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Ray Routhier

Portland Press Herald staff writer Ray Routhier will try anything. Once. During 20 years at the Press Herald he’s been equally attracted to stories that are unusually quirky and seemingly mundane. He’s taken rides on garbage trucks, sought out the mother of two rock stars, dug clams, raked blueberries, and spent time with the family of bedridden man who finds strength in music. Nothing too dangerous mind you, just adventurous enough to find the stories of real Mainers doing real cool things.

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Posted: December 10, 2018

Louie Anderson steps back into stand-up

Written by: Ray Routhier

Comedian Louie Anderson will perform Sunday at Port City Music Hall in Portland.
Photo courtesy of Baskets © 2016 Fox

Louie Anderson’s life and his comedy are pretty much the same thing.

Throughout his 40 years in show business, he’s built jokes about his big family (10 siblings), his abusive father and his strong mother. He currently plays a female character on the FX series “Baskets,” which he models on his mom.

And he’s never been shy about crafting jokes about his own girth.

“That’s because I’m comfortable with myself. Unless I’m in a Ford Focus,” said Anderson, 65. “When I call for a Lyft, I look to see what kind of car they’re sending. If they’re sending a Focus, I tell them I’m gonna need two.”

Anderson is celebrating his 40th anniversary in comedy by touring the country doing stand-up, his first love. He’ll be at Port City Music Hall in Portland on Sunday doing a mix of old and new material.

The Minnesota native made his national TV debut in 1984 on “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson. In the 1990s, he created an autobiographical cartoon series for Fox called “Life with Louie,” starred in “The Louie Show” on CBS and hosted a revival of the TV game show “Family Feud.” He’s also guest-starred on many sitcoms and hosted several of his own comedy specials. He began starring as Christine Baskets, the mother of a character played by Zach Galifianakis, on “Baskets” in 2016.

Here’s Anderson in a scene from “Baskets” :

But Anderson says he’s now making a conscious effort to get back to the one part of show business he truly loves: stand-up comedy.

“There’s no director, no writer, just me and the audience, and lights and a microphone,” said Anderson. “I have such a loud voice, I probably don’t even need the microphone.”

Anderson said that in his current stand-up routine, he’ll cover the topics people expect from him, including family and food, and being a larger-than-average-sized person.

“My jokes aren’t about being a fat guy, they are about being a comedian who happens to be fat,” said Anderson. “People tell me I should embrace being fat. I would, but I can’t get my arms around me.”

Anderson has been influenced heavily by his mother, who told all 11 of her children they were her favorite. Not only does he model his “Baskets” character closely on her, but this year, he came out with a book inspired by her, “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too.”

“I should have appreciated her more. I didn’t know, for instance, that she got up and got dressed and ready, and then cooked us all breakfast,” said Anderson. “I just thought she always looked like that.”

Anderson’s comedy is often based in somber truths. His father was abusive and “very unreasonable,” and it was his mother who often “saved” the children from harm.

“She was a woman who never gave up on life, who always had a smile on her face and never said a curse word,” said Anderson. “When I won an Emmy (for ‘Baskets’) I said, ‘That’s my mom’s Emmy.’ ”

Louie Anderson

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday
WHERE: Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland
HOW MUCH: $40 to $50, 18-plus show

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