by Patrick Strait
This past January, the world lost one of the most beloved comics of all time: Louie Anderson. But
comedian Jason Schommer lost a lot more than just a comedy legend – he lost a friend.
Schommer and Anderson became close friends through the years, with Schommer opening for Anderson
during his residency in Las Vegas.
“The number one question I always got was, ‘What’s it like to be friend with Louie Anderson?’”
Schommer says. “Everyone wanted to know him and know what he was like.” Beginning this weekend, Schommer will do his best to answer that question with his Fringe Festival show, Curtain Call: Letters to my friend Louie Anderson at the Theatre in the Round.
“I wanted to do something that showed everyone the person he really was,” Schommer says.
The friends first met while Anderson was doing a promotional event at Cub Foods in the West End.
Schommer was working across the street and had been a long-time fan of Anderson. His coworkers
urged him to go chat with his comedy idol.
“He invited me to his New Year’s Eve shows the next week and thought to myself, ‘It would be the
coolest thing ever to open for Louie Anderson,’” Schommer continues.
A few months later, Anderson returned to town to host a comedy workshop that Schommer attended,
and a few months later he called Schommer before a show at the Parkway Theater.
“He called me and asked if I was coming to the show, and I was,” he says. “And he told me great,
because you’re going to open for me tonight. And we were friends ever since.”
The Fringe show itself will include letters that Schommer wrote to Anderson after his passing, and is
something of a takeoff of Anderson’s successful memoirs, Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child and Hey
Mom: Stories for My Mother But You Can Read Them Too. But Schommer didn’t initially start writing
with the intent of sharing the letters.
“I got the call on Monday night that Louie was in the hospital and things looked pretty bad,” Schommer
recalls. “He was in the final stages of his life and asked that certain people be notified once he was close
to the end. So, I flew out to Las Vegas and saw him in the hospital and said my goodbyes. Then when I
left, I really didn’t know what to do with myself. I didn’t want to go to a casino or a restaurant, so I just
went and sat in the parking lot of Walgreens for an hour because that was Louie’s favorite store. And
then I just started writing him a letter right there on the spot. And I kept writing letters on an off for a
while after that.”
Eventually, he realized the letters were a great way to share his memories of his long-time friend and
mentor, but also served as a way to process his grief.
“It took me a really long time to process it,” he explains. “It was such a devastating loss that I was in a
little bit of denial about it.”
The letters and stories Schommer will be sharing range from the serious, like his final moments in the
hospital with Anderson, to the hilarious, including stories from the road and their own private
“I discovered that I had so many questions I wish I would have asked him,” Schommer says about
developing the show. “I just always assumed there would be time and then there wasn’t anymore.”
While he’ll be performing the show five times throughout the festival, Schommer says he could expand
the production in the future.
“If it goes well at Fringe, I might do a full-length version that’s like 90 minutes and has more of Louie in
it,” he says.
Regardless of the future, Schommer hopes that this will be a fitting tribute to arguably Minnesota’s
biggest star, while also sharing an intimate look into a long-time friendship.
“He was very warm and welcoming, but also very opinionated,” Schommer says. “He liked what he liked
and didn’t like what he didn’t like and that’s just how it was. He didn’t mince words. On a personal level,
Louie always liked to dig in and figure out the why of everything and everyone. He wanted to know
more about your life and your experiences.”
Beginning this weekend, we’ll get the chance to learn more about his.
IF YOU GO:
Curtain Call: Letters to my friend Louie Anderson
Theatre in the Round
August 5, 7, 9, 12 and 13
$18, times vary based on show
Click here for details