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Comic Louie Anderson Modeled His 'Baskets' Role After His Own Mom


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. The FX comedy series "Baskets" is back for a second season with out guest, comic Louie Anderson, again wearing a dress in the role that won him an outstanding supporting actor Emmy last fall. Anderson has had a successful career in stand-up, but much of his material comes from a dark place. He grew up in St. Paul, Minn., in a housing project with an alcoholic father and 10 siblings. Like his character on "Baskets," he's had ongoing battles with his weight and with depression. We're going to listen to the interview he recorded last year with Terry, but first, let's hear him in "Baskets," which stars Zach Galifianakis as a failed rodeo clown named Chip. Louie Anderson plays his mother, Christine. In this scene from the new season, Chip has been arrested and Christine has come to bail him out.


LOUIE ANDERSON: (As Christine) Oh, I can't believe it. When Dale told me...

ZACH GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Dale told you.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) ...I thought, oh, my God, my son? I don't even see my Chippy (ph) in there. I just see a jail bird.

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Mom, I don't want you worrying about me anymore, OK? It's not worth it for you.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) What did you do to get in here?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Mom, it was just - it was trespassing and mischief, I think.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) Mischief?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Mischief, yeah, general mischief.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) Mischief.

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Mischief.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) Were you chasing a mouse around?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) No.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) Chip, is it because I sent your French wife away?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) No, that's not it.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) You know, Chip, I provide a house for you. I give you food. I give you money. I brought - I bought you tennis shoes. I paid for your clown college.

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) I don't know what to tell you, Mom. I'm a millennial.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) What does that even mean?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) I actually don't know.

ANDERSON: (As Christine) Well, I'm your mother. Do you know what that means? Does it mean anything to you?

GALIFIANAKIS: (As Chip Baskets) Yes, Mom.



Louie Anderson, welcome to FRESH AIR and congratulations on your performance in "Baskets."

ANDERSON: Thanks, Terry.

GROSS: Now, Zach Galifianakis told us that when he was casting the part of the mother - the part that you play - he heard a voice in his head and he did that voice for Louis C.K., who produces "Baskets." And Louis C.K. said, oh, you mean like Louie Anderson's voice. So they decided, well, why not call Louie Anderson? So they called you. Did you have any reservations about whether you could convincingly play a woman?

ANDERSON: No. Unfortunately, I did not. I grew up with a really great, strong woman in my mother of 11 children and five wonderful sisters. And so I didn't have any - and I'd been doing my mom's act, her voice, to some degree in my act for, you know, several years.

GROSS: What's the difference between your voice and your mom voice?

ANDERSON: Well, my voice is, you know, the voice I'm speaking to you in and my mom's voice is (imitating mom's voice) Terry Gross, huh? Now, what is that? Is that Irish - Gross? Is that Irish or are you - is it British?

That would be more my mom. Terry, I've always liked that name - my mom was never without a compliment.

GROSS: (Laughter) Whether she meant it or not.

ANDERSON: I think she meant it. She loved people and she loved conversation, and she loved to engage with people. She was a really fantastic person. You would've really liked her.

GROSS: What other qualities did you take from your mother to give to your character of the mother in "Baskets?"

ANDERSON: Well, she was a little passive-aggressive, you know, that little side. She just could slide stuff in and you'd go, did I just get cut by a really sharp razor? (Laughter) Mom, what did - you know, she just had that - she had that thing. She was a little competitive, but she loved to show off. She was a show-off. I really love playing this part for a big reason that my mom gets to come to life. It's the weirdest thing. When you get a wig - when that wig and the makeup comes on - you know, I work on the transformation, I think, while I'm getting dressed.

GROSS: Yeah, what about the dresses? You wear these, like, big dresses with large, bold, primary color patterns, you know, caftans, long necklaces, an Easter bonnet in one scene. How do wearing those clothes help you get into character, and who do those clothes remind you of?

ANDERSON: Well, the first day that I went in to see the clothes, it was early, early on. We were all going to meet and do a group photo I think it was. And there was a big wall of clothes, and I just went through it. And I go this would be good, this would be good, and I just thought of my mom and my sisters. I said, this'll be good. I said, that's out, nothing like that. They have to be really colorful. Make them enter the room sometimes before the - I will. You know, make them what a person who hasn't got a lot of money thinks is really fancy. Make it real American. Make her a big American woman. And I have to tell you, it was kind of - even though I never dressed up in my mom's clothes or never had any real desire to put it on, I always remember how soft her clothes were. You know, my mom always had soft, like, a lot of jersey knits and my mom was ahead of her time. She wore pantsuits, and she goes, you know what I like about a pantsuit, Louie? And I go, what, Mom? I just look so good in it.

