Court Adjourned
April 16, 2018 5:48 PM   Subscribe

Actor and Magician Harry Anderson has passed away at his home at age 65.

Anderson frequently brought his blend of comedy and slight-of-hand to his many television roles as well as his stand-up. He was perhaps best known for his starring role as the wisecracking Judge Harold "Harry" T. Stone on NBC's Night Court, Anderson also played a fictionalized version of humor columnist Dave Barry in Dave's World, as well as recurring character con-man Harry The Hat from Cheers. In one of his first television appearances on The 6th Annual Young Comedians, he described himself as a liar, a cheat, a braggart, and a thief, but would you trust someone like that to describe themselves accurately?
posted by subocoyne (123 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by Silvery Fish at 5:50 PM on April 16


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posted by valkane at 5:56 PM on April 16


So many memories of Harry, specifically from Night Court. I was probably a bit too young to be watching him, but I did anyways b/c there was something slightly dirty/naughty about the show and my pre-teen mind gravitated to those things. A great comedian/actor, he'll truly be missed.

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posted by Fizz at 5:58 PM on April 16 [13 favorites]


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posted by deezil at 5:58 PM on April 16


Back when grifters were lovable. "Hello, Sucker!" is a classic. In some ways he was a bridge between old timey acts and what comedy became. He will be missed.

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posted by gwint at 6:02 PM on April 16 [14 favorites]


I liked his book on how he would trick people.
posted by drezdn at 6:02 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by drezdn at 6:03 PM on April 16


Night Court was really, really great, and a lot of that was down to Harry (and Larroquette, and most often the play between them).

So young, too.

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posted by tzikeh at 6:09 PM on April 16 [21 favorites]


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posted by tclark at 6:09 PM on April 16


:-( .
posted by Annika Cicada at 6:11 PM on April 16


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posted by selfmedicating at 6:12 PM on April 16


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posted by wotsac at 6:12 PM on April 16


weak.
posted by lkc at 6:13 PM on April 16


So long, Harry. Not only did you teach me who Mel Torme was, you taught me the far more valuable lesson that it's OK to be passionate about something no-one else takes seriously.
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:14 PM on April 16 [77 favorites]


My mom worked for Apple in those days, so I liked that geeky judge guy immediately because of the original boxy-case Macintosh he had on the desk in his office.
posted by notoriety public at 6:17 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


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posted by Sys Rq at 6:20 PM on April 16


LOVED the knitting needle through the arm trick on SNL.
posted by bonobothegreat at 6:20 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


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As a kid I grew up watching Night Court reruns on A&E. It was years until I discovered that Mel Tormé was a real person and not just a vaguely mystical character created to be Judge Harry's favorite singer.
posted by nicebookrack at 6:25 PM on April 16 [27 favorites]


Oh no! Loved Harry and Night Court so much.
posted by porn in the woods at 6:26 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by Thorzdad at 6:27 PM on April 16


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posted by djseafood at 6:29 PM on April 16


When they're talking about reviving, rebooting or remaking every TV series ever, I was on the fence about bringing back Night Court. But now, no, not without Harry.

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posted by oneswellfoop at 6:33 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


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posted by nickggully at 6:33 PM on April 16


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posted by Silverstone at 6:34 PM on April 16


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posted by Malingering Hector at 6:35 PM on April 16


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posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:35 PM on April 16


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posted by allthinky at 6:36 PM on April 16


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posted by lord_wolf at 6:37 PM on April 16


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night court was a big part my life when I was a younger.
posted by vrakatar at 6:38 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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I ran into him in Tower Records in Bellevue, Washington in, Jeebus, 1989 or so? Maybe earlier? I didn't approach, but he was nice to those who did. "Affable" is a word which he seemed to embody, on and off screen.
posted by maxwelton at 6:38 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


RIP. I remember his opening line when he'd do a live show: I'm Harry but then again, aren't we all in a larger sense.
posted by Ber at 6:39 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


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posted by Cash4Lead at 6:39 PM on April 16


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Between this and Art Bell, it's been a rough week for my formative influences. Somebody make sure Tom Waits takes his vitamins.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:40 PM on April 16 [13 favorites]


Oh wow, he was so young. I remember having a big crush on him in his Night Court days. Weird choice as an eleven year old, but I was enchanted.

