For the last few days the passing of Harry Anderson has been on my mind, as I’m sure it has with all of you. I had wanted to pay tribute in some way to Anderson’s tremendous influence on magic and comedy. But, I wasn’t sure if a Doug Henning website was the proper venue for that. However, Doug himself was the first person to always give appreciation to his fellow magicians past and present. So, I suspect he would have encouraged me to do so for Harry.
Growing up in the 1980s, it was hard not to miss Harry Anderson. If you didn’t see him on “Saturday Night Live” and “Cheers,” you were sure to find him every week on “Night Court.” His presentation was a style all unto his own. He was part con man/carnival barker/ and your favorite uncle all rolled into one. He made magic and comedy look effortless, and he always left a big impression on a certain ten year old living in Chicago at the time.
He also was one of the only magicians that I can really think of that made it as a legitimate actor. His performance in the original TV version of Stephen King’s “It” is very overlooked, subtle, and haunting. Be sure to revisit it again if you have a chance. To say Harry Anderson was a layered performer is an understatement, and one that I feel audiences and critics are only now understanding with his sudden passing.
While I haven’t seen it in over thirty years, his 1987 “Sideshow” special still exists in the happy and hazy world of my childhood memories. The theme song, like Harry himself, will always be in a place filled with:
“Magic, and Sawdust, and Dreams.”