Louie Anderson dead at 68: Baskets, Coming to America comedian dies of cancer

Tributes have poured in for Emmy-winning comedian, Louie Anderson, who has sadly passed away at the age of 68.

Louie Anderson, longtime comic and game show host who won an Emmy for his supporting role as Christine Baskets in the series Baskets, has died at age 68.

The New York Post reports that he passed in Las Vegas following after undergoing treatment for diffuse large B cell lymphoma.

His publicist confirmed his death to Deadline on Friday.

Perhaps best known for his brilliant, subversive turn in the 1988 comedy Coming to America, he scored the role as the sole white person in the groundbreaking comedy. Anderson chalked it up to his nice-guy Midwestern roots.

His role as Maurice — the seemingly mild-mannered McDowell’s clerk — produced one of the most iconic soliloquies in comedy.

“Hey, I started out mopping the floor just like you guys. But now … now I’m washing lettuce,” said Anderson’s sad-sack Maurice with withering underdog determination. “Soon I’ll be on fries; then the grill. In a year or two, I’ll make assistant manager, and that’s when the big bucks start rolling in.”

In the late ’80s, Anderson — a Saint Paul, Minnesota, native — was at the swanky Beverly Hills celeb-magnet restaurant the Ivy, where Eddie Murphy and his entourage happened to be dining.

Anderson footed the entire bill for Murphy and his group, with explicit instructions not to tell the waiter it was him until Anderson left: “Don’t tell him ‘til after I leave. I’m not doing it to be a big shot. I’m doing it because I’m from the Midwest and that’s how we would do [it],” Anderson recounted to the Sway in the Morning satellite radio crew in 2017.

The next morning, Anderson received a call from Murphy. He not only offered thanks for the gesture — “Nobody ever bought me anything,” Murphy told Anderson — but also said he wanted to cast Anderson in “a little movie called Coming to America.”

Marvelling at comedic karma, Anderson said, “That’s life, isn’t it? It was the best $660 I ever spent.”

“That’s a big movie in my life, first big job,” Anderson said to Sway in 2017, recalling his breakthrough role in the film.

He was originally cast opposite Bronson Pinchot as “Cousin Lou” in a pilot called The Greenhorn but he wasn’t considered right for the role and as replaced by Mark-Lynn Baker who became “Cousin Larry” and the show was renamed Perfect Strangers and ran for eight seasons

However he found Emmy-acclaim in the show Baskets playing a character he based on his own mother, who died in 1990.

Anderson won the 2016 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series for his role as Christine Baskets, the mother of the Zach Galifianakis-portrayed Chip and Dale.

“Christine is me being able to draw from my mum,” he told the New York Post in 2017.

“There’s joy for me in … giving a chance for my mother to shine in the spotlight … for all she did for me, to pay it back and step aside and let her shine through loud and clear. Anybody who knew my mum can’t get over how many things I’m using from her.”

Anderson also won two Daytime Emmys for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program for Life with Louie in 1997 and 1998.

Anderson guest-starred in sitcoms including Grace Under Fire and Young Sheldon as well as the dramas Touched by an Angel and Chicago Hope. He had a memorable featured role in the classic 1986 film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

After Baskets, Anderson said he hoped to return to television again but in a male role — and a drama — at some point.

“I would like to do a drama show and I’d like to play a man again,” he said. “I don’t know if [this role] will translate to people as me being an actor. I do have a lot of people who want to meet with me — a lot of times because they love the character. I’m grateful. I think people think, “Oh, he’s such a good actor,” which makes me believe I was worse than I thought, that I must’ve been quite shallow [before]. But I don’t hold that against anybody.”

In 2018, Anderson weighed in on his love of comedy. “I love the anatomy of a joke,” he told the New York Post. “It’s like archaeology — if you dig too deep, you miss it, and if you don’t dig deep enough, you won’t find it. It’s a kind of crazy thing.”

Long-time friend Pauly Shore, who started at famed The Comedy Store in Los Angeles alongside Anderson, was one of the last people to see him.

This article originally appeared in the New York Post and is republished3 here with permission

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