­ter. I metaphor­i­cally leave the real Louie be­hind in the hair and makeup trailer, and I go out there as a char­ac­ter based on the ex­pe­ri­ences I watched my mother have, so that I can give her the just due she de­serves. I’m let­ting my guard down and let­ting my mom’s psy­che take over.

Louie An­der­son

Where: Broward Cen­ter, 201 SW Fifth Ave., in Fort Laud­erdale When: 8 p.m. Satur­day Cost: Ad­mis­sion is $25-$45 via Tick­et­mas­ter.com Con­tact: 954-462-0222 or go to BrowardCen­ter.org.

I mean, both. I’m a big be­liever in tak­ing the bur­den you’re car­ry­ing and, gen­tly or vi­o­lently, re­mov­ing it from your­self, just throw it to the wind. When I go do standup now, I’m so present in the mo­ment, I get caught up and have the time of my life. That’s my new mantra that’s I’ve adopted this year: “Let’s go. Let’s have some fun. Let’s live a lit­tle.”

[Louis’ ha­rass­ment] is still a very emo­tional thing, as you know. I’m very, very sad about what hap­pened to those women. I feel ter­ri­ble for them. I’m thank­ful for the job I got from Louis, but the whole sit­u­a­tion — I felt his apol­ogy was thought­ful and heart­felt. What I feel per­son­ally about it, I’d like to keep to my­self for now.

A lot. You know, I was fold­ing my un­der­wear one day, and I held them up and go, “Jeeeeeesus, are these mine?” and I laughed so hard I called my spe­cial that. When you’re go­ing through the TV, you got “Dead­li­est Catch” or “Naked and Afraid.” What am I gonna put on my spe­cial, “Louie An­der­son Likes But­ter”? I cre­ated this mas­ter list of all the best jokes from my six standup spe­cials, so I’ll have this bit about ga­tors in Florida and Joe’s [Stone Crab in Miami Beach]. Some jokes I haven’t done in for­ever.


Louie An­der­son’s Chris­tine Bas­kets char­ac­ter in the show “Bas­kets” is based on his mother. “Hey Mom” is a com­pli­a­tion of new let­ters to her.


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