A Smile and a Mission: A Q&A with Dear Dad's Louie Anderson

By Simon Hodgson

In the early ’80s, stand-up comedian Louie Anderson took a friend to the graveyard in Duluth, Minnesota. The man wanted to read a letter to his late father, a man with whom he’d experienced a challenging relationship all his life. “When my friend came back to the car,” Anderson says, “he looked different—lighter. I thought: I’m gonna have to do that someday.” The Minnesota-born comedian was already a star, known both for his stand-up and his scene-stealing appearances in ’80s classics such as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Coming to America. Anderson went back to comedy, but he didn’t forget the experience in Duluth and, later in the decade, he started writing his own letter. We caught up with the Emmy Award–winning personality before he brings his one-man show, Dear Dad, to The Strand next week.

Comedian Louie Anderson. Photo courtesy of Louie Anderson.
How did Dear Dad start out?

Originally this started out as a celebrity autobiography. But in the middle of it, I began journaling about my dad. I just started writing a letter, “Dear Dad.” A writer I knew at People magazine was doing an article about the adult children of alcoholics. When he asked me if I had anything, I sent him the journal. He printed a couple of the letters and that’s when I realized that this is the book I wanted to write.

Dear Dad at The Strand is a totally different medium. What’s that journey been like?

It’s hard because I’m a natural performer, so I’m looking for a response from the audience. But in this show, I’m not looking for an audible response. That is a different thing. My biggest challenge is where to put comedy and where to put serious stuff and where to put a mix of the two. To be more of an actor and less of a comic.

Right now, Dear Dad is a work in progress. What are your hopes for it?

Dear Dad is an important milestone in my career and a personal milestone. I’d like to shine the brightest light I can on its journey. Nothing would make me happier than to spend a year doing Dear Dad, whether in San Francisco or on Broadway. Hopefully people will walk out of the show with a smile and also a mission to examine their relationship with their own father.

Louie Anderson: Dear Dad
runs January 10–14 at A.C.T.’s Strand Theater, 1127 Market Street. Click here to purchase tickets through our website.

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