Teen-age Harry Anderson moved from Rhode Island to San Francisco, where he performed street magic for tips. He made eight appearances on early episodes of Saturday Night Live, wielding his cocky humor and close-up illusions under the guise of a street-wise con artist. With a grin on his face, Harry would explain how everything he did in his act was an illusion, then he’d appear to jam a long needle into his forearm as the audience collectively winced. He’d look sternly at the crowd and reprimand, “It’s a trick!,” as blood trickled down his arm. He’d even lick the blood and reveal that it was corn syrup. Audiences would squirm, then applaud wildly.
These stints led to Harry being cast in the recurring role of “Harry the Hat,” a shifty confidence man on the NBC sitcom Cheers. Harry was soon rewarded with his own show, Night Court, which ran for nine seasons on NBC. Harry played quirky Judge Harry Stone, whose love of magic and Mel Torme reflected his own likes. When Night Court ended, Harry was cast in Dave’s World, a sitcom based on the life and adventures of real-life writer Dave Barry.
In 1997, when Dave’s World was canceled, Harry essentially left show business. He and his second wife moved to New Orleans, where he opened a magic and curiosity shop. In 2005, he opened a nightclub in The Big Easy, where he performed a one-man show called, fittingly, Wise Guy. He sold the club a year later, but continued to perform the show.
Early in 2018, Harry suffered from several strokes. His recovery was hampered by a bout of the flu. In April 2018, Harry experienced another stroke and passed away in his sleep. He was 65 years old.