Louie Anderson headlines at Nevada’s historic theater

Marlys Barker
Louie Anderson headlines at Nevada’s historic theater

It’s the biggest name yet to come to The Talent Factory stage in Nevada.

Last Friday, nationally known comedian Louie Anderson kept a full house laughing from start to finish with a largely Midwestern-based show, where he talked about everything from jumper cables to wearing your “good gloves” and “bad news” to eating healthy. Hailing from “just up the road,” as he said, St. Paul, Minn., it was clear that Anderson had a special knack for performing to a Midwestern-based audience; people who came from Nevada and all over the state to see the show were not disappointed. Even opening act Fielding West, a magician, and emcee Keith West played their parts in making the entire night something Nevada will be talking about for years.

Nevada resident David Swanson, who took his wife Jennifer to the show for date night, said the following day that his stomach still hurt from laughing.

“Growing up half-Minnesotan — and my dad growing up four miles from Minnesota in rural Wisconsin — I could relate to all of his jokes as a kid,” David said. “I swear all of his mom jokes were about my mom.”

Anderson’s parents were a big part of his entertainment, as he had a special “full lips out” look whenever he took on his mom’s persona, and threw in a grunting sound that his dad always made as a huge special effect throughout the show.

The Swansons were among a lucky few that got to take part in the Meet and Greet with Anderson prior to his show. That was held in Al Kockler’s conference room, next door to the theater.

“I loved all of it,” said Swanson’s wife, Jennifer. “Meeting him and taking selfies, the emcee, the opening act and Louie. I smiled the entire time and my face was still sore on Saturday.”

Nancy Sorem of Marshalltown was attending the Meet and Greet and the show with her son Ted. Sorem said she had followed Anderson for years. “I love him, love him,” she said. “He’s so funny and not dirty.”

Joining a few Nevadans, others at the Meet and Greet came from Ames, Story City, Des Moines and New Virginia, where Mark McCoy, his wife Traci and their son and son’s girlfriend travelled from to see Anderson. “I grew up watching Louie,” Mark said. The entire foursome from New Virginia had front row seats for the show, and became part of an ad-lib ending where Anderson talked with members of the audience in what turned out to be some of the funniest comedy ever.

“His ad-lib jokes were great,” David Swanson said, noting that Anderson’s interactions with the audience were fun. There were a few other ad-lib moments caused by microphone glitches, which really showed Anderson’s true comedic talents. Theater owner Cindy Sloan will never look at the Olympics the same way again, as she came running down the aisle and up to the stage with a new mic, only to have Anderson do a comedic comparison to her running with the Olympic torch.

Seventy-six-year-old Jim Hutter, a retired Iowa State political science professor from Ames, went to the Meet and Greet and was near the front of the theater for the show. Hutter admitted he was “shocked” when he saw that Anderson was going to be in Nevada. “I’ve known Louie since he was on Johnny Carson,” he said.

Anderson told the Journal that the “Tonight Show” was “the American Idol” of his lifetime. It was Nov. 20, 1984, when he made his first appearance on the show. “I was excited,” he said. “I was prepared.” His first joke, he said, was, “I can’t stay long, I’m in between meals,” and from there the comedy career ball for Anderson just kept on rolling.

The Talent Factory owner Larry Sloan said sitting and watching Louie Anderson perform in his theater was “a dream come true.” Sloan described Anderson as genuine, caring and a guy who treated them like friends and family. “At no time did I feel like I was just another business function. I’m still walking around (several days later) saying, ‘We just had Louie-freaking-Anderson on our stage in Nevada, Iowa!”

It took them three years, Sloan said, “but we landed one of the most beloved entertainers in the last 30 years.” Anderson was originally supposed to come in October, but his appearance was postponed after the comedian/actor got a television show deal. The most Anderson could say about that show is that “it’s great” and it will start in January on a Cable network.

Sloan said his ability to get Anderson to come to Nevada started with a friend, Dave Johnson, who suggested they contact Anderson’s manager. The deal included working with Anderson’s agency, manager, promoter, the agency’s legal counsel and Anderson’s personal assistant. But Sloan kept at it. And the success of Saturday night made all that legwork very worthwhile. Sloan, like all the others in the theater, was hugely entertained.

“His family perspectives were the main points I identified with … a father that cared, but didn’t always know how to show it. I can really relate to that,” Sloan said. Sloan appreciates Anderson’s humor, his time and his delivery, which “really tickles my funny bone. He’s a real professional, while being very approachable.”

It was important to Sloan that Anderson be accompanied by an outstanding emcee and opening act. “We have a close personal relationship with Keith West and Fielding West. Keith has been a great help in steering talent our way and his advice has always been spot on… We met Fielding through Keith, and Fielding has performed for us before. Fielding has also become a close friend. In our business, it’s all about building relationships, and these two are a couple of our closest. When Keith heard we needed an opener, he called Fielding and they decided to do the show for us. We couldn’t ask for better friends.”

The next big name act coming to The Talent Factory is REZA the Illusionist, doing a show Feb. 7. “He’s the top touring illusionist in the world, and as it happen,s a good friend as well. This will be a show that could appear anywhere in the world.” After REZA, Sloan has more great acts, from a psychic medium, Dani Lin, to country singer, Danika Portz booked, and of course, many more comedians.

“There’s no limit to the level of entertainers we can get to come to The Talent Factory, as long as we have the support of the community,” Sloan said. “This last weekend, with Louie Anderson on Friday and Sandy Clark’s Christmas on Saturday, should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind that The Talent Factory can deliver the best live entertainment in the country to our town of Nevada, Iowa.”