Friday, July 26, 2002 | 9:11 a.m.
Louie Anderson, the Gentle Giant of Comedy, has moved his live onstage chat room comedy format to the warm, friendly, state-of-the-art Orleans Showroom, appearing there through Sunday ... Anderson is conversational, topical, and gentle ... He never raises his voice, resorts to scatology or becomes visceral as so many comedians do today.
Anderson's approach to comedy is unconventional compared to the current crop of cookie-cutter comics ... He does deal with childhood, growing up as the 10th in a brood of 11 children in a Minneapolis project -- and with gambling in Las Vegas; familiar terrain, made fresh and even funnier by Anderson's warm approach and delivery.
What really sets Anderson apart is an informal audience chat session, completely impromptu and free form, more than the usual "Where're you from?" format ... It can last for as long as 30 minutes; hysterical, a never-fail segment ... Despite his huge frame, he can and does employ subtle body movements to illustrate and punctuate his laugh lines.
Like other comedic headliners, citing Howie Mandel and Rita Rudner as two examples, Anderson made his stage debut on a dare in a tiny Minneapolis comedy club on Columbus Day, 1978 ... The immediate positive audience response convinced him that comedy was his calling ... A first-place finish in a 1981 Midwest Comedy Competition was the clincher.
Upon his return, he packed his belongings in the trunk of his 1974 Chevy and headed for Los Angeles ... Four years later, in 1985, he was broke and back in Minneapolis, but undaunted ... With borrowed money, he produced, directed and starred in his own one-hour comedy special ... It was an instant success ... He was back to Los Angeles to stay.
Mitzi Shore's Comedy Stores in Los Angeles and Las Vegas were Anderson's operating base for the balance of the 1980s ... He has been a headline attraction since the start of the 1990s, bolstered by award-winning television specials, and two best-selling books, "Dear Dad -- Letters From An Adult Child" and "Goodbye Jumbo; Hello, Cruel World."
His long-running animated Saturday morning series, "Life With Louie," won him three consecutive Humanitas prizes, a Genesis Award, and two Emmy Awards ... Anderson has just completed a successful stand as host of the syndicated "Family Feud" game show ... A welcome guest on various TV talk and entertainment shows, Anderson continues to expand his creative horizons.
Super Summer Theatre's "Li'l Abner" closes Saturday at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park ... "Annie" is next, starting Aug. 7.
The Performing Arts Society of Nevada is presenting "An Afternoon With Verdi," 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Winchester Center ... There will be an "Old Time Barn Dance," 7 p.m. Saturday (Charleston Heights Center).
Fabian and Joey Dee & the Starlighters perform at 8 p.m. Saturday (Texas Station) ... We were still in New York City in 1960 when Dee & Co. introduced "The Twist" in Manhattan's Peppermint Lounge ...The Chubby Checker hit recording followed soon after ... Australia's John St. Peeters performs tonight at 7:30 in the Stardust's Wayne Newton Theater.
"Jazz In The Afternoon -- An American Original" with special guest artists, including the Jimmy Wilkins Quartet, the Cunninghams, Blue Soul and Soundstream, is the attraction, 2 p.m. Sunday (West Las Vegas Library) ... Pianist, accompanist, arranger and composer Tommy Deering is at the Bootlegger, Wednesdays through Saturdays; he backs the weekend action as well.
Blues news: John Earl and the Boogie Man Band, with Kelly Clinton, can be found Fridays and Saturdays through August in the Santa Fe's Memphis Championship Barbecue & Blues Room ... Recommended reading for legit theater buffs: "Broadway Yearbook 2000-2001," written by Broadway historian and columnist Steven Suskin and published by Oxford University Press.
Birthday bests to attorney George Foley Sr., 80 years young today ... Foley and I meet at the Coffee Pub for breakfast most Saturdays at 8 a.m. ... If the University of Nevada, Las Vegas library doesn't tab Foley for an oral history of the Foley family in Nevada, it will be the community's loss ... Please support the Sun Summer Camp Fund ... See you next Thursday.