Louie Anderson died and I have a big sad about it.
He was never a big part of my growing up experience. I didn't watch "Life With Louie" or any of his standup. I didn't even watch him as host of Family Feud.
But a few years ago I had a big talent crush on Zach Galifinakis and went through a period where I consumed every single thing he made.
That included a tiny FX show called "Baskets."
In "Baskets", Zach G. played twins Chip and Dale Baskets. Chip is a classically trained clown that can only find a job at a rodeo in Bakersfield, California. Dale runs a ITT Tech-ish kind of school.
Louie Anderson plays their mom, Christine Baskets.
Now, when I first heard this I took great umbrage with it. Why does a dood need to play this role obviously meant for a woman? Why not cast a woman?
My dander was up and I was prepared to hate the role and the show itself for doing something so rude.
But, y'all, no one could play Christine Baskets with the grace and care that Louie did. He was perfect in this gentle, yet still real role.
I think what I expected when I heard that Louie was playing the mom is that he'd play her as a caricature of a woman, making everything more big and dramatic than it would be in real life.
He didn't though. He played her naturally and it feels real. Like, Mrs. Baskets is a fully realized human being and not just a character on a piece of paper.
Louie Anderson was nominated for an Emmy three times for this role, winning once and seriously turning in an incredible comedic performance in all four seasons.
The fact that a man is playing the mom is never played for laughs. She's never looked at as less than. She shares struggles that are familiar to me: fitting in, being attractive, loving her family, falling in love. She's so sweet and relatable.
But he's still got a penis flapping between his legs under his skirt. Again, why Louie in this role? Why not a woman?!
These conflicted feelings are the main reason I don't rave about this show as much as it deserves. It is seriously one of my favorite deadpan comedies of all time.
I truly feel love (well, as much love as you can for a television character) for Christine Baskets. I mean, she tries to bring opera to the rodeo! She supports her kid's dreams... sometimes to their detriment.
What might be my favorite thing about her is that she doesn't let anyone tell her she can't do anything (as evidenced by her "Night at the Opera at the Rodeo", lol).
And boy does she love Costco. (bonus appearance in this clip by the amazing, incredible deadpan Martha Kelly, who wears a cast the entire series)
I've read a lot of think pieces and articles about this because, well, I think about it a lot.
This is a good read about some of the things Louie tapped into to play Christine Baskets. The character is mostly based on his own mother.
“Every little thing your mother does, at some point in your life, you’ll find yourself doing it,” he said in the press room after his Emmy win. “Just embrace it, and realize that they won.”
That love for his mom is apparent every instant he's on screen.
I'll leave you with another quote about how he prepared for, and lived within, this role:
"I never for once played a male in the part. And when I occasionally get close to it, I always see it. But I don’t do it. When I get ready, I’m getting prepared to flick my hair and purse my lips, as my mom did.
I think we have tics as humans, so I stole all my mom’s nuance and tics and put them on me to disguise Louie Anderson, to get him out of there. For the most part, I’m really playing [the characters’] mom. I never think, “This is funny because I’m in a dress.” You know what I think when I look in the mirror? I look really good. That’s the difference, I think. [I think] I look really good as a woman. I don’t say, “I look good as a woman.” I look in a mirror and say, “I’m really good.”"
And he was.
He'll be missed by me for sure.