GROSS: (Laughter) Was she a plus-sized woman?

ANDERSON: She was. She was a big girl.

GROSS: And there's a scene - after she's kind of spurned by her adopted twins, she takes to her room with, like, a tub of ice cream and a big scoop and is eating it lying on her side, eating it from the scoop. And it...

ANDERSON: Now, that would've never been my mom. I've done that. I'm a food addict. You know, I go to OA and I really work hard on trying to eat better, especially lately. I've been really working hard on it. And so I know what that's like. When you're really down, if you're any kind of an addicted person, you are not eating for flavor and you're not eating for - you're eating for some comfort that can never come from what you're doing. There's no comfort that could actually come from it. But there is a familiarity that I think comes with it. But I feel like this part gave me an opportunity to play the most real person - a really real person. That's what I was really going for here, Terry. I was really going for a really real person. I don't know if that even makes any sense...

GROSS: No, it does. That's what I love about your portrayal. It's, like - it's funny but it's also sad because she's sad a lot of the time and feels, you know, rejected and lonely. But it's never, like, pathos, you know?

ANDERSON: I think a lot of women are sad.

GROSS: Well, I think a lot of everybody is sad (laughter).

ANDERSON: Yes, but I mean - but, yes, I agree that a lot of everybody is sad. But, you know, this whole thing about raising all the kids, you know, so much - I remember my dad would work and my mom raised the kids. And it was a weird - like, it was a much - it was very lopsided in one sense, you know? And I even - I figured that out early on, you know, 'cause I think my mom, all she did was wash clothes and put them in the dryer and then fed us and then, you know, washed clothes and put them in the - you know, it was just very...

GROSS: Yeah, 11 kids.

DAVIES: Louie Anderson co-stars in the FX comedy series "Baskets," now in its second season. We'll hear more of his interview with Terry after a break. This is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. We're listening to Terry's interview with comic Louie Anderson, who co-stars in the FX comedy series "Baskets." They spoke last year shortly after Anderson's brother had passed away.


GROSS: I was very sorry to hear about your brother Tommy, who died last week in his sleep. And this was, like, your youngest sibling. You had been the youngest of 10. Then he was born, he was the youngest.

ANDERSON: No he was - yeah. I was the youngest of 10 and he was...

GROSS: It sounds like his death was totally unexpected. You've described him as your inspiration. In what sense was he that?

ANDERSON: Well, you know, like, he was my - you know, such a good friend. And, you know, he was really smart. He was the kind of guy you could call up and go, what do you think? He'd go, ah, that's all crap; that's all bull; don't do that; that's no good. You know, like, he was just that kind of guy. He had a thing we called the truth ranger where he goes, everybody should tell the truth as long as it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings. And I just laughed, and I'd go, Tommy, you're so sweet. Of course, it's going to hurt people's feelings if you always tell them the truth. Well, you know, you just don't know how to tell them the truth, then, Louie. And I'd go, maybe not. But it broke my heart. My heart's completely broken right now.

GROSS: When you did comedy about him...


GROSS: ...Did you run it past him first? And if so, what...

ANDERSON: No, I never did. But people didn't - my family didn't get mad. I didn't even know I had to run it by him, do you know what I mean? I regret some of the books that I wrote 'cause I think I hurt people's feelings. And I forgot one thing. One thing to remember when you're successful, famous, whatever you want to call it - well-known, not that well-known - whatever you want to go. One thing to remember is your family's not famous, and they're not well-known. And even though you can handle it, that doesn't mean they can. And that's the biggest regret I have. I should never - I should have run it all by them. And yes, they all read it before I ever published anything, but still, I didn't realize - you know what I mean? Like, I'm in show business. I've always been in show business. I kind of know how it works. Well, they're not - they're my sibling, but they're not in show business.

GROSS: Well, one of the things you've joked about about your younger brother is that you used to torment him.

ANDERSON: I mean, I used to tell him he was adopted. I said, you were adopted. And I used to say they were frog-face people - pretty soon, your eyes are going to pop out.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: Your eyes are going to pop out.

