Harry Anderson 1952-2018
He was an unlikely television star, and never really had a second act, but for a brief time in the 1980s, the slight comedian-slash-magician was the star of one of the top shows in the country. The quirky Night Court was never high brow, but neither was it dismissed by lovers of smart comedy. It was even nominated for an Emmy three times–Anderson himself earned the lead acting nod (but not the win) twice, as the laid back Judge Harry S. Stone.
As a magic-fueled stand-up, he was hardly a unique creature–in fact, he wasn’t even the only close-magic comic featured on Saturday Night Live in the early 1980s to find stardom (Joel Hodgson appeared multiple times years before returning home to Minneapolis and creating the soon-to-be cult juggernaut MST3K). His work on SNL led to a recurring role as lanky grifter Harry “The Hat” Gittes (as pics above attest–he did enjoy a good hat), a frequent barfly-er on Cheers.
He spent nine seasons on Night Court‘s Manhattan bench, returning (sort of) to the role of Harry S. Stone for a (sort of) tenth season. In one of his final TV performances, in an episode of 30 Rock, where Tracy Jordan attempts to return a favor to Kenneth the Page by reviving his favorite show. Kenneth is tortured by the idea that Harry Stone and public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post) never married. Fictional Anderson and Post are not overly enthused, but go through the motions in a hurricane of meta that would have been most certainly welcome on the original show.
Anyway, here’s some magic comedy–or comedy magic–from Harry Anderson’s 1980s: