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That's Definitely a Minnesota Joke

Louie Anderson brings a blend of old and new to Excelsior.

His outstretched hand is soft to the touch and shakes mine with a dutiful pump.

The hand belongs to an overweight and slightly frumpled white man now pushing 60 and starting to look it. He sits at a table sipping designer water and chats with my wife, finishing an old bit of his before she can fully recite it. A few pictures later and we’re clearing out for a long line of others waiting to meet him.

Louie Anderson grew up in St. Paul—one of 11 kids. He lost both his parents in recent years and has battled health and addiction problems all his life.

“I used to take drugs that could kill me,” he says. “Now I just take drugs that keep me alive.”

He’s written books, won a pair of Emmy’s, made millions and toured extensively. He speaks of no partner or kids.

“How are you feeling?” I ask him.

“I feel great,” he says.

I believe him.

Louie's nephew’s band warms up the crowd with about 30 minutes of good rock. A handful of young, funny and mostly Minnesota comics get the crowd laughing. My favorite was Scott Hansen, but all were good.

Louie’s entrance is smooth.

He’s fresh off a flight from Vegas or some other point west, and he seems dazed to be back home. He wears a black Sean John shirt, and his hair is neatly combed. For about an hour, Louie seems relaxed but with a healthy sweat. He makes reference to being in Chanhassen a few times, though we’re in Excelsior.

There are a scattering of young faces in the crowd, but most are in their 50s and 60s.

His delivery and tone are conversational, wrapped with an endearing self-deprecation. Anderson looks heavy but not overweight. His act is funny but familiar, and nobody bothers with phones or watches. 

Halfway into his set, he makes a 43-year-old friend in the front row.

“43?” he asks him. “Go climb something—now. Before you can climb no more.”

He hasn’t had a cigarette in five years and reports success with a diet that delivers meal portions to him.

“I’m through Wednesday,” he said. “Wednesday just looked so good.”

Louie jokes about his weight, politics and most about family. I think he’s funny. Most of the crowd seems to think so, as well. He’s a veteran, and it shows. He deflects the outbursts of a tipsy woman in the front row, ad-libs when he gets off track and patches older material nicely into his newer. Nothing ever feels awkward or forced.

He stays onstage for a little longer than he previously planned, but most audience members are in their cars by 10:15 p.m.

Louie Anderson does not remind me of Krusty the Klown. His jokes are crisp, and Louie plays well to his strengths. Punch lines are well set up, prompt and come one after another.

Maybe he just had a good night in front of a home crowd. Maybe he needed a good night in front of a home crowd.

In any case, on Saturday night in Excelsior, Louie Anderson was still well worth the price of admission.

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