Inside the dust jacket of his new book Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother, But You Can Read Them Too, comedian and actor Louie Anderson explains, “I started out writing these letters to my mom, but a few friends said I should write a book.” Hey Mom, which is out now in bookstores, consists of letters Anderson wrote to his late mother between 2015 and 2017. Its inception and creation runs parallel to his casting as Christine Baskets in the acclaimed FX series Baskets, which garnered him an Emmy in 2016, but as Anderson explains to Uproxx, their separate trajectories are not one and the same.
They are, however, inseparably linked. The common denominator for the pair — along with Anderson’s new stand-up special, Big Underwear and his Emmy Award-winning cartoon series, Life with Louie — is his mother. Her influence on the comic is so strong, in fact, that he wagers his drive to talk to her will encourage readers to do the same with their parents. “I hope that after you read it, you’ll write or call your own mom — or dad, sister, brother, cousin, nephew. Or have lunch with them. Or breakfast. It doesn’t have to be lunch. But do it now. Don’t wait like I did.” As I told Louie over the phone, I didn’t wait at all.
After reading the review copy of Hey Mom, I did what you predict a lot of readers will do and called my parents.
Oh good, and how did it go? Did it feel good?
It felt great, though I had to explain why I sounded somewhat erratic.
Yeah, I should have put in there. “Just call them, but don’t say all the stuff you want to say to them right at that moment. It will scare them!”
Hey Mom is very much tied to your character on Baskets, and you use your mother as inspiration for Christine Baskets, but what came first? The idea for the book, or getting the Baskets role?
Getting the role on Baskets. That’s very close, though. I would always talk to my mom things like, “Hey mom, what are you doing? How’s it going? How are you? I hope you’re with Roger, Kent, Rhea, Mary, and all the rest. And how’s Dad? Is he behaving himself?” The kinds of things you do that make some people look at you funny. They’ll ask, “Who are you talking to?” I got the part, and then one day after doing this, after talking to my mom, I thought, “I feel like I should write this.” I had an overwhelming urge to write my mom the first letter, so I wrote it, and it resonated with me. I sent it to a few of my friends and to my team, all people I like and respect, and they all loved it. They loved the letter. And then, of course, as any good person in show business will do, they all said, “You should turn this into a book.”
Whenever I had an idea or a thought about something I’d want to tell mom, I’d always begin with, “Hey mom” and ask, “What about this? What do you think of this?” Later on, when I could concentrate on it, I revisited these thoughts and expanded them into full letters. But they always began with, “Hey mom,” and only then would I write down what I wanted to say. “Do you think we’ll ever be able to solve the homeless problem? How did you feel about giving up your daughter? How did you make that work in your head?” All the things that are in the book. They came from real places and real thoughts. Some were good and easy, and some were very difficult and really troublesome.
It’s obvious after reading Hey Mom that your mother had a strong, positive influence on your life, but there’s also a line in the first letter when you admit you wished she’d been harder on you.
I think that you need guidance, but you also need things like this, and maybe I wouldn’t have been so lazy if she hadn’t left me off the hook for so many things. Maybe I wouldn’t have eaten so much if she would have said, “Hey, have you thought about how much you’re eating?” Or any of those other things. Moms notice all that stuff. They know it all. They see it all. I think they’re afraid, because they don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I think parents have to hurt your feelings sometimes in order to tell you the truth. I’ve been lucky enough to have a lot of people tell me the truth in my life, thankfully. I don’t like it, but who likes it? In those cases, I think it would have gone a long way with my mother saying it, because she had so much sway over me. I probably adopted a lot more of her routines and beliefs than I did from my dad.