With Armor of Solid Humor: Louie Anderson talks Comedy career, HERO, Supporting the homeless

Louie Anderson wears many hats. Actor, authorize andersonor, philanthropist, Zach Galifianakis’ mom on the FX hit series Baskets, and of course, one of the most well-known and well-respected names in stand-up comedy for the last 32 years.
As with many in his line of work, getting to where he is now in his career was not all fun and games for Anderson. In fact, for the Minnesota native, his infectious wit was curated as a matter of survival in an environment that was, for a young kid who dealt with the cruelty of fat jokes, absolutely ruthless.
“I grew up watching Johnny Carson with my dad, and I worked really hard at being funny when I was growing up, without meaning to,” said Anderson. “You know, being a fat kid and using humor to defer the jokes about my weight saved me a little bit. It put me in a position where kids would think I was funny, like ‘yeah, he’s fat, but he’s funny too!’,” he continued. “So humor became my shield, my armor-all.”
So, what fuels a man who has done so much, a little of everything, really, in entertainment? For Anderson, it’s a ridiculously simple reason: He is never satisfied with his material. He is also currently working on a possible special that he wants to shoot at the end of the year in his native Minnesota.
“I’m looking for new jokes all the time,” said Anderson. “Right now, I’m working out new jokes, and new angles, and looking at different stuff that I could do to kind of bridge the gap between what I used to do with my comedy, and to try and make it more relevant to what’s going on in the world.”
With legend status, and a career in television and film that includes myriads of guest appearances and cameos, hosting gigs, and even his own animated series, Anderson has nothing to prove, yet continues to work as hard as he did at the beginning of his career, and he is totally okay with that. For the former Family Feud host, the responsibility of being an avenue to help people forget their problems is a task that is both understood and embraced.
“People don’t come to my show for social commentary. They come to my shows to laugh at stuff that is funny,” says Anderson. “I think it’s great to make a point, but the point has to have a joke following it, or preceding it, or both,” he continued. “People don’t want to be preached to, or lectured to. People don’t necessarily care what your beliefs are. They want to laugh and forget their troubles. They want to escape. My whole goal is to help people escape, and to forget about life for a little while.”
It’s possible that the only thing rivaling the size of Anderson’s loyal following, is the size of his heart. A number of years ago, Anderson co-founded the Homeless Empowerment Relationship Organization, or HERO for short, an organization that focuses on bringing conversation and encouragement to the homeless community, and while Anderson is only currently “involved in spirit” due to the organization being in Michigan and Anderson, well, not being in Michigan, he still has a heart for the homeless, and still cares deeply for helping those affected through their hardships.
“My whole goal with HERO was to make sure that homeless people didn’t only have friends who were also homeless,” said Anderson. “You need someone who is connected to the world so you can get a foothold, and so you can make a leap. We are only as strong as our weakest link in this country, and with the increase of homelessness all over the country, we’ve got to be reaching out and helping the people who need treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, we need to reach out to people who need help with psychological problems, and we’ve got to help the people who are just down and out, and be the helping hand to help pull them out of their situation, because we are all vulnerable to that situation,” he continued. “We all could be there, if it weren’t for the grace of God, and our hard work or whatever has kept us from being in that situation.”
“When I pull up to a stoplight, and people are begging for money, I don’t have time to judge who they are, or what they are going to do with the money. But I do have my heart, though, which aches for them being lost. A lot of them are veterans, a lot of them have drug problems, and deal with alcoholism, which are all things that have touched my own family deeply, so I am very connected to all that stuff, and except for my luck and my gift, I could very easily be in that same situation.”
It’s not an uncommon opinion that homelessness will never be changed. That we will always see men, women, and children of all ages sleeping under cardboard boxes and sleeping bags on frigid winter mornings. That we will never see those lost in addiction find the strength and support to have the opportunity to rise above their rock bottom. That giving money to our brothers and sisters in need won’t help them because “they’re just going to buy booze or drugs with it”. It’s not uncommon to think negatively about the future of our fellow citizens who have fallen on times as hard as the park bench they sleep on at night. Without an optimistic spirit, things certainly do look bleak. Some feel that there is nothing that can be done.
Louie Anderson is no such person.
“I think it would take a great effort [to end remedy homelessness],” says Anderson. “We have to start providing services for the people who are mentally ill, we have to provide services for the people who have an addiction. Drug addicts are not criminals. They are drug addicts, who happen to be committing crimes to get their next drug. If they made food illegal, I would probably be breaking into places myself,” he continues, with a slight chuckle. “It takes what? A trillion dollars to incarcerate people in this country? I mean, come on. We need to put that money to better use so that the people are more useful at the end of their time in prison. I mean, money won’t solve it. It’s just a band aid. It takes a lot of effort, and it takes all of us being responsible on every level [in order to fix this].”
Louie Anderson will be at the Wilbur Theatre tonight, Saturday, June 25th, performing all-new material.







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