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posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:42 PM on April 16 [15 favorites]


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posted by jenkinsEar at 6:44 PM on April 16


His house is about 3 miles from mine here in Asheville. Very very sad to hear he's left us. I loved "Night Court," especially the episode with the new judge who's younger and, he thinks, smarter than Harry (wrong again). That was the best ensemble cast ever. RIP
posted by MovableBookLady at 6:44 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]




I ran his nightclub in New Orleans for five months. I will reserve my memories of the man for when he is not so newly deceased, except to say it’s a piece of my life I can now put behind me.
posted by maxsparber at 6:52 PM on April 16 [27 favorites]


I have fond memories of watching Night Court back in the 80s. I recently rewatched it and found it uncomfortably sexist and kind of gross. It hasn't aged well. But that's mostly down to the writing. Harry Anderson's performance in the show remains a joyful, exuberant, and whimsical take on questionable material. Laroquette is still great as well, though Dan Fielding is a despicable character. Actually the whole cast is great, in the way they commit to that material and give it everything they've got. 65 isn't young, but I can't imagine Harry Anderson looking any older than the way I remember him in Night Court, so it still feels like he's gone too soon.

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posted by wabbittwax at 7:02 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Man oh man, I haven't thought about it in decades but adolescent me spent so much time plowing through Games You Can't Lose over and over that I'm pretty sure both covers broke off my copy. Such a loss, way too young.
posted by range at 7:04 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by Mitheral at 7:11 PM on April 16


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posted by mikelieman at 7:13 PM on April 16


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posted by Sphinx at 7:14 PM on April 16


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posted by tonycpsu at 7:16 PM on April 16


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posted by Joey Michaels at 7:21 PM on April 16


Night Court had an amazing opening theme and a strong ensemble, even as people rotated in and out. A lot of it was the strength of Anderson, Laroquette, and Charles Robinson in their performances, but there were also some great walk-ons.

Brent Spiner's first appearance as the head of a sad-sack family who have had the worst things in the world happen to them repeatedly, and Anderson's continued decline as the story goes on is one of my favorite character moments in the show. (Also strong: any guest appearance by John Astin as Harry's dad, their chemistry was great.)

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posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:30 PM on April 16 [20 favorites]


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posted by Halloween Jack at 7:32 PM on April 16


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posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:32 PM on April 16


⚖️
posted by zachlipton at 7:38 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


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posted by Secret Sparrow at 7:45 PM on April 16


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posted by double bubble at 7:47 PM on April 16


Brent Spiner's first appearance as the head of a sad-sack family who have had the worst things in the world happen to them repeatedly, and Anderson's continued decline as the story goes on is one of my favorite character moments in the show.

The show was very well aware of how Brent Spiner got his big break, and honored him in the typical Night Court Way.

Every recurring character is portrayed by an actor that was far too good for '80s television. The huge bailiff, "Bull Shannon" is Richard Moll, who then went on to lend his voice to Harvey Dent in the Batman Animated series.

Anderson anchored the show, a charismatic center to the wheeling chaos of Christine, Dan, Mac, Roz and Bull and an evernew docket of doofus defendants. It was one of those shows that was aspirational, showing us what society could and should look like, rather than portraying it like it actually was. Whether this is helpful or hurtful is up in the air, but I tend to land on the side of "helping."

It wouldn't surprise me if he was problematic in his off-stage persona, but on-stage, wow.

