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Louie Anderson's big 'Splash'

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louieanderson

Louie Anderson could easily play a big theater anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. He’s such a big name in comedy, he’s returning to Las Vegas next month to take up comedic residency at the Plaza Hotel & Casino.

So why is he playing McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre in Sarasota this weekend?

He got his start in small clubs and loves to give back, especially since McCurdy’s is celebrating its 25th anniversary this month.

“I’ve done TV, movies, books, reality shows, but there’s nothing like doing stand-up comedy in a club,” Anderson says. “There’s nothing as rewarding for a comic. People are there just to have a good time, and they like it when you take chances.

“Everything about it is more spontaneous. The clubs created me. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

It all started for Anderson in 1978. One of 11 children, the Minnesota native took his act to Los Angeles in 1981 and by 1984, he made his national TV debut on “The Tonight Show.”

“I remember walking from the green room to that big curtain on stage,” Anderson said. “It was like walking to my living room. It was a surreal experience; there was no bigger stage to be on at the time than with Johnny Carson.

“I wasn’t nervous, I was just so excited to be there. I prepared so long and hard for that chance. And after I was done, Johnny came over and shook my hand. You couldn’t ask for more.

“Literally overnight, I went from making $200 a week to $1,000 a night.”

From there, it was all uphill for Anderson. There were appearances in sitcoms, dramas, movies (such as “Coming to America”), his own animated series “Life with Louie,” bestselling books and hosting “Family Feud” (1999-2002).

Then came his foray into reality TV. This spring, he competed on the ABC celebrity diving series “Splash.” The celebs were mentored by Olympic champion Greg Louganis.

Anderson lasted through week five — surprising even himself. Along the way, he got quite a scare.

“I had a lot of fun, it was a great experience,” Anderson said. “At first, I was like, ‘Should I really be doing this?’ But I did OK, until this one dive. I got turned around in the pool. Sometimes you can get disoriented and you don’t know which way is up. I thought I was going up but I was going down. By the time I figured it out, I got water in my lungs.”

When Anderson didn’t come up right away, NFL star and fellow competitor Ndamukong Suh dove in and saved him.

“There are some bad reality shows and there are some good ones,” Anderson said. “I was on a good one. It has a lot of heart. We were there for each other.”

LOUIE ANDERSON
7 and 9:15 p.m. Fri.-Sat. (June 14-15). McCurdy’s Comedy Theatre, 3333 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. $34. 925-3869; mccurdyscomedy.com.
Last modified: July 8, 2013
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