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Not My Job: We Quiz Comedian Louie Anderson On The Song 'Louie Louie'

PETER SAGAL, HOST:

In June, we talked to an old friend, Louie Anderson. Now, these days, Louie is an award-winning actor playing the mother on the show "Baskets." But we started by asking him about growing up in Minnesota.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

LOUIE ANDERSON: Yeah, one - I'm tenth of 11 children.

SAGAL: Oh, my gosh.

ANDERSON: Isn't that - I just slid out.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: My mom would hate that joke. I'm sorry, Mom.

SAGAL: It's all right.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And...

ANDERSON: I was home from the hospital before she was.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And were you - when you were growing up in that very large family, were you, like, a kid who found his - became the class clown, was the guy who was, like, cutting up and making jokes? Or did that come later?

ANDERSON: I think that came later because I was really quiet. I was an observer. And people used to say to - they would laugh when I was being serious. And I would say, I'm being serious. And then they would laugh harder. And so I think I have a funny voice, and I'm probably not that funny at all. It's just my voice.

SAGAL: Yeah. It might just be that. You talk a lot about your family. Did your mother, of course, see you do your stand-up and talk about the family? Was she OK with that?

ANDERSON: Yes. She liked it. But she would always try to correct me and tell me how I could do it better.

SAGAL: Really?

ANDERSON: Yeah, just in the sweetest way. Like, Louie, that's not exactly right about me going to garage sales.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: I go, Mom, you pulled over once when we were in a funeral procession.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: And then she said, well, he wasn't going anywhere.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I've got to ask you about "Baskets." So I heard when the show came on the air that you were playing Zach Galifianakis' mother. And I'm, like, oh, that's kind of like a weird, surreal drag thing. Was it weird? I don't know who called you, whether it was Zach Galifianakis or the other producers who said, hi, we're doing this sitcom, and we want you to play my mother.

ANDERSON: Yes. What happened was they called me, and they said, we're doing a sitcom with Zach Galifianakis. He was there. And they said, we want you to play a character. And I go, yes. Of course. I'd love to.

SAGAL: Zach is great.

ANDERSON: And then they said, we want you to play Zach's mother. And I go, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Because, you know, I've talked about my mom in my act and played her in my act, but, for some reason - I don't really honestly know what happens to me, but I am their mother.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Has it changed your life now that you're an Emmy Award-winning actor?

ANDERSON: Yeah. I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: ...Yeah, I love having an award. I love being recognized by my peers mostly because I used to think I was a terrible actor. And maybe I was sometimes, but I'm not anymore. And...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: But are you going to get, like, greedy now, and you want to be, like, a leading lady role?

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Well, I would like to play a man again.

SAGAL: Yeah, OK.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, Louie, we have asked you here to play a game we're calling...

BILL KURTIS: Louie, meet "Louie Louie."

ANDERSON: Oh, boy.

SAGAL: You're probably the most famous Louie around today, but 60 years ago, the most famous Louie was the song "Louie Louie," an unlikely hit by The Kingsmen. We're going to ask you three questions about that famous song. Answer two questions correctly, you'll win our prize - the voice of anyone you like on your voicemail. Bill, who is Louie Anderson playing for?

KURTIS: Paige Lowe (ph) of Columbia, S.C.

SAGAL: Here is your first question, Louie. When The Kingsmen released "Louie Louie" in 1963, people suspected the lyrics, which were very hard to understand, might be obscene, and some people complained to the FBI. The FBI did what? A, they investigated the people who wrote in for wasting the time of the FBI...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, they played the song for J. Edgar Hoover, who said it was, quote, "trite but danceable..."

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or C, they spent 2 1/2 years analyzing the song at different speeds and interrogating members of the band?

ANDERSON: I do love three, but I love any news about J. Edgar Hoover because he also occasionally liked to wear a dress.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: And...

SAGAL: I guess you and he have that in common.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Yes. I'm going to go with J. Edgar Hoover.

SAGAL: I like your affection for him, but that's not what happened. They actually spent two years investigating it...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Because if the lyrics were obscene, it would corrupt America's youth. They weren't, though. It turns out they were just mumbling.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: You have two more chances, which is fine. It took a while before "Louie Louie" became a hit. In fact, it had only sold 600 copies before which of these happened to change history? A, Chicago Cub Lou Brock asked to use it as his walk-up music, making it famous but infuriating the Cubs so much they traded him to the Cardinals...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...B, Arnie Ginsburg, Boston's most popular DJ, chose it as his worst record of the week, eventually propelling it to No. 2 on the Billboard charts; or C, the song was featured in the Feen-A-Mint Laxative campaign, we gotta go now.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: Arnie Ginsburg.

SAGAL: You're right. That's what happened.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

ANDERSON: So much pressure.

SAGAL: I know. It's a little bit of pressure, but you're handling it well.

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So if you get this one right, you win. Now, this is the crazy thing. As I said, the FBI searched for two years to find an obscenity in the song, and they didn't find one. But there is an obscenity in the song "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen. What is it? A, at exactly the 54 second mark, the drummer drops a stick and audibly then drops an f-bomb...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...Or B, the bass line is Morse code for a dirty word for the genitalia; or C, the chorus, which sounds to us like Louie Louie (mumbling)...

(LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: ...In the following mumbling is an obscene phrase in the Hmong language.

(LAUGHTER)

ANDERSON: I'm going to go with A.

SAGAL: You're going to go with A. You are right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

SAGAL: Bill, how did Louie Anderson do on our show?

KURTIS: Louie Louie got two out of three, and that's a win, Louie.

SAGAL: Congratulations.

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON: Yay.

SAGAL: Louie Anderson is the Emmy award-winning actor and comedian. You can watch him in "Baskets" on FX, which, if it is not clear, I highly recommend that you do. And please check out his latest book, "Hey Mom." It's out now. Louie Anderson, thank you so much for joining us today.

(APPLAUSE)

ANDERSON: Oh, man.

SAGAL: It was so great to talk to you.

ANDERSON: Thank you, guys.

SAGAL: Thank you, sir. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.