Comedian and Emmy-winning Baskets star Louie Anderson has died, his rep confirmed to ABC Audio. He was 68.
“…Anderson passed away peacefully Friday morning,” his agent Glenn Schwartz said, citing, “complications from cancer” as the cause of death.
It was revealed in January that Anderson was undergoing treatment at a Las Vegas hospital after he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, which is a common version of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Named by Comedy Central as “One of 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians of All Time,” Anderson’s career spanned more than 30 years. The legendary comic was a mainstay of the ’80s stand-up scene, making his Tonight Show debut with comedy career kingmaker Johnny Carson in 1984.
The second youngest of 11 children, who described his father as an abusive alcoholic, the St. Paul, Minnesota native used comedy as a defense against teasing over his weight as a child. Decades later, he mined his formative early years into Emmy gold, with the Saturday morning cartoon Life with Louie, which debuted on Fox in 1995 and ran for three seasons. He won two Daytime Emmys in the Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program category for his efforts.
A veteran of numerous comedy specials, Anderson’s self-deprecating humor was a staple of his act, in which he often riffed about his weight. His stand-up career led him to Hollywood, first being cast in 1995 — but ultimately replaced by Mark-Linn Baker — in a series that became the ABC hit Perfect Strangers.
Anderson appeared in big screen roles as well, appearing in a small role in 1986’s Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and later in a large supporting role as an ambitious burger flipper opposite Eddie Murphy in the blockbuster Coming To America.
Anderson later became the host of a reboot of Family Feud from 1999 to 2002, before being replaced by Home Improvement‘s Richard Karn, a reportedly bitter pill for Anderson.
From 2003 to 2012, Anderson starred in his own Las Vegas show, Louie Anderson: Larger Than Life, which played at various venues.
In 2016, he was cast as Christine Baskets, the mother to Zach Galifianakis‘ dual role as twin brothers in FX’s comedy Baskets. He won an Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Emmy for his role. On his website, Anderson recalled, “It felt like it was divine intervention when I got the call to be on the show, that somehow my mom, from the great beyond, was finally getting herself into show business where she truly belonged in the first place.”
Anderson’s career was also touched by scandal: In 1997, he was blackmailed by a man named Richard John Gordon, who threatened to expose to the tabloids that the comic sexually propositioned him in 1993.
After reportedly paying Gordon hundreds of thousands of dollars in hush money, Anderson eventually contacted the authorities in 2000, and Gordon was arrested by the FBI following a high speed chase in Santa Monica, California and charged with extortion.
Anderson was also a bestselling author of four books, including Dear Dad – Letters From An Adult Child; the comedic self-help books, Goodbye Jumbo…Hello Cruel World and The F Word: How To Survive Your Family, as well as his most recent book, Hey Mom, in which he caught his late mother up on his successes she didn’t live to see.
He is survived by his two sisters, Lisa and Shanna Anderson.
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