Harry Anderson, the actor, comedian and magician best known for playing Judge Harry Stone on the sitcom Night Court, died Monday at his home in Asheville, North Carolina. He was 65.
“This morning at 6:41 a.m. the Asheville Police Department responded to the home of actor Harry Anderson where he was found deceased,” the Asheville Police Department confirmed told the Hollywood Reporter. “No foul play is suspected.”
Anderson started his career as a magician before turning to comedy and, eventually, acting. “I started in magic and then I got out on the street and realized I can make more money on the street hustling with the shell game,” Anderson told Johnny Carson in 1988. “So I hustled until I got my jaw broken and then I sat around with my mouth wired shut for six weeks and figured out maybe linking rings were safer. And went back to the magic, and on the street, comedy was a great tool.”
Known for incorporating magic and con artistry into his comedy routines and acting roles – including his numerous appearances on Cheers as “flimflam man” Harry “The Hat” Gittes – Anderson was first introduced to mainstream audiences thanks to his reoccurring guest role on Saturday Night Live in the first half of the Eighties.
Following the success of his Cheers appearances, the actor remained in NBC’s heralded Must See TV block when he was cast as the lead in Night Court, where he played a judge tasked with overhearing the bizarre cases that entered a Manhattan circuit court on the night shift. The series aired for nine seasons, with Anderson earning three Emmy nominations for Outstanding Actor in a Comedy Series over Night Court‘s run. Rolling Stone readers also named Night Court one of the 10 Best TV Shows of the 1980s.
Actress Markie Post, who played opposite of Anderson for seven seasons, tweeted “I am devastated. I’ll talk about you later, Harry, but for now, I’m devastated.” Fellow Night Court actress Marsha Warfield posted a video remembrance to Anderson on Facebook.
In addition to Night Court, Anderson appeared in the TV miniseries version of Stephen King’s It and starred as columnist Dave Barry in the sitcom Dave’s World, which ran for four seasons. Anderson also made guest appearances on Tales From the Crypt, Comedy Bang! Bang! and The John Larroquette Show, where he reunited with that former Night Court actor. Larroquette tweeted following news of Anderson’s death, “Heartbroken.”
Anderson’s last television appearance was a quasi-Night Court reunion on 30 Rock in 2008.
Judd Apatow tweeted, “I interviewed Harry Anderson when I was 15 years old and he was so kind, and frank and hilarious. The interview is in my book Sick In The Head. He was a one of a kind talent who made millions so happy.”