Louie Anderson and the kindness of America’s eternal child

One of the first killer jokes in Louie Anderson’s stand-up was about the meanness of older brothers. Imitating one of his own in a terrifying voice, he warned that there was a monster in the swamp nearby. With childlike fear in his eyes, Anderson says he avoided that area “until I got a little older and a little smarter and a little brother.”

Oriented to the immediate future, he used his brother’s voice, pointed at the swamp, and told his siblings, “That’s where your real parents live.”

Anderson, who died Friday at the age of 68 From complications of cancer, he has five brothers and five sisters, but over the course of a comedian career spanning four decades, he has formed a much larger family of co-workers. Comedian actors Bob saget, who also died this month, was a younger brother. They started standing on the West Coast around the same time and had their breakthrough in the same 1985 episode of HBO “Special young comedian” (hosted by Rodney Dangerfield), which was then second only to “The Tonight Show” as a springboard to a viable career.

Just this past May, Anderson and Saget were engaged in a love affair podcast conversation, reminisce and laugh, and approach topics cautiously with the sensitivity and warmth of soulmates catching up in the long, isolated pandemic. It’s funny and now, considering the loss of both men, terribly heartbreaking. Both still prolific in their 60s, they seem excited about the present moment and looking to the future. Saget talked about wanting to direct a movie that appealed to people, and Anderson said he wanted to play Fatty Arbuckle.

Of course, that’s not going to happen, and as these friends talk about their careers, I find that their loss represents the end of an important part of an era.

When you think about the comedy boom of the 1980s, the first artist that many people think of is Jerry Seinfeld and his brand of clinically observed humor. For others, it might be the brilliance of rock stars Eddie Murphy or Andrew Dice Clay. But in the age of the big three, the culture has encouraged an inclusive, relatively tight-knit, and hearty comedy that can capture a broad mainstream and at best resonate. Most of all, there is an empathetic humanity.

His intense love for Bob Saget surprises some and is partly a testament to his good-natured, dirty humor and personal chivalry. But it’s also because a large audience has seen him as the friendly father figure on “Full House” and “America’s Funniest Family Videos.” Fans of that comedy also know him as one of the dirtiest jokers around polishing and deepening his reputation. But if Saget becomes one of the few cultural figures who can be described as America’s Dad (are any current stars described in such sweeping terms today?), Anderson perfectly fit an equally idealistic role as the eternal child of our culture.

There’s an innocence and sweetness to a boy in Anderson that never leaves him, even when he’s playing a mother on the show. “Basket” a remarkable and heartfelt performance marked the beginning of his critically acclaimed second act (including his turn in “Search Group”). Like Saget, Anderson has an extensive résumé as an actor, author, and television presenter, but he’s a stand-up and constantly touring. I saw him do a 90-minute set back in 2018 and he has the incredibly low search energy, improvisational energy of someone who is still obsessed with finding a little novelty.

There is a remarkable consistency in Anderson’s work from his early stand-up to his later performances, both in spirit and in subject matter. This includes focusing on food: No one tells fatter jokes, like his perennial opening line, which he used in his first appearance on “The Tonight Show.” and again on “Conan” last March: “Listen, I can’t stay Long. I’m in between meals. ”

More prominently, his big theme is family, especially his always-optimistic mother and angry father. (Speaking as softly as possible, Anderson can scream as much as Sam Kinison.) While his first comedy had plenty of groundbreaking stories, Anderson’s great gift was acting out sentences. story, excellently evoking moments with rapidly changing personalities, showcasing the depth and technique of a seasoned actor.

In a lovely, unusually nuanced scene 1987 hours at the Guthrie Theatre, near his hometown, St. Paul, he recalled his parents’ war. It begins with a teasing imitation of his father, the classic belligerent of an old man. In Anderson’s account, he was the type to say things like, “When I was a kid, they didn’t have a school. I had to find smart people and follow them around.”

On the show, his father boasts with a vulgar, pointless tone about being a veteran of “World War I, World War II, everything, Korea, everywhere.”

Leaving the scene immediately, Anderson explains that as a young boy, he had to search for his mother’s truth – then he raised his eyebrows, flattened his face, and completely transformed into a soft-spoken woman. , shook his head gently. As the audience cheered, he lingered quietly before lowering his voice and saying, “World War II.” There was something about the quiet in the way he explained this that moved her. His mother wanted to correct the record but could not help but feel humiliated. The scene escalates into a fight, and while it can be incredibly dark, it somehow isn’t.

The reason, in my opinion, is that at the heart of Louie Anderson’s art has always been a compassion and grace for everyone, including (maybe special) those he teases or criticizes, like his father.

It’s a quality that can be lacking, but it’s one of the things you hear very vividly in that podcast with Saget, who asked Anderson if he’d ever thought about becoming a therapist. pastor or not. Anderson replied that he finds therapy in comedy.

Because they were comedians, the talk eventually turned to death, specifically Dangerfield’s funeral in 2004. Saget attended the ceremony and said he was actually being whistled by Jay Leno. . In the podcast, Saget thanked Anderson for his support. Anderson told him: “I know it must have hurt you, what he did. I won’t let you hang there. Jay probably just did it out of anxiety. Maybe he needs to do it so he doesn’t burst into tears.”

Leno is a polarizing character to their generation’s comics, and to his detractors, he’s an emotionless joke-telling machine, possibly partly implicit as Saget is quick to respond to. Anderson’s suggestion that Leno is trying to avoid tears: “I don’t think he does.”

In the gentle way of a friend, Anderson disagreed. “I bet he has.” Then Saget immediately changed his mind, almost as if he realized that the humanity of this thought was more than the fun of his gibe shirt.

“All I want to do is hug you,” he told Anderson at one point.

It’s an unusually emotional comedy podcast, but it’s no small thing that these old friends were able to share this last moment of connection.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/21/arts/television/louie-anderson-bob-saget.html Louie Anderson and the kindness of America’s eternal child

Fry Electronics Team

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