Harry Anderson, the amiable actor who presided over the NBC comedy “Night Court” for nine seasons, has died at his home in Asheville, N.C., according to a local media report. He was 65.
Anderson was found at his home by police officers early Monday , according to a report by WSPA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Spartanburg, S.C. No foul play was suspected, police told the station.
Anderson was a magician-turned-actor who was known as a rabid fan of jazz singer Mel Torme. The affection for Torme was woven into his TV alter ego, Judge Harry Stone, a quirky character who ruled the bench at a Manhattan night court. The sitcom was a mainstay of NBC from 1984 to 1992. Anderson earned three consecutive Emmy nominations for his work on the show from 1985-1987.
Anderson gained national attention after he guest starred as grifter Harry “the Hat” Gittes on NBC’s “Cheers” in the early 1980s. On “Night Court,” Anderson played a goofy but big-hearted judge who encountered a host of oddball characters and cases every week. The series also starred John Larroquette, Richard Moll, Charles Robinson, Marsha Warfield and Markie Post. Anderson also directed two episodes of the series and wrote or co-wrote five episodes during its long run.
After “Night Court,” Anderson co-starred as columnist Dave Barry in the CBS comedy “Dave’s World,” which ran for four seasons. Anderson moved to New Orleans in 2000 to open the nightclub Oswald’s Speakeasy, where he performed a mix of comedy and magic, and a magic and curio shop dubbed Sideshow.
Anderson logged a guest spot in FX’s “Son of the Beach” in 2002 and a 2008 appearance on NBC’s “30 Rock.” But for the most part, he stayed away from Hollywood. He moved to North Carolina in 2006 after New Orleans was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina the previous year.
Born in Rhode Island, Anderson reportedly had a difficult childhood and moved frequently with his mother, whom he once described in an interview with Playboy as “a hustler.” He moved to California at the age of 16 to be with his father. He became a street performer and reportedly ran a lucrative shell game on the streets of San Francisco for a time.
Anderson made his way to L.A.’s famed Magic Castle in the early 1980s and connected with an agent, according to TCM.com. He made several appearances on “Saturday Night Live” around this time. After “Night Court” made him a star, Anderson hosted “SNL” in 1985.
Anderson’s other credits included guest shots on “Tales From the Crypt” and HBO’s “Tanner ’88,” “Parker Lewis Can’t Lose,” and “The John Larroquette Show.” He starred in the 1990 ABC miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “It.”
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