Comedian Louie Anderson wrote in his most recent book, The F Word: How to Survive Your Family, that "we all have dark times."
How well we get through them "is a measure of who we are and how well we've come to accept things," he noted.
For the 50-year-old funnyman, who performs today through Saturday at the Baltimore Improv, laughter has been his coping mechanism of choice, and it is a survival strategy that has made him a nationally known standup comic and television personality.
"It seems that my comedy comes from my life experiences," said the former Family Feud game-show host, calling Tuesday from Los Angeles.
That means his routines include jokes about many somber moments.
The 10th of 11 children, he grew up in the projects of St. Paul, Minn. His father was a drinker; his mother, "a saint," he said. Problems with gambling followed Anderson on his rise to fame.
"I come from an alcoholic family, and alcohol can manifest its way into a lot of different compulsions," he said.
"All the fun stuff, eating, drinking, gambling, I'm not the type of person to just do a little of it. A lot of people try to have fun with it, [but] I tried to make a living out if it, and it doesn't work. [Doing it] was not about having fun anymore," added Anderson, who left his Minnesota home in 1981 after winning that year's Midwest Comedy Competition.
For most of his more-than-two-decades career that has transpired since, Anderson has centered his material on the connections between his problems and those in his family.
"I don't think people realize that the essence of who they are, the essence of what they do and the essence of where they're headed in their life is a result of being like their family or desperately trying to paint another scenario," he said.
And though he "gets along pretty good" with his relatives, Anderson said his family-focused jokes have in the past caused strife with his kin.
"They get mad at me sometimes ... but they know that I'm not out to do them in," he said.
After all, Anderson contended, the point of his schtick is to work through his personal issues and problems by joking about them, which, in turn, allows others to relate and even laugh at themselves, too.
In other words, he said, his relatives are as strange as the next person's -- and so are yours.
"I think the great thing about my comedy is that I don't feel so alone, and I think that the people coming to see it don't feel like they are all alone with a crazy family" either.
"We're all in the same boat."
The Baltimore Improv is at 6 Market Place in the Power Plant Live complex. Tickets are $25. For more information, call 410-727-8500, or visit www.baltimoreimprov.com.
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