On January 21, 2022, the world lost Louie Anderson. The stand-up comedian was also well known as the former host of Family Feud, his animated show Life With Louie and portraying the matriarch Christine on Baskets. Anderson passed away due to blood cancer at the age of 68.
Those who were fans of Anderson may already know he grew up in a dysfunctional family, particularly an alcoholic father, and struggled with depression. This is something he discussed in depth in his 2002 memoir The F Word: How to Survive Your Family. Below is an excerpt from his book, featuring the first few of 49 funny yet heartfelt “survival tips."
Forty-Nine Family Survival Tips
Why forty-nine? Because I’m forty-nine years old and I figure, when you average it out, people learn one important truth, belief, or fact about their family a year. Of course, that’s an average. Some years you might learn four; other years, nothing. Throughout the book, I’ll share some of my family experiences: mistakes I’ve made, moments I would have handled differently, tactics that actually helped. I’m calling them “tips,” but some are simply observations—ones I hope will be helpful in not only coping with, but understanding your family.
Let’s face it—every family is different, every situation unique. Sometimes I’ve followed my own advice and felt brilliant; other times, I’ve asked myself, “What was I thinking?” My “process,” if you can call it that, tends to work like this: “Why can’t I get along with my family better? Why can’t I? Why can’t I? No, that’s not it. Wait, here it is. No, that isn’t it.” It’s sort of a “make it up as you go along” approach.
But I have learned a tremendous amount from the families I’ve met on the road. They apparently connect with what I’m saying, and they feel compelled to share stories—of a dad who was never there, of a grandfather who beat them, of a son who was a heroin addict. Looking at these people, I never would have guessed. Often, I realize that, even though I’m paid nicely and receive a certain amount of fame for my work, the true compensation is this wealth of personal stories people have shared with me. Many of the tips I’ll be passing along derive from these tales.
FAMILY SURVIVAL TIPS
(a few to start off with)
#1 Don’t blame your parents because they didn’t read the instructions. Remember: for them, there was no manual either. Parents “learn on the job.”
#2 It’s never too early to say “I love you.” When 9/11 happened, people immediately reached out to the ones they were close to. The first thing most of us thought was Oh my gosh what about the families of all those victims? Sadly, it sometimes takes a shock like that to get us to realize what’s important. We don’t have to wait for a national tragedy to make that phone call we really should make. Make it now.
During my stand-up show in Vegas, I always encourage people to work to eliminate whatever friction they may have with their family. Once Evil Knievel came backstage and told me that, after seeing one of my previous shows, he’d gotten back in touch with his son Robbie. If a guy who has the courage to jump over the Snake River Canyon on a motorcycle fears reaching out to his kid, then clearly, healing old wounds isn’t easy for anyone. But we have to make the attempt.
#3 Your family starts with you. In dealing with family, first you have to deal with yourself. There was a time when I didn’t want to deal with anything. As often happens, that turned out to be the beginning of the journey.
#4 Sometimes you have to ask God, or whomever, for a sign. These days, it’s easy not to believe in something. We live in cynical times where more time is spent thinking about getting a satellite dish than getting a sign from above. Even though organized religion isn’t my cup of tea, I believe it’s good to try to reach out to whatever Almighty we believe in whenever we can. I have a friend who does his meditation every morning on the treadmill. I sometimes say my prayers driving. (And so do some of the the passengers who’ve seen me drive.) But it’s important to remember that we’re part of something greater than ourselves. Otherwise, we may be lost.
#5 Family flu. Feeling bad can be good. It is your heart’s way of telling you that something is wrong. It’s similar to that sputter your car makes. When it occurs, you know it’s time to take that wreck into the shop. Listen to your sadness and know that in the end truth is the ultimate antidote. Depression is you telling yourself you have to change.
#6 You always have family… or… your family always has you. Many people could get washed up on an uninhabited island with no phone or other ways to communicate, and still, their thoughts and actions would have their basis in how they relate to their family.
Keep Reading — Download The F Word now.
The F Word
“Pearls of wisdom on surviving dysfunctional blood relationships” from the Emmy Award-winning actor, comedian, and New York Times–bestselling author (Publishers Weekly).
Take it from a man whose family background includes brawls, visits from “aliens,” star-billing on FBI wanted posters, and, oh yes, an altercation with the Swedish Mafia—families can be brutal! But because we all have one, Louie Anderson has written this honest, funny, and brilliant survival manual for anyone who’s ever choked on . . . THE F WORD.
Long before he became one of America’s favorite comedians, Louie Anderson was one of eleven children in a Minnesota family headed by an alcoholic father who was all for having kids but clueless about supporting them. It was the kind of childhood you have to learn to laugh at to survive, yet it yielded rich dividends: a host of hilarious and heartbreaking stories, as well as 49 Family Survival Tips stamped with true wisdom.