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posted by Slap*Happy at 7:47 PM on April 16 [9 favorites]


If you have Netflix or Hulu, you can revisit what was Harry's introduction to most of America in Cheers. He has bits in:
Season 1, Episode 4
Season 1, Episode 16
Season 1, Episode 19
Season 2, Episode 10
Season 6, Episode 10
Season 11, Episode 19
posted by Lukenlogs at 7:48 PM on April 16 [10 favorites]


"Just take us right to the gas-chamber, we don't care." (First appearance of Bob & June Wheeler, and I had forgotten how much I loved Selma in this show)
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 7:52 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


I feel like Dave from Newsradio, another great ensemble comedy (*), showed a big Harold T. Stone influence, though he was straighter-faced.

(*) Newsradio has mostly held up, Night Court hasn't aged so well.

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posted by praemunire at 7:53 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


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posted by killy willy at 7:53 PM on April 16


(Also strong: any guest appearance by John Astin as Harry's dad, their chemistry was great.)

"But I'm feeling much better now!" (Can't believe I didn't recognize him as Gomez Addams until much later).

RIP Judge Stone.
posted by gtrwolf at 7:54 PM on April 16 [6 favorites]


A lot of it was the strength of Anderson, Laroquette, and Charles Robinson in their performances, but there were also some great walk-ons.

It's totally underappreciated how Marsha Warfield and Markie Post anchored that show for years.
posted by mhoye at 7:55 PM on April 16 [31 favorites]




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posted by dannyboybell at 8:00 PM on April 16


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posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 8:01 PM on April 16


. This one hurts.

Night Court on Metafilter previously
posted by Melismata at 8:05 PM on April 16 [1 favorite]


Needle through the arm "It's like economic recovery, it could be happening but it ain't"
posted by 445supermag at 8:06 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


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posted by jim in austin at 8:08 PM on April 16


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posted by MrVisible at 8:34 PM on April 16


Like so many here, loved Night Court as a kid (still one of the best 80s TV themes EVER). And as a not particularly squeamish kid (at least when it came to gruesome images on the screen), I loved magic tricks like the needle through the arm. I still remember one of his jokes from a TV special that made me laugh hysterically when I was little. The set up was something about having holes in his pants pockets; he's reaching into one, really digging deep into the crotch area, and then all of a sudden he gets a quizzical look on his face and says, "I don't remember buying any plums?"

RIP Judge Harry.
posted by Saxon Kane at 8:36 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


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posted by tdismukes at 8:38 PM on April 16


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posted by pjmoy at 8:41 PM on April 16


There was a homage to Night Court in 30Rock.
posted by emf at 8:52 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


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posted by sammyo at 9:01 PM on April 16


I am very, very curious to hear what maxsparber has to say, because I've been scrolling through the Harry Anderson tweets on twitter and people seem to have generally had fond and positive memories of the man. I don't see anything negative coming out.

On April 8th, Markie Post tweeted, in response to someone who told her they'd binge watched some Night Court, "I think BECAUSE it was so much fun to shoot, it made it that much more fun to watch. We all really liked each other."

Her tweet regarding Anderson's death is: "I am devastated. I’ll talk about you later, Harry, but for now, I’m devastated."

A quick scroll down Post's twitter page gives me a sense of a positive, upbeat sort of person who wants Trump prosecuted and removed from office, supports universal healthcare, action on climate change, and proportional taxation, and retweets and enthusiastically affirms her friend Marsha Warfield's tweets about racial injustice. So, you know, I tend to think her perspective might be a realistic one.

Marsha Warfield retweeted Markie's "devastated" tweet with a "Me too, Markie.", and then tweeted,Rest in peace, Harry. We miss you already. I tip my hat to you, my friend.
posted by orange swan at 9:03 PM on April 16 [11 favorites]


It's totally underappreciated how Marsha Warfield and Markie Post anchored that show for years.

