Actor and comic Harry Anderson, who portrayed the genial if quirky judge Harry T. Stone on the Emmy-winning NBC series “Night Court,” died at his home in Asheville, N.C., on Monday, according to the Associated Press. He was 65 years old.
Anderson, whose fondness for vintage clothing and the crooner Mel Torme was incorporated into his role on “Night Court,” began his career as a magician and stand-up comedian around L.A. clubs, including the Magic Castle. His skills helped land him an agent, and he appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” “Late Night With David Letterman” and “Cheers” before finally landing the role of Stone on “Night Court.”
Created by Reinhold Weege and airing from 1984 to 1992, the series featured Anderson as the goofy but good-hearted ringmaster amid the frequently absurd goings-on at an after-hours Manhattan criminal court. The show was part of a powerhouse Thursday night lineup for NBC that included “Cheers” and “The Cosby Show,” and frequently flirted with edgy material for its time that befitted the show’s vice-informed setting. “Night Court” featured a strong ensemble cast that included Markie Post, Marsha Warfield and Richard Moll. The series earned seven Emmys, including four consecutive wins for Anderson’s costar, John Larroquette. Anderson was also nominated for three consecutive years from 1985 to 1987, and he directed, wrote or co-wrote a number of episodes during the series’ run.
Anderson was also a favorite of “The Tonight Show” with Johnny Carson, and after “Night Court” he also had a role on the 1990 miniseries adaptation of Stephen King’s “It” before leading the CBS sitcom “Dave’s World,” which was loosely based on the life of columnist Dave Barry and ran from 1993 to 1997.
In 2000, Anderson moved to New Orleans and opened Oswald’s Speakeasy, a club in the city’s French Quarter where he frequently performed his one-man show “Wise Guy.” In 2006, he and his wife closed the club and moved to Asheville. His TV appearances during this period became fewer and further between, but he appeared on a “Night Court”-centric episode of “30 Rock” in 2008.
Anderson is survived by his wife Elizabeth and two children.
Follow me over here @chrisbarton.