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Louie Anderson brings Mitchell connections, Minnesota flavor to Corn Palace show

Louie Anderson will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, April 26, at the Corn Palace. (Publicity photo)

If you go

Louie Anderson will perform at 7 p.m. Friday at the Corn Palace. Tickets are $50, $30 or $25 depending on seating, and available at the Corn Palace box office at 995-8430.

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Long before he was famous, Louie Anderson vowed one day he would do a show at the Corn Palace in Mitchell.

Friday, the veteran stand-up comedian, writer, game-show host and, most recently, reality show participant, will do just that. And he's bringing his droll Midwestern observations with him. "Let's be honest. You could only have a Corn Palace in the Midwest," he said in a recent phone interview with The Daily Republic. "When you mention it to people, their eyes squint, and they say, 'what is it?' " Corn Palace Director Mark Schilling said the show is a partnership between the Corn Palace and Dakota Wesleyan University, and is a fundraiser for the DWU women's basketball team. He said the show will have a capacity of about 2,000.

Though Anderson grew up in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota, he said his mother grew up in Mitchell. When he and his family visited his aunt in Mitchell during his childhood, they visited the Corn Palace.

"There's a big part of me that feels really connected," Anderson said.

It's a connection to the Midwest, in general, he said.

"I feel close to it," Anderson said. "It's such a rich canvas -- the moms, the dads, the neighbors, all the people in the Midwest."

Not so connected, though, that he misses the inclement weather. While sitting in the Los Angeles sun, Anderson said he was excited to play in the Corn Palace. He was not excited to hear about the recent snowfall.

"You better get rid of the snow, or I'm not coming," he quipped.

Anderson said he admires comedy legends including Bob Hope, Jack Benny, Johnny Carson and Richard Pryor, but he doesn't try to emulate them.

"I always wanted to be, really, myself," he said. "I always wanted to be myself and I wanted to bring something from Minnesota to the stage."

He described a "bubbling brook, or babbling brook, of Midwesternisms," that keeps him entertained and interested -- and not all of them come from the language.

"There's so many unspoken things, a gesture, a nod, a sigh, a grimace," Anderson said. "A disapproving look from mom probably had more power than taking a switch from a tree. There's so much understated."

Switching easily between sincerity and satire, Anderson uses his intimate knowledge of the people of the Midwest to describe "that Midwestern friend" that everyone has. Taking on a hushed tone, Anderson describes how Midwesterners break news to each other:

" 'Did you hear about Betty? She fell. It was touch and go. Her Pomeranian tripped her, and then, she trained him, so he dialed 911. And now he's a service dog.' "

He laughs, but then quickly resumes the somber tone, building on what already has happened to Betty.

"Did I tell you about Shirley? She was over at Betty's ... "

It turns out Shirley had her own emergency -- involving her climbing and cleaning in treacherous areas --which ends with what Anderson describes as the typical Midwestern warning: "And that's why I don't climb."

While he pokes gentle fun at the smalltown scene, Anderson said it's something he cherishes.

"I grew up in the Midwest, and I was very attracted to the people," he said. "I think the Midwest is a small town. 'Big City' there doesn't mean you can take that Midwesternness out of people."

Anderson said it could be that "Midwestern-ness" that has helped him achieve an enviable level of versatility. In addition to his successful stand-up career, Anderson just finished a seven-year run with his own showroom in Las Vegas -- "We had to get rid of it because, you know, John fell," -- and has been a familiar face in film and television, as a writer, actor, comic and producer. His own show "Life with Louie" ran from 1995 to 1998, and he was one of the most familiar faces to host the long-running game show, "Family Feud."

As an actor, he's appeared in TV shows and films since the early 1980s. He has also written best-selling books, including "Dear Dad -- Letters From An Adult Child," "Good-bye Jumbo ... Hello Cruel World," and "The F Word: How to Survive Your Family." With his own personal talents ranging from knowing how to change a tire to how to make a hill into a sheet of ice -- "so you can slide down it" -- Anderson said versatility is just another way he stays true to his upbringing.

"This is where being a Midwesterner comes in handy," Anderson said. "We can chop holes in ice, we can help somebody finish their basement, we can start a car in the dead of winter with blankets and we make a (heck) of a tuna casserole."

It's that adventurous spirit that led Anderson to his latest endeavor as a participant on "Splash," ABC's hit reality show. "It's been kind of a whirlwind, that whole thing," he said.

The show started with 10 celebrities training to compete in regulation platform and springboard diving in front of a weekly audience. Each week, the celebrities are coached and judged by professional and Olympic athletes. For Anderson, who learned to swim just five years ago, he said the timing felt like fate.

"It's been a great experience. It's been really hard," Anderson said. "I feel like I learned how to swim so this show was going to come to me." Anderson joked that judging him as a "competitor" was a stretch, but he said the show has given him a chance to, in a sense, finish that climb to the top of the rope that he never could accomplish during gym class.

"It was kind of a godsend. This was my chance to do something, to feel a sense of accomplishment," he said. "As hard as it was, overall, I've had the time of my life."

With "Splash" finishing up, Anderson said he will soon be back on the road. And, throughout his career, while he said he wanted to do the cartoon series and "jumped" at the chance to host "Family Feud," he keeps going back to his first love: standup.

"That's the joyous thing," Anderson said. "I love to be able to get people for an hour and a half to forget their problems. Have a good laugh, have a good time. That's why standups do what they do."

And that's where he'll talk to audiences about Betty, and Shirley, and all the other Midwestern people he's met along the way.

"We're a helpful group of people," he said, launching back into the small-town way to deal with disaster: food. "Let's get over there and bring them some casserole and then we'll find out what's really going on with her daughter."

His voice drops to an ominous whisper as he says "daughter."

"Because that's what they do, they whisper, 'daughter,' " Anderson explained, chuckling.

His down-to-earth style reflects even in how he presents his shows. Anderson said people often call out their favorite bits, or segments, of his comedy. When he can, he tries to work that in.

"I try to acknowledge that," Anderson said. "People really want to hear a certain routine, so I do it when I can."

Once again threatening that snow might scare him off, Anderson said if it doesn't, he's hoping to snag some corn off the side of the Corn Palace to take to poor Betty.

"Because Betty's laid up, so I'm going to bring it to her," he said. "I think it will cheer her up."

In the meantime, Anderson will make do with what he's got.

"I'm going to go check on Betty now," he said. "I always bring her a muffin or something."

Tickets for the show are available at the Corn Palace box office, at 995-8430. Table seats are $50 per seat, or $400 per table, with eight seats per table. Reserved seating is $30 for the A section (lower section of seats), and general admission tickets are $25 apiece.

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