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Louie Anderson on ‘Coming to America’ role: ‘I had no idea’

Updated March 3, 2021 - 9:31 pm

The last comic I hung out with pre-pandemic was Louie Anderson, the night of Feb. 27, 2020. Anderson took the stage, unbilled, that evening at Jimmy Kimmel’s Comedy Club and lit the place up for 20 minutes.

We chatted it up in Kimmel’s green room, sharing laughs and snapping selfies. Prophetically, photos of Kimmel with Eddie Murphy were visible in the background.

Murphy, Arsenio Hall and Anderson (unwittingly) made news after Monday’s episode of “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” Murphy and Hall were Kimmel’s guests, promoting “Coming 2 America” a sequel to the 1988 comedy classic “Coming To America.”

The comic actors revive their iconic roles as Prince Akeem and his sidekick, Semmi. Amazon is set to release the movie Friday on Prime Video.

When Kimmel asked Murphy and Hall how Anderson was cast in the original movie, Hall said the decision was a result of pressure from Paramount Pictures to add a white character to the cast.

“I love Louie, but I think we were forced to put Louie in it,” Hall said. “We were forced to put in a white person.”

Murphy cut in with, “The whole cast is black — and this was back in the ’80s — so it was like, ‘We have to have a white person! There has to be a white person in the movie.′ What? So it was, ‘Who’s the funniest white guy around?’ And Louie, we knew, we was cool with him. So that’s how Louie got in the movie.”

Hall noted that the actors were not told to hire Anderson, specifically. “They gave me a list with three white guys. And they said, ‘Who would you rather work with?’ I said Louie.”

This was news to Anderson, who reprises his role as the mid-level McDowell’s employee Maurice.

“I had no idea,” Anderson said in a phone chat Wednesday from his home in Las Vegas. “I just lean into it. I have no problem with it.”

Asked when he learned of this process, which played out 33 years ago, Anderson chuckled and said, “About when you did.” Murphy actually described how Anderson was cast during an appearance with Al Roker on NBC’s “Today” show last Wednesday . Anderson tweeted a video of Murphy’s appearance, with the message, “Wait what?”

Characteristically positive, Anderson emphasized his long friendship with Murphy and Hall.

“They are my friends, they love me, I love them, and they picked me over who else was offered at the time,” Anderson said. “It’s all part of the history of the movie, and when this all happened we texted and I thanked them for the support. I have nothing but positive experiences from the film. I feel it’s no harm, no foul.”

Anderson won an Emmy for his role as Christine Baskets in Zach Galifianakis’ FX series “Baskets.” The veteran stand-up and comic actor says he’s used that role as a springboard to his next project, portraying a talking cat in the Fox sitcom “Tigsley,” due this year.

“If I can play Christine Baskets, playing a cat is easy,” Anderson said of the latest character, named for his family’s feline when he was a kid. Anderson also returning the animated “Life With Louie” for 2022. That show aired on Fox and Fox Kids from 1994-1998.

“I’ve been getting some good props lately, so I’m happy,” Anderson said. “I’m really happy with how the movie turned out. It’s fantastic, and Eddie has done a beautiful job of wrapping it all up. It’s really his baby, and I’m delighted to be in it.”

Trapeze action

Lest we forget a splendid, Vegas-styled, no-cover-charge entertainment experience on the Strip: The Circus Circus Midway acts have been running in pandemic compliance since Labor Day. The acts start at 11:30 a.m., with Midway hours of operation set at 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. It has been far too long between visits.

Mo’ shows on the Strip

Kyle Martin’s Real Piano Man” is returning to Mosaic On The Strip, target date April 15. Club operator Dean Coleman says he’s been receiving a high volume of calls regarding Martin’s Billy Joel/Elton John tribute, which closed in January over internal disagreements in the show. Apparently, Billy and Elton couldn’t share the same dressing room.

Martin’s show joins Mosaic’s ongoing “Queens of Rock,” starring the blazing (and occasionally, rollerskating) vocalist Elyzabeth Diaga, and the “Aussie Heat” male revue. The Michael Jackson tribute “M.J. The Evolution” with Michael Firestone is set to open this weekend. “A Mob Story,” late of Plaza Showroom, is in line to open the first week of May.

Meantime, the sultry dance revue “Little Miss Nasty” is also reviewing the Mosaic space as its residency at the Rio is (similar to the dance move) in limbo. “LMN” most recently performed at the Rio’s Club 172, and prior to that at Hooters Night Owl Showroom.

Dig this concept

“The Vegas Room Presents” series premieres Thursday night, a program hosted by Jassen Allen with Chris Lash as the dedicated pianist. Cheryl Daro, Sam Holder, Gabriella Versace and Brett Pruneau kick off this bi-monthly series. The five-course dinner is 6:30 p.m., the listening experience is at 8.

Inside reference, a few months ago I accidentally walked into a hotel room in Escondido, Calif., occupied by Lash and a couple of friends. True story. It involves a Travis Cloer show.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.