Louie Anderson was disoriented.
Underwater and trying to surface, the Las Vegas headliner actually was swimming toward the bottom of the 17-foot-deep pool.
He panicked, got water in his mouth and began choking before he could be rescued and carried to dry land by diving great Greg Louganis and NFL defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.
To make matters worse, the native Minnesotan is forever indebted to a member of the Detroit Lions.
“I’m just glad it wasn’t a Packer who pulled me out,” he jokes.
On a serious note, Anderson calls the controversial Suh “one of the nicest people ever.” And, aside from having to cough up quite a bit of water, the comic was fine. Physically, at least.
“It was a little terrifying,” he says. “I mean, I don’t think I was gonna drown, but you don’t know.”
News of the incident ricocheted around the Internet in January, and for many people, it was their first exposure to ABC’s celebrity-diving competition, “Splash” (8 p.m. Tuesday, KTNV-TV, Channel 13).
In addition to Anderson and Suh, eight other personalities — ranging from Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Kendra Wilkinson and from “The Cosby Show’s” Keshia Knight Pulliam to BCS title game sensation Katherine Webb — are being trained by Louganis to compete in platform and springboard diving.
“It is kinda crazy if you think about it,” Anderson admits. “Like, if you were to ask me six months ago, ‘Louie, they want you to do a diving show.’ I’d go, ‘Get the (expletive) outta here.’ ... You wouldn’t even take it seriously.”
Then he saw a clip from the show’s original Dutch format, which also had what he calls “a big guy” in the cast. Once he shook his initial impression — “Well, this is crazy!” — he somehow knew he’d be able to handle the rigors of “Splash.”
Five years ago, Anderson didn’t even know how to swim. He was exercising at Turnberry Place’s Stirling Club when he noticed a septuagenarian who would swim for an hour at a time. He convinced himself he could do that, too, and before long, he was swimming for an hour as well.
Now he loves the water. Even when he’s smacking into it with a ferocity he compares to a car wreck.
By the time Tuesday’s premiere rolls around, Anderson will have spent four or five days a week for nine weeks practicing his dives and working out to strengthen his core. He’s changed his diet, and he’s lost weight, but he’s not allowed to get into specifics.
“Coming up the Jetway yesterday, my pants fell down,” he says, laughing at the absurdity of it all. “And a woman picked them up and put them back on my butt. ... It was quite sweet, motherly, and yet weird.”
He also can’t elaborate on how his “Splash” training is going, so as to preserve some of the show’s surprises. But he does allow that he’s already faced several fears.
“The biggest thing for me was to stick with this, because it’s easy to quit something like this,” he says. “I don’t feel like getting up in the morning, working out and jumping into a pool. When you think of me, you don’t think of that.”
But Anderson says he’s competing for people like him who, up until two months ago, spent too much time sitting on the couch or lying in bed.
“It’s changed my psyche a lot about what I’m capable of doing,” he says. “It’s been eye-opening to see how much shape I’m not in. And it’s been eye-opening to me to see that I’m not alone in that struggle.”
As for what he hopes to gain from the “Splash” experience, Anderson has three goals.
The first: a trophy for winning the whole thing. “I’m not in this to take second, I’ll be honest with you.”
Then there’s a new TV show he feels is just around the corner.
But those pale in comparison to his main concern.
“Mostly,” he says, “the thing I really hope to get out of it is to not go backward with my health or my weight.
“I hope this is a lifestyle change and not just a TV show appearance.”
Contact Christopher Lawrence at clawrence@ reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4567.