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Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning 'Baskets' comedian, dies at 68 after cancer diagnosis

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 1/21/2022 Elise Brisco, USA TODAY

Louie Anderson, known for his award-winning role in "Baskets," has died after being diagnosed with cancer. He was 68. 

Anderson died at a hospital in Las Vegas of complications from cancer, said Glenn Schwartz, his longtime publicist. Anderson had a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Schwartz said in a previous Tuesday statement.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native won a 2016 Emmy for best supporting actor for his unlikely role in the comedy "Baskets" as Christine Baskets, mom to twin sons played by Zach Galifianakis. Anderson received three consecutive Emmy nods for his performance.

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Anderson's comedic debut started on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson where the comedian did his first TV standup routine in 1984. 

He's been a familiar face elsewhere on TV, including as host of a revival of the game show "Family Feud" from 1999 to 2002, and on comedy specials and made frequent late-night talk show appearances.

In his role on "Baskets" Anderson told USA TODAY in 2017 he'd been "training to play" the gender-switching role after incorporating the memory of his mother, Ora Zella Anderson, into his standup acts. 

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"My goal is that when you watch me, you might say, ‘That’s Louie Anderson,’ but within a few minutes I completely disappear and Christine completely emerges,” he said of his award-winning role. 

"Baskets" aired on FX for four seasons, and the network commemorated Anderson in a statement Friday.

“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," the network wrote. "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." 

Actor and comedian Pauly Shore tweeted about Anderson's declining health Thursday on Twitter after visiting him in the hospital. 

"I say this with a heavy heart just left the hospital in Las Vegas where Louie Anderson his sisters and close friend were kind enough to let me say my goodbyes," he wrote.

"Baskets was such a phenomenal 'second act' for Louie Anderson. I wish he’d gotten a third. RIP," actor Michael McKean wrote. 

Writer and director Travon Free wrote: "Louie Anderson was a very dear friend and one of the people who very early in my career believed in me." 

He added, "The last time I opened for Louie Anderson in 2012, I introduced him to my mom and he signed his book to her. Four days later I got hired to write for The Daily Show. Nine months after that, we were all at the Emmys together." 

Anderson voiced an animated version of himself as a kid in "Life With Louie." He created the cartoon series, which first aired in prime time in late 1994 before moving to Saturday morning for its 1995-98 run. Anderson won two Daytime Emmy Awards for the role.

The comedian made many series cameos throughout his career including "Scrubs" and "Touched by an Angel," and he appeared on the big screen in 1988's "Coming to America" and in last year's sequel to the Eddie Murphy comedy.

Contributing: Bill Keveney, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Louie Anderson, Emmy-winning 'Baskets' comedian, dies at 68 after cancer diagnosis

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