More Louie Anderson

Louie Anderson performed an imitation of an owl during a March 2011 show at Mitchell Auditorium. 2011 file/ News Tribune.

Okay, I can be a part of this Louie thing, too. Our friends at Perfect Duluth Day have been talking about the old Louie sitcom, which was set in Duluth and according to most accounts, terrible. The News Tribune Attic created a compilation of pre-show hype and the DNT’s pan of the program. (Attic-maker Andrew also unearthed some positive reviews on the internet).

So here’s my Louie now-ish update. The Minnesota-native returned to Duluth for a show in March 2011. Here’s my interview with him beforehand:

Anderson goes with comedic flow
   There are three people trapped in Louie Anderson’s body: Edward Cullen, Bella Swan and Jacob Black.

    The longtime comedian with Minnesota roots channeled the emo faces of “Twilight” during a bit on the “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” in the fall. He still cracks up just talking about it.
Anderson tousled his hair, pushing it over his forehead, and tried to break up with Bella (played by himself), using a moody vampire monotone. ThenAnderson morphed into the part-time werewolf Jacob, smoothing his blond hair into a faux hawk and snarling.
More and more, Anderson has been trying to kick it current when he’s in front of a microphone.
     “I’m having more fun with that kind of thing than ever,” Anderson said in a recent phone interview from Las Vegas, where he performs five days a week at the Louie Anderson Theater at Palace Station. “It’s no fun to see a comedian who has no spontaneity in what they’re doing. My goal is to throw in new stuff.”
     Anderson, who set a short-lived CBS sitcom “The Louie Show” in Duluth in the mid-1990s, performs at 7:30 p.m. March 18 at Mitchell Auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica. Tickets are $36 and are available at
Anderson has been on Craig Ferguson’s show three times since August. A situation where a host is a comedian hosting a comedian can be tricky,Anderson said. There can be a competition to impress the other funnyman. Not so with Ferguson.
“He and I work really well together,” Anderson said. “We’re less competitive and into it for the greater good of the audience.”
During a show in February, Anderson performed a joke about trying to outrun an alligator. How the game plan is to zig and zag, because although they can run 35 mph, alligators can travel only in a straight line. He was zeroing in on the final zing and Ferguson, unknowingly, played the punch line: “Don’t do that!” the host said excitedly, arms waving. “Because if you zig, it will be moving forward, and when you zag, it’ll be waiting for you.”
     A less-seasoned comic might have panicked. These comic minds think alike. “That was my joke,” Anderson said. “I went Wow.’ “
     So Anderson punctuated it with a pose, simulating an alligator lying on its side, its little alligator head propped on its alligator hand, and looked into the camera with a sleepy smile.
This is this sort of thing that Anderson finds funny in other comedians: Spontaneity. Surprises.
     “When you don’t see a joke coming, that’s when it hits you hard,” he said. “That’s what causes you to spit up milk and pee a little if it’s really good.”
     Maybe this is why Anderson struggles with Twitter as a comedic tool. He’s got a handle – @louieanderson – which he uses to mostly say nice things. “Craig Ferguson is one of the best people I’ve worked with in show business and a good person to boot!”
     While the rest of the Twitterheads are scouring Charlie Sheen’s timeline and playing armchair comic-slash-psychiatrist, Anderson asked his nearly 2,000 followers: “Doesn’t Charlie Sheen have one person in his life who can reach him? It’s so sad, we love you Charlie.”
     Anderson concedes that he hasn’t quite gotten the knack of these 140-character blasts. He could have live Tweeted the Grammy Awards. Maybe he’ll do it in retrospect. He loved those Muppets.
     “Everybody has a dumb spot,” Anderson said. “I think I have to be a little meaner. I have to be able to shoot it out there better. Landing in Fargo. Turned my watch back to 1963.’ Got up this morning, decided to go back to bed.’ I’m too sappy. I like people too much.”
Anderson grew up in Minneapolis, and that’s where he made his first comic marks. He still likes a good joke about his home state and gets back here to visit family.
“I just got back from Minnesota,” he said during his performance on Craig Ferguson. “I had to get out of there before someone asked me to shovel.”
“It was a good joke that was accurate,” Anderson said, a few weeks removed from the show. “And no matter who you are, they’ll ask you to shovel. I felt like someone should mention there has been a lot of snow everywhere, but in a funny context instead of a sappy joke.”
     A Minnesota audience is a giving audience, he said. He becomes so comfortable that he is able to skate further on the ice, comically speaking.
     And, if you wonder how it all played out, here’s the review:
Louie Anderson still one of the best at physical comedy

   Louie Anderson’s mom was a hoarder. He tried to throw away a paper bag once and she said “What’re we, the Rockefellers?” Then once he was digging in that magic space between the cupboard and refrigerator, the universal spot for housing old brown paper sacks, and he pulled out a bag from Red Owl.
That grocery store had been closed for a decade.
    Here Anderson stopped to bust out an impersonation of the infamous owl logo. His elbows jutted up around his ears, a sort of pinched, evil, scrunched face and toothy rodent look. He posed like this for at least 10 fantastic seconds while the 500 plus in the audience at Mitchell Auditorium at the College of St. Scholastica roared.
    “I’ve never even seen what that looks like,” Anderson chuckled after he dismounted from the impersonation. It’s a doozy alright, and part of Anderson’s amazing arsenal of looks.
The blond-haired, round-bodied Minnesota native might not be an athlete, but in more than 20 years of contorting his face into slack-jawed wonder and wide-eyed confusion, Anderson remains one of the best at the art of physical comedy. On Friday night he morphed into an antagonistic feline, dissing its owner with a tail and misanthropic eye rolls, and mimed a traveler shuffling through the security maze at the airport in Minneapolis.
     Anderson performed an 80-minute show for a crowd  of mostly of people who understood what it is like to try to read small print and mistake digits in a phone number.
“Is that a W?” he asked. Then: “I can’t read anything smaller than that Egypt’ sign over there,” he said, gesturing in the direction of a neon Exit sign over the door.
   Anderson’s show was the clean personal narrative that has earned him comparisons to Bill Cosby – or maybe the favorite uncle you call dibs to sit next to at Thanksgiving dinner. Stories about his mother’s love for butter and the time his father used a charcoal grill to heat up the car so he could start it in the winter. The time young Louie broke the driver’s side door off the family car trying to parallel park – a blunder that his dad fixed by snaking rope between the steering wheel console and the door.
    “My mom ate every piece of butter in the Midwest,” and lived into her 70s. “My dad smoked, he drank, we finally had to kill him when he was 79,” Anderson said.
There was a bit of audience interaction, where he riffed on the feedback. He tossed out questions to Jay, a 50-something in the front row, and expressed amazement at Eric, a 34-year-old also in the front row.
   “When I was 34 I could pee from my bed all the way to the toilet,” he said. “The arc on it”
He got big love from the audience – a standing ovation – passed out a free DVD to an audience member and headed to the lobby for a meet-‘n’-greet, touching shoulders and greeting raving fans who had gathered to get pictures with him.
    Minneapolis comedian Jason Schommer opened the show with a 15-minute rapid-fire set that he kicked off with a story about how he met Cher in Las Vegas. Embarrassing, he said. She mistook this short-haired curvy dude for her daughter Chastity. He set just the right tone for Anderson’s set with a similar style of humor.