Long before Portlandia was jokingly keeping the dream of the 1990s alive in Portland, Dave Anderson was keeping the Rose City weirdly comfortable for dreamers of all stripes. A quick-witted amiable voice for a generation who woke up watching him on TV, drove home from work listening to him on the radio and laughed at his stand-up comedy shows in clubs from Portland through the Pacific Northwest.
Anderson — the co-host of KATU’s “AM Northwest” morning show on ABC, co-host of the “Mark and Dave” radio show afternoons on KPAM 860 AM, and Portland’s preeminent stand-up comedian — died Sunday from pancreatic cancer. He was 55.
His younger credits from the 1980s included Star Search and An Evening at the Improv, then to Comedy Central and a contributing writer for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Anderson was known throughout the Northwest by comedians and audiences alike for his ability to interact with everyone in a funny, friendly way. Traits also perfect for radio-friendly and TV-friendly airwaves, as he first joined Mark Mason (the p.a. voice of the Trail Blazers) for the Mark & Dave Show on KEX-AM talk radio, then more recently on KPAM-AM. Since 2007, he’d co-hosted AM Northwest from 9-10 a.m. live on Portland’s ABC affiliate.
He learned of his pancreatic cancer diagnosis two years ago, and sincerely while still humorously talked about it on the air. Last year, he told The Oregonian that he’d learned “you have to live your life as if you don’t know how the story ends. When it’s a good day, I enjoy the day, and I have the support to have bad days. I feel good today. Monday, I felt like crap. I have to keep reminding myself on days that I feel good, I should be happy. Because there are more of those days.”
“I’m a long-term planner,” Anderson said last year. “And now I realize that’s just ironic and funny.”
Anderson is survived by his wife, Chris, their two children, and pets.
And also the memories of his many friends in the comedy world. Here were some of their remembrances of Anderson this week on Facebook…
Cathy Ladman: “My dearest friend, Dave Anderson. Gone way too soon, dammit. We loved each other a lot. I will miss him terribly. He loved so many people, and so many people loved him. I am lucky to know many of them and be able to share great Dave stories for a long time. Dave, I love you. I promise you, I will be happy…if it’s the last fucking thing I do.”
Dave Fulton: “Sadly just learned that an old comedy friend from back in the day Dave Anderson has shaken off his mortal coil and passed away. He was one of those comics from back in the day that was always original and too clever for most of us. I was lucky to have filmed a tv pilot with him years ago called Comedy Explorers. We hiked down into the Grand Canyon to float the Colorado River for 7 days and Dave could not have played the ‘fish out of water’ more if he tried. There were moments that were so funny with him I couldn’t catch my breath. It’s a loss to us all he’s not around to provide more of that. RIP Dave.”
Art Krug: “Yep. My heart is breaking for my friend of 33 years and former roommate. There was nobody like Dave Anderson. He made everyone around him feel better when he was in the room. I’m so sorry for his family. The world is a little heavier now.”
Brad Upton: “It must have been New Year’s Eve of 1985 when I first met Dave Anderson. I was the MC, Dave was the feature act and I have no recollection of the headliner–and that should tell you something; I vividly remember so much about watching him that night and just being blown away by what I was seeing and I remember nothing of the headliner. It was a NYE show at The Tower Inn in Richland. I hadn’t even quit teaching yet, I was brand new, and looking back, Dave must have been 25? I couldn’t believe that he was doing some material and just
weaving back into talking to the audience. I wondered if he always worked like that!? I couldn’t, and still cant imagine, how it was so effortless, brilliant and seamless. What also struck me was how nice he was to me that evening (probably why I can’t recall the headliner) Thirty years have passed since that evening and I had the privilege of working with Dave on many occasions and calling him my friend. I always watched every minute of his show and truly marveled at his ability and confidence just to talk to the audience the entire time. He was a master of his craft. What a wonderful human being. When I worked with Dave he made me want to be a better comedian, when I was around Dave I wanted to be a better person. With tears in my eyes, goodbye.”
Andrew Rivers: “Dave and I worked together in Grants Pass, Oregon in 2012. Someone purchased both of our CDS with an odd amount of cash. As we debated back and forth about why the other person should take the extra dollar. Dave ripped it in half and gave a piece to me. “For the next time we work together.” Silly and funny and spontaneous. He was as funny off stage as on. I always kept that ripped up half dollar. We would see each other on several occasions and laugh about it. I’ll keep my half until I see you again, buddy.”
Kermet Apio: “I met Dave Anderson in 1992(?) when I opened for him at a bar gig in Oregon. He did maybe 4 minutes of material in a 50 minute set. The rest was riffing with the audience. I couldn’t believe what I had just seen. Few comics spend that much time riffing, and VERY few did it better than Dave. From that day on I got to know an incredibly smart, sharp, kind, warm, and generous man. And considering all that he accomplished, incredibly humble. I learned a lot from him, more off stage than on. He treated people with respect. Smiled at you. Made you feel like you were special, not just some clueless opener from Seattle. Professionalism and class. And man, the guy could tell a story. Although he has passed away, he entertained so many people along his path. And some lucky folks like myself got to know him personally, and we are better people for it. My heartfelt condolences go out to his awesome family and the amazing comedians who pioneered the Portland comedy scene with Dave who I am so honored to call friends. I am deeply sorry for your loss.”
Ian Karmel: “Goddamn. RIP to one of the true pioneers of the Portland comedy scene. Dave Anderson was funny, charming and bright and he defied the lazy caricature of the dour and depressed stand-up comedian. This guy loved Portland and Portland loved him back. This is a much bigger blow to the city than some bar or restaurant getting torn down. He’ll be missed.”
AM Northwest obviously devoted much of its Monday show to remembering Anderson, too.