By Khalida Sarwari
Anyone familiar with Louie Anderson knows that—much like his stand-up shows—his conversations are littered with F-bombs. Just not the kind that make people want to reach for the soap.
The veteran comedian eschews profanity—the standard fare of many a modern comic—for material that touches upon other ‘F’ words, such as fat, family and being over 50. Four-letter words just aren’t his thing, he said in an interview on a late afternoon in March from the Hotel ICON in Houston, where he’d just checked in prior to a show.
“It’s never really been who I am,” he said. “I guess some people are really comfy with it; it just works for them. But, for me, I don’t feel obligated or interested in doing it. I want you to be able to bring your family to my show. The whole thing for me has always been to get people to feel comfortable. That’s what my pitch is.”
It’s a style Anderson has developed and refined time and again over the course of his 38-year career in entertainment. It paid off recently in the form of an Emmy Award for his role in the new FX sitcom, “Baskets,” where he plays Christine Baskets, the mother of Chip and Dale, both played by Zach Galifianakis of the “The Hangover” trilogy fame.
The show, which follows the lives of Chip, a failed professional clown who becomes a local rodeo clown in Bakersfield, and his twin brother Dale, was co-created by Galifianakis, Louis C.K. and Jonathan Krisel. The former two invited Anderson to join the show specifically in the part of Christine. Anderson agreed right away and went on to create a character that he based on his own mother.
“Christine Baskets is my favorite thing I ever did, and the reason is because it’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “It’s the most real, it’s the most heartfelt, it’s the deepest … it’s a wonderful vehicle for love and understanding and humanity, and I’m completely connected to that character and I just love her. She’s the best.”
While the series has been “a really nice third act” of his career, it isn’t exactly a resurgence, Anderson said. Despite the perception held by some that he’s been out of work until he landed the role, Anderson noted that he’s been headlining his own show in Las Vegas for a decade, during which he did promotional work and filmed stand-up specials, including 2012’s “Big Baby Boomer.”
So if anything, “Baskets” has been a bonus in the middle of all that, he said. “I’m really excited about it, because I feel like ‘Baskets’ has given me a brand new audience in some ways and given me the ability to take (my career) to a new arena,” he said.
But, it’s stand-up where his heart belongs.
He’s been back on the road not only to promote “Baskets,” (earlier this month, the series was renewed for a third season) but also to work on a new stand-up special. Despite his success in television and film, Anderson finds himself returning to the stage. It’s where he started and where he continues to hone his craft and also connect with his audience.
“I really love it, because you can’t fake stand-up; you can’t mail it in,” he said. “There’s nothing like that immediate response; there’s no director, there’s no writer … it’s just you and that microphone and that audience, and it’s immediate if it works or not. It’s a wonderful feeling and I call it a love affair with my audience.”
In fact, he remembers when and where that love affair began: Oct. 10, 1978 at a small bar in Minneapolis called Mickey Finn’s. That was the first time he performed in front of an audience—on a dare, no less. “It was going to be a one-time thing, and I did really well and really liked it.”
Anderson mines his own life for material, drawing inspiration from not only his childhood in St. Paul, Minn., but current experiences and future aspirations. Fans might have noticed family tends to come up a lot in his shows. It’s just as important off-stage for Anderson, who admitted he booked his show in Texas so he could spend time with his sister’s and brother’s families.
He will have nearly five hours’ worth of material to cherry-pick from when he comes to the Montalvo Arts Center in April. Though he’s performed previously at other venues in the Bay Area, such as Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco last summer, it will be his first time in Saratoga, he said.
Audiences can expect references to his parents and 10 siblings and maybe a little bit about “the zoo stuff” from his second stand-up special. In fact, much of his show will hark back to fan-favorite material from previous specials, but there will be some new jokes, too, edgier stuff that Anderson said he’s been working on.
“I’m finding myself re-energized and reignited over my stand-up, which is really a great feeling,” he said.
After his Saratoga show, Anderson will continue onto Florida, where he’ll conclude his tour. Once that wraps up, he said he’d like to take some time off for himself before he starts taping the third season of “Baskets.” To say he’s excited about that would be an understatement.
“It was just a blast,” he said. “I’m really happy to be a part of something so different, to be a part of something that’s so much about family, because everything I’ve done has been so much about family in my life.”
Anderson will perform at Montalvo’s Carriage House Theatre on April 7 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $43-$48 at http://montalvoarts.org/events/louie_anderson_2016 or 408-961-5858.