GROSS: How old were you when you stopped tormenting him?

ANDERSON: Just before he died.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: (Laughter) He'd like that. I think there was always a little bit of a - like, Tommy used to get really mad at me if I interrupted him. Tommy was a very really precise person, so - and he suffered from, you know, some bipolar stuff and those kind of things and a little bit of paranoia. And he didn't have an easy life. He had a tough life. And he lived on the streets for many years. And finally - you know, I always would take care of him if I could. And finally I said, Tommy, I'm not going to - you've got to get it together. I'm not going to help you anymore. You're just being unreasonable. And that was with some advice from a good friend because I was at my wit's end. My good friend said, listen, he's got to hit bottom, and then he'll be able to deal with it. And it was really good. It was good advice because he did. And he said, Louie, I need your help. He said, when he asks for your help, then you'll be of use. He said, Louie, I need your help. And I said, Tommy, you know - you know what you should do, Tommy? Your sisters could really use your help. I think you should move back home and take care of your sisters. I think they could really use your help. And so, like, five or six years ago, he moved back to Minnesota and he really did - he took care of my sister, one sister, until she passed away - and my other sisters - and he really helped. And we had a service for him Sunday, and people talked about how much that he had done for them. And it was really - I was really touched by how many people loved Tommy. I thought I was the only one who loved him that much. But of course, my whole family loved him, and we're going to miss him.

GROSS: Does having a younger brother who died - and you're around 63, he was 60 - has that made you think a lot about your own mortality?

ANDERSON: You know, it's so funny. Like, mortality - the first time I really felt anything about mortality was in 1990 when my mom died. That's where I really went, oh, my God, I think I could die now, you know what I mean? Like, I came from my mom. She died. It was, you know, very devastating. When I lost my dad - you know, my dad was a really bad drunk but a really funny guy, and he stuck with us, and he stayed. My mom - I'll never forget. My dad quit drinking when was 69, and here was my mom's response. She turned to me and she said, I told you he'd quit drinking.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: And I just said that - and, you know, that's who the character Christine is, don't you think? Don't you think that in a nutshell that that's Christine?

GROSS: You know, you were saying mental illness runs in your family. And your thing, I think, was maybe depression.

ANDERSON: Yeah, I'd say depression. I definitely think that.

GROSS: So depression always seems to go hand in hand with comedy. You know, I think most comics, you know, have either some kind of, like, bipolar or depression disorder. And I'm not sure why they go together, but they do. So maybe you have some idea.

ANDERSON: Yeah, I mean, I think the reason that they go together is because, you know, if you look at that depression long enough, you have to tip it on its side and look at the other side and find some humor in it. I tried to kill myself but the rope broke, and that would be a joke that I could probably do and get a laugh out of.

GROSS: Well, well...

ANDERSON: I mean, I have to be very careful about how I do any stuff on sadness 'cause the crowd gets really sad and concerned for me. So I try to - you know, I used to do this joke, which is really - and, you know, I'm going to take a risk and tell this joke. I used to do a joke - I'd go, how about - I read a thing where this guy killed his whole family. I'd go, I'm surprised I don't read that every day. I mean, I don't think you start out where you're going to kill the whole family, but the rush of the first one must carry you right through to the end.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: (Laughter) But it was too dark for my audience.

GROSS: You know, it's funny you should say that...

ANDERSON: I always thought that that was really, like, a fantastic droke (ph) - joke, or droke. As you get older, the words aren't available.

GROSS: In reading your books - 'cause you have, like, at least three books that have a lot of memoir to them - and, you know, in listening to your comedy, I keep getting the impression that you have parts of your humor that are too dark for your audience and that, you know, maybe there are things you'd be saying to a different audience that you wouldn't say to yours.

ANDERSON: You know, I'm at this precipice right now that I feel like I'll be changing myself on stage just because I'm 63-ish (laughter). I don't even know how old I am. I think I'm 62. You know, in my eyes as 62, that's, like, you know, Walter Brennan.


ANDERSON: That's an old reference, but you know what I mean. It's...

GROSS: So how does being 62 or 63 relate to this perhaps turning point in your comedy? Do you feel like there's...

ANDERSON: I could be an alternative comic. I could be that really dark - I was - I was a very dark comic to begin with. I could be that guy, and the only reason I didn't is that I wanted to make money. I wanted to be popular. I wanted to be liked more than I wanted to be admired. Does that make any sense?