This, absolutely this. Roz was such a rock and one of my favorite characters. Christine was someone you just wanted to root for, a person who tried to be a good human despite her surroundings. And both characters were played so expertly. “Don’t mess with Roz.”
posted by azpenguin at 9:12 PM on April 16 [13 favorites]


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I watched "Hello Sucker" every time it aired on Showtime (no VCR then) and was mesmerized every time. I was really fascinated by the "Needle through the Arm," AKA the Geek trick. I couldn't figure it out, and finally ordered one from Tannen's. And still couldn't do it! The trick normally has you put the needle in away from the audience, then reveal the pierced arm. Harry just shoved that needle right through his arm, facing the audience!

It was many years later I learned his trick: take the footage of removing the needle, edit it into the show in reverse. That was easier.

Someone called in to a radio show to complain, saying he couldn't do it like Harry did it. Harry told him he bought the wrong trick, he bought the "stage" version, he needed the "TV" version.
posted by Marky at 9:17 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


Night Court was the best as a kid (I definitely appreciate now the ways it was problematic, and don’t mean to dismiss them). It’s also a really well done postage stamp of 1980s New York only veering slightly into caricature.

And yes, all the characters were fully flushed out, with flaws and endearing traits both. All had their own character arcs. Above all I appreciated that Judge Stone never held himself as above anybody.

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posted by dry white toast at 9:20 PM on April 16


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posted by ZeusHumms at 9:20 PM on April 16


Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:43 PM on April 16 [2 favorites]


Much as I enjoyed the character Judge Harry Stone, as a former retail worker I can nonetheless 100% believe that a person could be a sweetheart to their friends, colleagues, fans, and/or random strangers, and at the same time be an asshole to their employees.

RIP Judge Harry.
posted by nicebookrack at 9:49 PM on April 16 [7 favorites]


/\ __ /\ __ /.\
posted by NumberSix at 10:02 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


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posted by Ignorantsavage at 10:34 PM on April 16


As a kid growing up in PG County, Maryland, then Austin, TX (before it become OMFG! FUCKING AUSTIN!) in the late 1980s, "Night Court" to me was cooler than cool, badder-than-badass, New York Fuckin City. The show was just awesome to my 11-14 year old self. Years later, I'd graduate college, get a job in that big bad city (in the late 1990s), and live in Brooklyn (also before it became OMFG! FUCKING BROOKLYN — you see, I have a tendency to be in the right place at the wrong time). The charm wore off, NYC broke me down (in retrospect, it was me being in a bad place personally, and not the greatness that is NYC). So I left for Baltimore, where I still live today. (And I still say it's poised to be the next Portland/Austin/Brooklyn. I'll fight you on this. However, I may need to move out from here before it happened, because — as I said — right place, wrong time.)

Still, any time I come across a "Night Court" episode, I watch, and I enjoy a certain magic, an NYC that doesn't exist anymore, and a youth and idealism that's also long gone.

Godspeed, Harry, and thanks for all the laughs.

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posted by CommonSense at 11:00 PM on April 16 [5 favorites]


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About half of my sense of humor came from Harry on Night Court. (The other half came from Andy Kaufmann and Christopher Lloyd on "Taxi", so Harry's was the half that people actually laughed at.)

"But I'm feeling much better now!"

I've apparently been quoting that one for 30 years without remembering where it came from...
posted by mmoncur at 11:01 PM on April 16 [4 favorites]


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posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 11:03 PM on April 16


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posted by condour75 at 11:05 PM on April 16


> hurdy gurdy girl:
"Oh wow, he was so young. I remember having a big crush on him in his Night Court days. Weird choice as an eleven year old, but I was enchanted.

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Not at all. He oozed so much charm I am surprised he could walk reliably.

Also...

🎩
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posted by Samizdata at 11:17 PM on April 16 [3 favorites]


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posted by songs_about_rainbows at 11:50 PM on April 16


I’m another fan of Night Court who watched it religiously as a kid, and who also had a crush on Harry. The show worked so well! I haven’t revisited and I guess it may not have aged well, but in the moment I enjoyed it so much.

