Family & Companions
A popular and well-liked stage comic and renowned street magician in the early 1980s, comedian-actor Harry Anderson made a successful transition into television to become one of primetime's best known actors of the decade. Anderson was most recognized for playing the likeably eccentric Judge Harold T. Stone on the long-running courtroom comedy, "Night Court" (NBC, 1984-1992), followed by a stint as newspaper columnist Dave Barry in the sitcom "Dave's World" (CBS 1993-97). Born Oct. 14, 1952, in Newport, RI, Harry Anderson had an extremely unconventional childhood. His father, a traveling salesman, was often absent from home while Anderson was growing up. As a result, Anderson was raised almost exclusively by his mother, to whom he was very close. Around the mid-1950s, Anderson's mother left her husband and took young Harry with her to Chicago. Desperate to put food on the table, she reportedly worked as a prostitute, a fact which Anderson publicly acknowledged in a 1989 Playboy interview ("[Mom] was a hustler, yeah; she did a lot of things. We moved around a lot, and she had a lot of men friends.") and other interviews during this era, though it's unclear how much of this story Anderson had embellished to burnish his early persona as a street-smart con artist. Over the next few years, Anderson followed his mother from city to city for her various jobs. Finally, in the late 1950s, she moved the family to Las Vegas, NV, where she subsequently got a job as one of the town's first female blackjack dealers. It was while watching his mother at work, that Anderson picked up his lifelong fascination with cards. In 1962, Anderson went to live with his father in California. At age 16, he was running a very lucrative shell game in San Francisco. Though the adjustment of moving from the city to the suburbs apparently gave Anderson severe culture shock, the future star adjusted to his new environment by pursuing an interest in magic. Capitalizing on his rising popularity, Anderson quickly became a member of his school's "in crowd" and even claimed to have graduated as valedictorian of his 1970 class of North Hollywood High School. After graduation, rather than go the academic route, Anderson began performing street magic to earn a living. By 1973, Anderson was performing two shows a day on street corners, at fairs, and on college campuses. Anderson turned to legitimate magic after a disgruntled "sucker" broke his jaw. Still the con-man persona would be an essential component of his subsequent magician character. For years, Anderson made a modest income via donations, literally by passing his hat around at the end of his performances. Before long, however, word of Anderson's act spread and eventually led to more prestigious bookings around town. In 1982, Anderson was performing at Hollywood's famed Magic Castle Hotel when he was "discovered' by a talent agent. This led to a month-long gig in Las Vegas, which in turn, led to Anderson's first national appearance on "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ). Anderson's unique brand of comedy and magic was so well-received that "SNL" producer Lorne Michaels eventually invited Anderson back six more times over the next three years, including once performing a shocking needle-through-the-arm trick. Anderson's growing television exposure eventually brought him to the attention of primetime audiences. In 1982, Anderson's career received a tremendous push when he guest starred in an episode of "Cheers" (NBC, 1982-1993). In the first of his six appearances on the show, Anderson introduced the world to Harry "The Hat" Gittes, a fast-talking, card counting hustler with a heart of gold. Virtually tailor-made to Anderson's odd bag of idiosyncrasies, Harry the Hat allowed Anderson to openly indulge in his other great passion: performing magic. Audiences fell in love with Anderson's charm and natural ease and NBC's television execs took quick notice. In early 1984, Anderson was tapped to star in his own prime-time comedy called "Night Court." An early winner with both fans and critics alike, the slapstick series won Anderson three consecutive Emmy nominations for Outstanding Male Lead in a Comedy in 1985, 1986, and 1987. Playing the oddball Judge Harry Stone in the normally hardball world of the NYC legal system, Anderson brought a boyish exuberance to the potentially grim responsibilities of his fictional job. A consistent ratings hit, "Night Court" finally adjourned in 1993 after nine successful seasons. Anderson would not remain unemployed very long. With the success of "Night Court," Anderson became a TV staple, appearing in guest spots like "Tales from the Darkside" (Syndicated, 1984-88) "Tales From the Crypt" (HBO, 1989-1996), Disney TV productions (a 1988 NBC remake of "The Absent-Minded Professor") and assorted specials, TV movies and miniseries including "Spies, Lies & Naked Thighs" (CBS, 1988). In 1990, he starred in the ABC made-for-TV adaptation of "Stephen King's IT." Anderson then returned to series television as the star of "Dave's World" (CBS, 1993-97), a family sitcom based loosely on the life and columns of humor columnist, Dave Barry. Another ratings hit, "Dave's World" ran for four seasons. Anderson kept a low profile after "Dave World" was canceled. Tired of L.A.'s glaring spotlight, Anderson and his wife moved to New Orleans in the early 2000s. where he opened a magic shop while performing corporate comedy magic gigs. Following the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Anderson stepped back into the spotlight, becoming an outspoken critic of the federal government and New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin before moving to Asheville, North Carolina. Harry Anderson was found dead in his home on April 16, 2018. He was 65.
Cast (Feature Film)
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Acted in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival
Returned to street performing
Met, married, and began performing with Leslie Pollack, a fellow magician
Became a recurring character, Harry the Hat, on "Cheers"
Feature acting debut, "The Escape Artist"
TV acting debut, "Twilight Theater", a satirical comedy special
Starred as Judge Harold Stone on the popular sitcom "Night Court"; also wrote some episodes
Wrote and produced first TV special (also starred), "Harry Anderson's Sideshow"
Played humorist Dave Barry on the CBS sitcom, "Dave's World", based on the columns of the Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaperman
Became the proud proprietor of Spade & Archer Curiosities by Appointment, a New Orleans magic shop
Appeared on the "Night Court" episode of "30 Rock"
Had final screen credit as Professor Kaman in the religious drama "A Matter of Faith"