GROSS: Sure.

ANDERSON: You know, and I - my mom and my family would - you know, I was trying to - that was my audience. I really - I think I've always been trying to heal families and here's why - I did a cartoon about my family, all my specials are about my family, and I wrote all that stuff with the intent that you, Terry, and your children, if you have any, and your parents could sit in a room and all get something out of the performance or the jokes or whatever. That was my goal. But I think the world's changed a little. I mean, I think I could go to another level, but I don't know - you know, what am I going to - am I going to betray my audience? Is that a betrayal, you know?

GROSS: Well, you have to allow yourself to grow as a performer if that's what you want to do to change. I think performers shouldn't let audiences hold them back from becoming the artist that they're ready to be.

ANDERSON: But, you know, you get so much criticism from it. You know that, right?

GROSS: Sure.

ANDERSON: I mean, you know, the press is relentless, but your fans are mad at you.

GROSS: Right.

ANDERSON: But, I mean, you do have to take that chance. I mean, I'm not afraid to do it.

GROSS: Well, let's talk about something that's happened to you or that you did nearly to yourself and how that either could or could not become something that you'd use on stage. You tell a story in one of your books about how you were in your dressing room backstage before a performance. You had a gun. You put it to your head and you were very serious about pulling the trigger. You thought first about something you'd seen on TV in which an expert explained that if you shoot yourself in the wrong part of your head you might survive and then just be brain damaged, which would be worst-case scenario. So you tried to do it, you know, place it in the right spot and then you thought, oh, I don't want to leave a mess, so you got a towel. And then you decided not to pull the trigger and you went on stage, and it went really well. The audience liked it. You felt better about being alive after that. So - OK, so that's a kind of near suicide story. Has that made it on stage into one of your performances?

ANDERSON: No, no, but here's what I'll say to you. I never even thought of it as a thing. But, you know, I could do it. You're exactly right. I could do it in a second. It would be funny. That whole experience was I didn't want anyone to find me. That really was the - the thing is I didn't want that to be their last memory of me.

GROSS: Right. Either...

ANDERSON: You know, that was another big part of it, you know? So you're right. That could be - I mean, you know, I did a dark joke for a while. I go I was - I was going to kill myself, but I just thought I would just eat myself to death (laughter) but nobody ever laughed, Terry. I couldn't get people to laugh because it was too dark, don't you think? But do people think I'm too sweet, I'm too nice, there's a dark thing that should be explored and that I should lay it all out there?

GROSS: I don't know what people think. I think that there's maybe an edge in your humor that you're protecting your audience from.

ANDERSON: Don't you think they see it, Terry?

GROSS: Probably, it's probably true (laughter).

ANDERSON: You know, like, don't you think they probably think he has a knife, but I don't necessarily want to see it?

GROSS: Yeah, I get that. I get that.

DAVIES: Louie Anderson speaking with Terry Gross last year. Anderson stars in the FX comedy series "Baskets," now in its second season. After a break, David Bianculli reviews the FX miniseries "Feud" about the conflicts between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford when they were making "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" David Edelstein reviews the new Marvel superhero film "Logan" and we'll hear more from Louie Anderson. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.


DAVIES: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross. We were listening to Terry's interview recorded last year with comic Louie Anderson, who won an Emmy last fall for his performance in the FX comedy series "Baskets," now in its second season. Anderson plays the mother of the character played by Zach Galifianakis. His portrayal of the mother draws from his memories of his own mom. His stand-up comedy, which he's kept family-friendly, often draws on memories of his childhood, growing up with 10 siblings and an alcoholic father.


GROSS: So one of the things I learned about your father is that when he was courting your mother, he was a trumpeter and he played in Hoagy Carmichael's band. Wow.

ANDERSON: Yeah, like, I mean - yeah. I mean, he was a great musician. My dad was a famous musician - I mean, in those standards. You know, he recorded - I mean, to work with Hoagy Carmichael, that's a - he was a hell of a trumpet and cornet player, but I never got to experience any of it.

GROSS: Did he record with him?


GROSS: So did he play music in the house? I realize you never heard him play trumpet, but what about playing records?

