Harry the Hat from “Cheers.” Judge Harold Stone from “Night Court.” However you knew him, you were sure to be entertained and amused. But if you only knew him from his television characters, then you only knew a small facet of who this man was. Harry Anderson was an accomplished magician long before he “hit the big time” and became a big TV star, and even when his television career took off, he never forgot those magic roots. Magic was a part of Harry’s soul, along with the sly comedy he would expertly weave into his performances. Since news of his death broke yesterday, countless fellow performers have stated all over social media that it was Harry who taught them that a magician could be funny and still fool people. You didn’t have to be one or the other. And I must add my name to this ever-growing list of the “affected.”
Harry’s influence was certainly one of my main inspirations and is responsible for the style of magic I currently perform and, if I am being totally honest, my career. I had the pleasure of meeting him on a few occasions both before and after I had jumped into magic full-time, and each time he was genuinely friendly, gracious, and inspirational.
That’s why the news of his death shook me and hit me hard. I internalized it. I had to, as I received the news just as I was preparing to go and perform for an audience at a resort during my third week here in Mexico. I thought a lot about Harry during my performance last night and really tried to give it my all. I think I succeeded and I’m glad for that because I would have wanted for nothing less. Nothing less on the night that the man whose work inspired me so much to develop into the performer I am today, which in turn, has allowed me to enjoy a career that has taken me around the world making people laugh while they’re being fooled — that man — has left us.
RIP, Harry Anderson. I will always be grateful for the inspiration.
Below are two of my favorite clips of Harry performing. They are both taken from a Showtime special entitled “Hello, Sucker” that was released in 1986. It was shot at the Comedy and Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, CA. I was lucky enough to see one of the “warm-up” shows that he performed the day before the actual taping, and it was glorious. He had the audience in the palm of his hand even while presenting something as macabre as this — his signature routine — “Needle Through the Arm.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czElKoDQbGQ
This clip, taken from the same Showtime special, shows you what a skilled sleight-of-hand artist Harry was, and it is, for my money, the best version of the “Three Shell Game” ever captured on film for its sheer beauty and artistic quality.
Please, please take the time to watch them.