Harry Anderson, the Emmy-nominated star of Night Court, died today in his home in Asheville, N.C. at the age of 65.
Anderson started his career as a magician and comedian before taking a turn as Harry “the Hat” Gittes on the NBC series Cheers in the early ’80s. His appearances as the lovable grifter led him to play Judge Harry Stone for nine seasons on Night Court. Harry played a Judge who got his bench in a swath of last-minute signings by an exciting mayor/governor. The character had a handful of traits woven in from the actor’s personal likes, including his ability for magic and his love of crooner Mel Tome. Anderson was nominated for an Emmy three consecutive times (1985-1987) for the role. He directed two episodes of the series and wrote or co-wrote five.
After Night Court, Anderson took on the role of columnist Dave Barry on the CBS comedy Dave’s World for four seasons before moving to New Orleans in 2000 to open Oswald’s Speakeasy, a nightclub where he would perform his mix of comedy and magic. He moved to North Carolina after Hurricane Katrina hit the city, causing massive damage and killing tourist numbers for a while. He did guests pots on Son of the Beach (2002) and 30 Rock (2008) but overall was done with Hollywood after Dave’s World.
It’s said that Anderson got his start as a street performer in San Francisco at the age of 16, making his way to L.A. Magic Castle where he performed in the early ’80s where he met an agent. He would make several appearances on Saturday Night Live before appearing on Cheers. In 1985, he hosted SNL. He had a handful of other credits including Tales From the Crypt, Parker Lewis Can’t Lose and re-teaming with his Night Court co-start John Larroquette on the John Larroquette Show. His only real turn at drama came in 1990 as part of ABC’s mini-series adaptation of Stephen King‘s It.