ANDERSON: I never - yeah, he'd play ukulele and he'd play harmonica. And when I was opening for Crosby, Stills and Nash one time at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis (unintelligible), security came back and said, there's a guy who used to take trumpet lessons from your dad. I said, send him back. I talked to him a long time. I go, well, what kind of guy was my dad? Well, you know, he was a tough - he was a tough teacher. I go, yeah, you got that right. And he gave me a poster, and it's the only poster we had, ever. And it said Louie Anderson and his orchestra, and it was a woodcut poster and it looked just like one of my posters from the '80s. And I was just like, oh, I really am a lot like my dad (laughter). I mean, I really, you know, was - I've been in lots of the same theaters that he probably played in.

GROSS: Was he alive when you started performing and when you got successful?

ANDERSON: Yeah, he saw my very first show, and the next day he had a stroke, which was really upsetting to me.

GROSS: Oh, gee.

ANDERSON: But he had lots of strokes - like, 20 or 30 strokes. My dad was a really tough guy.


ANDERSON: We finally had to kill him.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: That was a joke...

GROSS: Right, I - yes.

ANDERSON: ...I've done. I think I used to do my dad smoked, he drank, we finally had to kill him.


ANDERSON: The joke - the whole joke is, my mom ate every piece of butter in the Midwest, she lived till she was 90. And my dad, he smoked, he drank - we finally just had to kill him.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: That was the whole joke (laughter).

GROSS: Did he feel like you were fulfilling his dreams by actually having a showbiz career?

ANDERSON: I think he was the kind of guy who'd fight somebody and then we'd go to the store and he'd pick up an extra bag of groceries and we'd put them on somebody's steps 'cause they were struggling. He was two guys.

GROSS: So there's the guy who did bad and the guy who came in and apologized for it.

ANDERSON: Yeah. Alcoholism, you know, all addictions, all that stuff - you know, my dad was - when my dad was a kid, his mom and dad, you know, were very - my grandfather has 72, I think, inventions that he sold. We would've been really rich. You know, like the switch on the train tracks that switches it from one track to the other, the sliding thing that you slide your door - the big door out to the patio - he invented all that stuff and sold them. And then they would go on drunks across the country, him and his wife. And they would leave the kids, and one of the times they went, there was a murder by a Swedish gang in the house in Frazee, Minn. And the kids were taken away from my grandparents. And my dad and my dad's sister were put up for adoption. And what that means, you probably know, Terry, but people don't know it. You were put up in front of the congregation and people would pick your kids. They could pick them and take them to their farm and have another farmhand. And my dad and his sister were split up, and my dad never got over that. He never recovered from that. And then you'd live in a different part of the house in another city...

GROSS: Well, it sounded like your father was treated more like a servant than a child.

ANDERSON: Yeah, he was treated more like a servant. He took me to the house one time in Northfield, Minn. He said, you see that window? I go, yeah. He said, they used to wonder why it got rusty. He says, I used to pee out of it to get back at them. I said, good one, Dad. And then at...

GROSS: So he had a hard life, yeah.

ANDERSON: Yeah, and at 15, he made them sign a paper so he could join the first World War. And then he learned how to play the bugle, and that's how he taught himself the trumpet.

GROSS: Oh, wow.

ANDERSON: And then...

GROSS: But you didn't find out about this until later in life.

ANDERSON: After he died.

GROSS: Yeah. So you must've been shocked to find out that there was this big secret - there were so many secrets in your family. You're supposed to keep it secret that your father drank. He kept secret from you that he was put up for adoption...

ANDERSON: I don't think secrets as much as just it wasn't - and nothing was talked about like that. Do you know what I mean? I don't think they hid it away 'cause when my dad was going through radiation for his prostate cancer, I was with him and he spilled his guts to an attendant who was doing all that. He told all this stuff and I go, Jesus, I'm right here, Dad. You never told me any of this. You're telling some stranger.

GROSS: Well, that's the thing. Sometimes it's easier to tell secrets to a stranger.

ANDERSON: Much easier, yeah.

GROSS: What was the comedy scene like when were just getting started? And where did you see yourself...

ANDERSON: Fantastic.

GROSS: ...Fitting in it? Like, how did you find your place within it?

ANDERSON: Well, I mean, there are two comedy scenes - one in Minneapolis, where I started. So there were only, like, a handful of us. So we'd do the show and you could do as much time as you want 'cause we only had six, seven people. So it was, like, an hour and a half show. Nobody had too much material, you know? And then we were smart. We had a little club and whenever anyone famous was in town, we invited them down - Joan Rivers, Henny Youngman, Rodney Dangerfield. And that's where I became friends with Joan and Rodney. They both told me I should go to East or West Coast and become successful. They were both very nice. And I stayed friends with both of them until their deaths.

But I was on stage one night, and I was doing jokes and I go, is that your dad to a kid sitting with a guy. He goes, yeah. I go, he seems like a nice dad. Do you guys get along? He goes, yeah. And then that was the first time I did, yeah, my dad never hit us either, but he carried a gun and then I did that joke. Never shot us - he'd just go (imitating gun clicks) you know, and that got the biggest laugh of anything I'd ever done. And it got a different kind of laugh, like a, oh, and it opened something up in me. And I started mining my family stuff right then. I just started digging. And then I came off stage and a guy named Roman DeCare - God rest his soul - he was a - he was a shriner and he played a little harmonica. And he told really silly jokes. He'd hit a bad note on the little, tiny harmonica and then he'd pull out of his hand rubber pickle. He'd go, oh, that's a sour note. And then he'd do these really dumb - but we loved him. He was a very sweet guy. And I came off stage and he said (imitating Roman Decare) Louie - he'd talk like this - Louie, if you did that material about your family and you had a completely clean act, you'll become famous.

And, you know, I was listening to him. And I just said, really? You know, I was - you know, I was looking for somebody to tell me something. I didn't know. I just wanted to, you know, be successful. And then in 1981, I moved out to Los Angeles and for two years I auditioned for "The Tonight Show" and finally got it and - you know, with Howie and Robin and Roseanne...

GROSS: It was in the Johnny Carson era.

ANDERSON: Yeah, this is - this is the big time. This is the HBO babies, you know, in comedy, all those guys. We all did specials, you know, Jim Carrey and Sam Kinison, Rita Rudner. And they were all there, you know?

GROSS: So you turning difficult things into comedy will help me in my life. Does it help you in your life? I mean, when you see the joke...


GROSS: ...In something terrible that's happened, is that helpful to you?

ANDERSON: Yeah because, you know, like - I sat in my brother - I went to his apartment. It was really hard after he died. I sat where he sat, you know, and all the tragedy that I felt when I first got there - there was a peace that came over me. And I'll tell you, I was searching for Tommy's playlist because he had a really great playlist of classic rock music. And I said, Tommy, you have such good music. He goes, you know where I got it, right? And I go, no. I kept your album collection when you left. And it was all my songs. And I wanted to get them so we could play them at the service, the celebration. And I looked over to the left, and there was a little MP3 player. And I opened it up, and it said, music. And so it was just like, thanks, Tom. And so as much as I miss Tom, his life was complete in so many ways. And so when I used to be - it was such a labor when I would lose somebody, and I would agonize over it and feel guilty and did I do enough? I did as much as I could in all those situations, as much as I was able to do. And I really do encourage people. You have to not worry or doubt or punish yourself. All the worry, doubt and punishment will not add one second to your life, you know? Let it go. Let those things go, and find the humor in wherever you can. When I first became really successful, I did "The Tonight Show." And I had the biggest - a big "Tonight Show," in terms of, you know, Johnny's response, you know? And the Comedy Cellar had a party for me. And I was really in my - I was in heaven. I was in heaven. And I was really full of myself. It was really funny. It was - you know, I can even look back at it and laugh. And I was saying, hey, I am the greatest (unintelligible). And a guy comes up to me and goes, are you Louie Anderson? And I go, I am. And I put my hand out to meet him. And he goes, I don't want to meet you. Could you move your car?

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: And it happened twice to me that night. My karma's so immediate.

GROSS: (Laughter) Louie Anderson, I want to thank you so much for coming on the show.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

GROSS: Congratulations on your performance in "Baskets." And my sympathies. I'm so sorry about your brother, Tom.

ANDERSON: Thank you. Thank you. I'm going to send you about 50 of his flashlights that we found.

GROSS: (Laughter).

ANDERSON: We found over - we found, honestly, over a hundred flashlights just in one little area. And I go, what was he...

GROSS: Oh, gosh - was he a hoarder?

ANDERSON: You know what I always say about my family? We were packrats. We weren't hoarders because we have aisles.


DAVIES: Louie Anderson speaking and laughing with Terry Gross last year. Anderson co-stars in the FX comedy series "Baskets," now in its second season. After a break, David Bianculli reviews the FX miniseries "Feud" about the conflicts between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford when they were making "Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?" This is FRESH AIR. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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