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Louie Anderson, comedian and 'Coming to America' actor, dies from cancer at 68

·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·6 min read
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Louie Anderson, the Emmy-winning comedian and Coming to America actor, died Friday at age 68.

The Baskets star and Family Feud host had been battling diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL), the most common type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in the U.S., and was hospitalized in Las Vegas earlier this week. On Friday, his publicist announced his death.

A rep for Anderson — who was was known for his stand-up, but also work in film and TV — has not yet responded to Yahoo Entertainment's request for comment.

FX, the network on which Baskets aired from 2016 to 2019, issued a statement, saying, "We are so deeply saddened by the passing of our dear friend, Louie Anderson. For four wonderful seasons, Louie graced us and fans of Baskets with a bravura performance as Christine Baskets, for which he deservedly was recognized by his peers with the Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. It was a risky role for him and he embraced it with a fearlessness and joy that demonstrated his brilliance as an artist. He truly cared about his craft and was a true professional in every sense. Our hearts go out to his loved ones and his Baskets family – Zach Galifianakis, Jonathan Krisel and Martha Kelly and all the cast and crew. He will be missed by us all but never forgotten and always bring a smile to our faces."

DEL MAR, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 15:  Louie Anderson performs during the second day of KAABOO Del Mar at Del Mar Fairgrounds on September 15, 2018 in Del Mar, California.  (Photo by Gary Miller/FilmMagic)
Louie Anderson performs during the second day of KAABOO Del Mar at Del Mar Fairgrounds on September 15, 2018. (Photo: Gary Miller/FilmMagic)

Anderson was of humble beginnings. Born in Minnesota, the 10th of 11 children, he grew up poor with an alcoholic father. In 1984, he made his network TV debut doing standup on Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. During that set, he used his weight as a punchline — something he did throughout his career.

Anderson went on to star in his own solo comedy specials — the most recent was 2018's Louie Anderson: Big Underwear — and headlined comedy tours.

After his Tonight Show debut, Anderson just missed out on starring in Perfect Strangers — appearing in the 1985 pilot but being replaced by Mark Linn-Baker in the series — but he went on to find success elsewhere.

In 1986, he appeared in the singing telegram scene of Ferris Bueller and then in 1988 was a McDowell's fast-food employee alongside Eddie Murphy in Coming to America, returning for the 2021 sequel. He also starred in 1988's The Wrong Guys.

Anderson's childhood provided material for his 1990s Fox animated series Life with Louie, for which he won two Daytime Emmys. He also won a Primetime Emmy in 2016 for his performance in the FX's Baskets. He played Christine Baskets, the mother of two twin sons played by Zach Galifianakis. He also created and starred in the short-lived The Louie Show for CBS.

Anderson also had success with game shows. He hosted Family Feud from 1999 to 2002 and appeared on many others, including many episodes of Hollywood Squares, The New Hollywood Squares, Weakest Link and others.

He also wrote books based on his family life, including The F Word: How to Survive Your Family, Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child and Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too.

The star had health issues, including a heart ailment that necessitated two surgeries in 2003.

During the pandemic, he lost more than 40 pounds and weighed in at 340. He planned to keep going, he said, noting a goal weight of 275.

It's unclear when he was diagnosed with cancer. Following news of his hospitalization, fellow comedian Pauly Shore shared on Twitter Thursday that his family and friends were holding vigil at his hospital bedside. Shore said he visited to say goodbye.

Here are some of the social media tributes following news of his death: