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Emmy-winning comedian Louie Anderson has died at 68

Louie Anderson at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards. He was known for his starring role in the FX dark comedy <em>Baskets.</em>
Danny Moloshok
Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP
Louie Anderson at the 70th Primetime Emmy Awards. He was known for his starring role in the FX dark comedy Baskets.

Louie Anderson, the long-time stand-up comic and star of the TV show Baskets, died Friday in Las Vegas. He was 68 years old.

According to his publicist Glenn Schwartz, Anderson died following complications from cancer.

Anderson was born in St. Paul, Minn., one of 11 children. His decades-long stand-up career started in small Midwest clubs. Then, in 1984, he earned a spot on The Tonight Show where he charmed the audience with his affable, self-deprecating brand of humor.

From there, he worked his way into film and television — including small roles in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Coming to America. In the mid-1990's he starred in and co-created Life with Louie, a Saturday morning cartoon based on his childhood. The role got him two Emmy awards for Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program, beating out competition from Robin Williams, Lily Tomlin and Rita Moreno.

In 2016, Anderson co-starred with Zach Galifianakis in the FX dark comedy Baskets, where he played matriarch Christine Baskets. The role earned him multiple Emmy nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series, including one win.

In interviews, he often talked about how the role was inspired by his own mother, who died in 1990. Anderson wrote a book about her in 2018, titled Hey Mom, where he wrote letters to her about his life since her death. He thought it was important to grieve openly.

"We never really learn how to deal with a loss," he told NPR in 2018. "I'm always on the verge of tears because I think everyday, you know, you should bring yourself to tears. Everyday you should be that passionate, and you should have a good laugh everyday."

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Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.