Long-time comic great visits Sandoval County for 2 sets

Louie Anderson

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — Remember Paul Simon’s 1975 hit, “Still Crazy After All These years”?

Meet Louie Anderson, a stand-up comedian for four decades — and still funny after all those years.

You’ll have two chances to see him at The Stage at Santa Ana Star Casino, where he’ll do shows at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Feb. 16.

This two-time Emmy award winner, named by Comedy Central as “One of 100 Greatest Stand-Up Comedians of All Time,” will be taking time off from his “Louie — Larger Than Life” show at the Excalibur Hotel & Casino on the famed Las Vegas Strip.

But he’s more than a comic: He is a best-selling author with four books, comedy and self-help, to his name.

He’s also a humanitarian as co-founder of the HERO organization, aimed at empowering homeless people or those at risk of homelessness to attain maximum self-sufficiency.

But it all started with getting a few laughs.

Anderson, 66, started his career as a stand-up comedian on “The Tonight Show,” hosted by Johnny Carson, on Nov. 11, 1984.

His opening line, following Johnny’s intro: “I can’t stay long — I’m in between meals, so bear with me.”

Recalling that night in Burbank, Calif., Anderson says, “That was a big thing. I watched the ‘Tonight Show,’ as many of us did. And here I am, backstage. The band is playing; I can hear Johnny tapping his pencil on the desk. He says, ‘This young comedian from St. Paul, Minn., is making his national debut.

“They opened the curtain; I looked for that place to stand. It was a dream come true for me. I made a curtain call,” Anderson continued. “Johnny took my call — that handshake solidified a million things in a comic’s mind.”

That debut was to promote an appearance for Anderson at the Comedy Store at the Dunes — long gone — in Las Vegas, where Anderson, who loves the desert, still lives.

“I became one of (Carson’s) favorites — I did six Tonight Shows in nine months. I just loved it,” he said. “My dad was a musician, so he loved watching the tonight show with Doc Severinsen; he was a horn player. They’d let me stay up — I loved watching Bob Hope and Milton Berle, Jackie Vernon, Jack Benny, Jonathan Winters. They were big influences.”

Sadly, Anderson said, his father passed away before his son was on the Tonight Show.

“He died in 1979 — he saw my comedy, which was nice,” Anderson said.

If you’ve never seen Anderson, you probably don’t watch a lot of TV.

“I only did (‘Late Night with David) Letterman’ a couple times. I was on with (Jay) Leno several times, I’ve been with Conan (O’Brien), lots of times with Craig Ferguson, Joan Rivers,” he said. “I got to do a lot of sets; I just did one recently with Seth Myers.”

He appeared in a comedy special on Showtime in the year 1987. In 1988, he appeared in a film “Coming to America” and worked in the camp comedy “The Wrong Guys.”

In 1999, he got a chance to host for the first time in a new version of “Family Feud,” which went three seasons with him as host.

He also appeared in the ABC reality television series “Splash” in 2013. In 2016, he played the part of Christine Baskets on the FX comedy series “Baskets,” for which he won the Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.”

There was a time, back in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, when Anderson’s goal in life was to be the president.

“I’m a Democrat from Minnesota because of Hubert Humphrey,” he said. “He was a big influence on me.”

He said being a social worker — something with people — was also a possibility and it was a fluke that he got into comedy.

The times have changed, and so has comedy in the 21st century, Anderson noted. Dirty jokes have come out of the comedy clubs into the mainstream.

“But there’s still a big group that work clean, not blue,” he said, including himself in the clean genre.

“Look at — from the president down — that’s how people talk,” he added. “For me, it’s not who I am. I do it without swearing and I think it’s funny. It’s one thing to be funny and clean, (but) I don’t have the answer to it,” Anderson said. “I have people come up to me and tell me they love my act.”

In fact, that’s something he enjoys the most: “I think I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. This is my 40th year and it gives me great joy when people see me in the airport and want a picture. They’ll say, ‘This makes my day.’ My dad and my mom would be so proud; I absolutely adore my fans.”

It’s not a perfect life, he said.

“I wish I would have worked a lot harder at being healthier; the only other thing was maybe go into politics,” he said. “I would have been a terrible politician because I’m so lazy.”

Anderson said he’ll do his homework and bring local flavor to his sets at The Stage.

“I feel like as bad as things are, sometimes laughter can pull you out of your depression…

What I think is really important is that’s why I do standup — it makes people forget about their troubles for a little time,” he said. “I’ve never been happier; I try to bring things from different decades, old and new.”