I think I’ve heard he had his jerk qualities but I only know him from tv and he was a big part of my childhood that I remember fondly.
posted by PussKillian at 12:21 AM on April 17


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posted by radwolf76 at 12:34 AM on April 17


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posted by rokusan at 12:41 AM on April 17


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It wouldn't surprise me if he was problematic in his off-stage persona, but on-stage, wow.

That is a refreshingly open-minded perspective in this day and age.
posted by fairmettle at 1:09 AM on April 17 [5 favorites]


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posted by Smart Dalek at 1:09 AM on April 17


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posted by fourpotatoes at 2:06 AM on April 17


Night Court was the first sitcom I ever remember watching.

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posted by PenDevil at 2:50 AM on April 17


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posted by adamgreenfield at 3:04 AM on April 17


🎩
posted by Gelatin at 3:05 AM on April 17


I saw him do the Geek Trick on SNL when I was probably 12 and followed him all through the years after that. He was a formative character, and one who worked clean. One of my originals, he opened the door for Penn and Teller and David Letterman years later. Great timing for him, the confident nerd in the era of Sledge-o-matic, the early 80s were still at the advent of modern standup comedy and odd personas like his could still find a place at the mic, not to mention magic without big productions. As the years wore on he seemed like the perfect person to run into in some tourist city, shopping for rugs.

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posted by rhizome at 4:02 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


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posted by james33 at 4:26 AM on April 17


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posted by Anne Neville at 4:39 AM on April 17


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God I loved Night Court.
posted by DigDoug at 5:12 AM on April 17


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posted by filtergik at 5:26 AM on April 17


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posted by cjorgensen at 5:43 AM on April 17


R.I.P.
posted by roystgnr at 6:21 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


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posted by solotoro at 6:28 AM on April 17


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posted by dlugoczaj at 6:54 AM on April 17


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posted by gyusan at 7:06 AM on April 17


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posted by bshort at 7:19 AM on April 17


So long, weirdo.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 7:28 AM on April 17 [1 favorite]


I loved Night Court so much when I was a kid too. Kinda freaky to think he was only 15 years older than me. I loved him and John Larroquette together so much. RIP, Harry.
posted by h00py at 7:32 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Also, for those of us who care about such things, he was another renaissance faire person. (Oregon.)
posted by desuetude at 7:32 AM on April 17


He was such a nice guy. He and his wife moved to a smaller house in Asheville a few years back and so had to downsize their library. He brought the books in to the store where I worked by himself, boxes and boxes. They were good books, too, a lot of penguin classics, a lot of interesting nonfiction. And a lot of them had his bookplate inside, From the Library of H. Anderson. We took more than half and he was even affable about picking up the ones we couldn’t take (this is often the point where people lose it) and came and loaded them all back into his car. He was a lovely, down to earth, pleasant person and I am so sorry to hear this.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:45 AM on April 17 [13 favorites]


I am very, very curious to hear what maxsparber has to say, because I've been scrolling through the Harry Anderson tweets on twitter and people seem to have generally had fond and positive memories of the man. I don't see anything negative coming out.

I MeFi mailed maxsparber a while back about his encounters with Harry Anderson in New Orleans. I suppose we can let maxsparber fill in, but generally speaking, based on that previous letter, it sounds like Harry Anderson had had a serious problem with alcohol & it probably played a factor in why he didn't make it to "three score and ten." That may explain why he was on the outs with a lot of the rest of the Night Court cast & a cast reunion was Never. Gonna. Happen.

Still, hearing from some of the other folks on the thread, it looks like he found some peace for himself in North Carolina before he died.

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posted by jonp72 at 8:21 AM on April 17


People can be perfectly lovely in one context and perfect horrible in another. Let's just say that on my end it's a bit like hearing that an abusive ex died.
posted by maxsparber at 8:33 AM on April 17 [9 favorites]


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posted by bjgeiger at 8:54 AM on April 17


I was another kid for whom Night Court was airing at just the right time slot for my formative years. It's funny how the vagaries of broadcast television shaped us.

