Harry Anderson (born Harry Laverne Anderson, October 14, 1952-April 16, 2018) was an American Actor, Comedian, Screenwriter, Director and Magician. He was best known to TV audiences as the wise-cracking, prank-playing Judge Harry Stone on the NBC sitcom Night Court. He once appeared as a celebrity guest on The $25,000 Pyramid in the early 1980s.
Native of Newport, Rhode Island. Anderson's first exposure to magic began when his family moved to Chicago. His father, who worked as a salesman, occasionally took him to The Pump Room, the famous restaurant downstairs in the Ambassador East Hotel. There, Anderson discovered wise guys playing card games, hustling and occasionally performing magic tricks and at a very young age, Harry became highly intrigued by the art of conjuring and wanted to learn more about the subject. He eventually had the opportunity to see legendary magician Harry Blackstone, Sr. perform at a show.
Anderson was fascinated by the performance and continued to digest all he could about magic. He then moved to Los Angeles and attended high school there. Every day after school, he would practice, fine tune and polish his conjuring skills. Harry first attended Buena Park High School before transferring to North Hollywood High School. He joined the Dante magic club where he rubbed elbows with close-up magic wizards Paul Harris and Paul Green. He also frequented the Magic Castle, where he befriended a lot of magicians, including magic legend Dai Vernon. When he was 17 years of age, Anderson decided to move to San Francisco and worked the streets performing magic.
Harry's many appearances on Saturday Night Live led to a recurring role as Harry "The Hat" Gittes for several seasons of the NBC sitcom Cheers and eventually landed him his most notable work to TV audiences: the wise-cracking, prank-playing Judge Harry Stone on the NBC sitcom Night Court (debuting on January 4, 1984 and ending on May 31, 1992). Anderson went on to appear in numerous other TV specials and shows, including 12 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. As a magician, he has toured extensively and performed many comedy/magic shows for clubs and broadcast, including Harry Anderson's Sideshow in 1987.
In 1990, he starred in the successful television adaptation of Stephen King's It as the adult Richie Tozier. The miniseries was directed by Tommy Lee Wallace. Harry also returned to the world of TV comedy, a year after Night Court ended, he starred on the CBS sitcom Dave's World (debuting on September 20, 1993), based loosely on the life and columns of humor columnist Dave Barry (the series ended it's run on CBS on July 18, 1997). Together with longtime friend Turk Pipkin, Anderson wrote a book called Games You Can't Lose: A Guide for Suckers, a collection of gags, cons, tricks and scams, first published in 1989, this title also contains a survey of "Games You Can't Win" told from an insider's perspective. He later appeared with Criss Angel in a TV special called The Science of Magic, which was later released on DVD. In November 2008, Anderson played himself on an episode of 30 Rock along with fellow Night Court co-stars Markie Post and Charles Robinson (episode titled "The One with The Cast of Night Court").
Harry has made a few appearances on the game show circuit. In 1983, he appeared as a celebrity guest on The (New) $25,000 Pyramid. He then went on to appear as a celebrity panelist on an "All-Star edition" of the NBC game show Super Password in 1987. In 1993, he competed on a celebrity episode of Jeopardy! alongside actor Tim Daly and comedian Sinbad.
Harry has married twice, he was previously married to Leslie Pollack from 1977 to 1999 and they had two children: daughters Eva Fay (born in 1980) and Dashiell Anderson. A year later after divorcing Leslie, Harry married his current wife, Elizabeth Morgan.
A longtime Mel Tormé fan, Anderson gave the eulogy at the singer's funeral (Torme died on June 5, 1999). His Judge Stone character on Night Court was also a Tormé fan; the show's creator Reinhold Weege says the fact that Anderson was also a Tormé fan was completely coincidental. After Dave's World ended it's run in July 1997, Anderson had since then kept a nominally low profile. In the early 2000s, having grown tired of L.A.'s glaring spotlight, Harry and his second wife, Elizabeth, moved to New Orleans for a more private, quieter life away from the public eye. In 2005, he opened a nightclub in the French Quarter called "Oswald's Speakeasy", located at 1331 Decatur Street at the corner of Esplanade Avenue. He also performed a one-man show there called Wise Guy.
In August 2006, Anderson and his wife, Elizabeth, announced their decision to leave New Orleans and move to Asheville, North Carolina. He then appeared in Hexing a Hurricane, a documentary about the first six months in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The Andersons sold Oswald's Speakeasy in October 2006. Anderson continues to present his evening show Wise Guy, which was originally developed for his theater in New Orleans.
On the morning of April 16, 2018, Harry was found dead at his home in Asheville, North Carolina, he was 65 years old. His cause of death is yet to be determined although police reports determine that no foul play was suspected.
His Night Court co-stars Markie Post, John Larroquette and Marsha Warfield took to social media to express their grief and devastation over the passing of their beloved co-star and friend. Post tweeted "I am devastated. I'll talk about you later, Harry, but for now, I'm devastated" while Warfield fought back tears sharing her grief and devastation in an emotional Facebook Live post and Larroquette simply tweeted one word: "Heartsick".
Harry is survived by his wife, Elizabeth and their two daughters, Eva Fay and Dashiell Anderson.