Harry Anderson was born in Newport, Rhode Island, although his parents came from Manistee, Michigan. Much in Anderson's childhood was unusual, to say the least. His father was a salesman who was rarely around. He spent his younger years with his mother (mostly in Chicago). To reports that his mother was a hooker, he responds, "She was a hustler, yeah; she did a lot of things. We moved around a lot, and she had a lot of men friends." Yet he vehemently rejects the notion that his home life was a tragedy. "I respect my mother; she was very concerned with taking care of us. She did what needed to be done to try to keep us together. People find my criminal days amusing, but they find her background shocking. I don't draw any line." (People) He has a brother, sister, and half-sister. Both of his parents were gamblers, his mother subsequently became one of the first female card dealers in Las Vegas during the 1950's. By the time he was 17, Anderson had lived in a dozen states, moving from city to city between his mother's various jobs.
In 1962, Harry went to go live with his father in California, a very different atmosphere than "City life." He became interested in magic and participated in a magic club in Junior High. Apparently he was valedictorian of his 1970 of North Hollywood High School, when he was only 16. Harry told Lefthander Magazine, "Mainly because I hung out with con men. It's interesting. When I was a kid, I had a real reading problem... and so what I did to compensate for that was to learn to write. I realized that the way you impressed the English teacher was not by reading books but by writing about them. It wasn't reading Melville but the report on Melville. I did fine by watching Gregory Peck play Ahab, then writing a report. In fact, not only was I valedictorian, I got a scholarship in English... and I couldn't read. Well, I could, but certainly not like my ates could."
Instead of going an academic route, Harry began performing in front of thousands of people on the street. "You're a magician second; you're a street performer first. You watch other street performers; you live and breathe street performing. I was so exhausted by the end of the day that I would never pick up a magic book or a trick to learn. I experimented some on the street, but it was my livelihood, and I had to make sure I was going to make money." (Passing the Hat)
While street performing, he met his now ex-wife (back then he called her "his future ex-wife") Leslie Pollock who performed a mentalism act. According to a TV Guide article, she would be his SECOND wife. They got together, created an act, and had Eva Fay (named after Anna Eva Fay, an important woman from the spiritualism movement). It was while he was performing in one of the clubs -- Hollywood's Magic Castle -- that he was spotted by an agent. This led to a job in Las Vegas, which led to appearances on Saturday Night Live, which led to Cheers. Night Court was next and then Dave's World. (All together he did 13 seasons of both shows). Harry has done many TV specials, movies and performed all over the country!
Harry, 51 on October 14, 2003, is remarried and lives in the French Quarter of New Orleans, as he says, "only by a fluke." It seems he was told to invest in some property after selling some in Ireland: "My business manager just, you know, said it would be smarter to buy something -- if you're selling -- if you're buying something before the year is over. I didn't know where that would be. But I came to New Orleans and I hadn't been here to New Orleans in 6 – 7 years and in that time, condos had broken out -- people were selling their property. It just hadn't existed, so I bought my apartment, I bought my condo, came back. While I was here buying it, I noticed there was a magic shop on Dumaine, right down the street from where I had lived back in the 70's." (L.Wilson interview) This is where Harry took the old Amazed and Amused and turned it into Spade and Archer where he has his magic collection. He and his wife Elizabeth has opened a shop devoted to SIDESHOWs simply called SIDESHOW (see harryandersonfan.com for more details).
Harry has begun a 2003 tour with a new but familiar magic act.
If you have ever studied, watched enough or met Harry, he speaks fast. It's part of his act, and also his of conversation. It may be a cover up for his being nervous. He has already said he is very agoraphobic -- like being afraid of answering the phone because he doesn't know who it might be. "To me, it's a little bit embarrassing to be in the public eye that much. People start asking me about what I think about the situation in the Middle East... just because I'm in the public eye... as if I have some kind of knowledge or opinion that matters. It's embarrassing. And after all those years I spent on the street, anonymous, and with intended anonymity, that was a jolt that I never quite adjusted to. That and living in Los Angeles. I don't want to offend any Los Angelinos, but it was a tough adjustment." (LH Magazine) Harry also speaks of his stage fright (Comedians usually use the term flop-sweat); "I am shy in many situations. Almost any performing situation panics me. Most of my bravura is quite false, but it's a well -rehearsed false bravura. My stage fright knows no bounds." (LH)
Harry admires Ted Anneman (Magician), Dai Vernon (the man who "fooled" Houdini), Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil (Card Shark) and Shari Lewis (Lambchop's mom). He is left-handed. He likes Mac computers. As well as good old Mel, he likes the Brian Setzer Orchestra. His collection of magical antiques spans from a ukelele that turns into a bouquet of feather flowers from 1902 (Chung Ling Soo) to an original copy of Ulysses.