I knew Anderson almost exclusively as Judge Stone, who was extremely appealing to me as a character. My memories of the show have faded somewhat with time and I probably won't revisit it anytime soon, but I recall Stone bringing humanity, heart, and goofiness to an institution, the justice system, that can be profoundly dehumanizing to both its defendants and employees.

Anyhow, he depicted the kind of adult I wanted to be in that role. Someone who could be both professional and fun. I have no idea what he was like as a person, but the fact that his stand-up persona was a literal con-man, well... we are who we pretend to be.
posted by subocoyne at 9:37 AM on April 17 [3 favorites]


TV Writer Ken Levine: (former writer and showrunner for M*A*S*H and Cheers, among other shows)
I can't believe this isn't just one of his ingenious hustles. Come on Harry, show yourself. There's so much that doesn't make sense. Harry was only 65. He can't be gone. This must be a trick.
...
He was a lovely guy, mischievous as hell, and just naturally hilarious.

Okay, Harry, you had your fun. Show yourself. It's too sad otherwise.

posted by zarq at 10:35 AM on April 17 [2 favorites]


I read the article posted by ColdChef on Twitter from Bestofneworleans.com and they definitely reference a tension between Anderson and New Orleans.
Anderson and his wife rode out Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, but he grew increasingly outspoken about the direction of the city, which he saw as a difficult place to live and work before the storm and nearly impossible afterward — particularly after the reelection of Ray Nagin as mayor in 2006. In a then-infamous New York Times profile, he lambasted New Orleans, saying, “This city hasn’t evolved. I just feel this place is stuck on stupid.” He subsequently moved to Asheville and lived there until his death.
But personally, I am only familiar with his acting, and I always liked things he was in.

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posted by terrapin at 11:09 AM on April 17


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posted by Splunge at 11:13 AM on April 17


Oh god. I think I took that picture of Harry in the Best of New Orleans article, and definitely was responsible for that ad.

Memories flooding back. Wasn’t ready to process this.

Still, I loved NOLA and miss it.
posted by maxsparber at 12:54 PM on April 17 [5 favorites]


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posted by porpoise at 4:07 PM on April 17


So, I watched "Hello, Sucker!" last night and I have to say...it was a little blue!

There's an interesting part in the Steve Martin episode of "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee," when Jerry asks him why he left standup. His reply was something along the lines of "I ran out of material." As I recall, he had been building his standup persona for some years, it had hit its mark, continued for a minute into "King Tut," then he started focusing on acting and writing.

As I watched the special, I was reminded of all that as I realized I basically knew all of his bits in it, of which there are maybe 5 or 6? I don't recall watching the actual special (we didn't have Showtime when it came out), so my familiarity came from his TV appearances. He had about 5 years of working on all that and then he made a smart move into TV.

Hagiography aside, there's also a certain car-crash appeal of Harry as a crotchety Bukowski character as the years wore on. I kind of wish there was some TMZ clips for that, and I wonder what his drink was.

which he saw as a difficult place to live and work before the storm and nearly impossible afterward

Credit where due, one of my best friends has lived there for about 15 years and this indeed strikes true from what I've heard. And well-adjusted people rarely make it in comedy.
posted by rhizome at 4:14 PM on April 17 [1 favorite]


Vodka and orange juice.
posted by maxsparber at 4:21 PM on April 17 [3 favorites]


Problem drinkers always have the most boring poison.
posted by rhizome at 4:37 PM on April 17 [2 favorites]


From the NYT:

Turk Pipkin, a longtime friend, said Mr. Anderson had been hospitalized with the flu a few months ago and had remained sick.
posted by kimberussell at 5:32 AM on April 18 [1 favorite]


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posted by homunculus at 10:10 AM on April 18


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