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Why Huell Howser Was the Opposite of the Internet

Two nights ago, I returned home from doing some stand-up comedy and I was feeling the way I often do on such nights -- high as a kite from adrenaline and reasonably-priced red wine.

I was getting ready for bed when I read that Huell Howser had passed away. What happened next surprised me.

I suddenly felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach. Tears welled-up in my eyes. My wife heard me sniffling and came to ask what was wrong. As I said out loud "Huell Howser is dead," I started to really cry. Not a "stoic guy fighting back tears" kind of thing, but an actual "Oh, dear, that little fellow doesn't seem okay" kind of cry. It was like a floodgate opening.

I am a somewhat emotional person. But I couldn't understand why I was weeping over the passing of a man I had met only once -- a man whose funny voice I had imitated many times. This seemed pretty weird.

Huell Howser and I are linked forever, on the wall of Larchmont Dry Cleaners, where our photographs hang somewhat close together. It was there that I met him, two years ago. Huell was a friendly giant. Standing next to him was like he was my Gandalf, only with an overactive pleasure-center in his brain.

Huell was as excited to meet me as he once was to meet the lady who makes Aebleskivers in Solvang. He was as excited to meet me as he once was to see a real butter churn in action... or that time he saw that cool player-piano, which is to say: he was overjoyed one hundred percent.

This was Huell Howser's nature. To be intrigued, enthralled, AMAZED -- by things that might seem ordinary.

Huell was like a Terminator sent from the past instead of the future, to make us to appreciate all of the things we take for granted.

When I woke up in the morning, I realized why I had cried over Huell's passing, and it was simple: Because Huell Howser was the opposite of the internet.

We have shrugged our way into a world where everyone is supposed to be a critic of everything, all the time. Look up anything you are interested in online, and below it, you will find a COMMENTS section, where people -- from the comfort of their homes -- compete to be the first one to say that it SUCKS.

Huell, on the other hand, would get into his car, drive for hours, and show us things... just so he could tell us how wonderful they were.

And that's why I cried. Because I don't know when we'll get another one of those.

Also read tributes by Andy Richter, James Adomian and Paul Feig.

About the Author

Thomas Lennon is an actor and comedian whose credits include "Reno 911" and "A Night at the Museum."
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Thank you Thomas. Exactly.

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Spot on Mr. Lennon.

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I too felt a real sense of loss upon hearing about Huell Howser. You just felt as though you knew the man as he took you with him,to some of the most interesting and off the wall places in California! R.I.P. Huell, and thank you!!

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So true! I think of him as the voice of The Baksin in the Winnie the Pooh movie, my daughter's favorite.
I'm a big fan of yours, and think that maybe YOU'RE that person...to step into Huell's shoes, and show us things that, well, don't suck. Something to consider...

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You cried!?! Come on in the waters fine! Thank you Thomas for this fine piece of writing on why Huell's passing matters.

BTW...you suck.

Just kidding.

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I swear this video was shot Sept 13, 1994. That was my 21st birthday and the first time I saw Huell. I don't remember much of that day, but I remember that.

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Thanks Thomas. You are so right about the passing of Huell. There will never be another one like him and the places he has taken us will forever remain in our hearts. Thanks for sharing.

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I'm a third generation Californian, and like Huell I love to travel with my camera to photograph and meet people all over the State. I remember Huell from the first day he broadcast at KCBS back in 1981. There was something in his voice, an enthusiasm and wonder that disarmed the most jaded of us. He will be missed, but I hope to enjoy his travels for a long time on the internet, Huell Rest in Peace.

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I've often thought that I'd want to be Huell Howser in another life. He went everywhere and saw everything. I wondered if he was a native Californian or Southerner with that drawl; regardless, he was what vintage Californian ought to be: casual, humble, congenial, always looking on the bright side. Most of all, he constantly brought out the significance of even the most obscure places and people, and made all his interviewees feel "amazing." I miss California's Gold, of which he was definitely a big nugget. Peace, HH.

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I never thought about him that way, but you are right. Every day we have to slush through the cesspool which is the world. Watching Huell Howser was like coming up for clean air. He was clean, he was cheerful, and for a little while you could pretend that everything and everyone were like Huell. That was the gift he gave.

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My friends and I always made fun of him and the way he talked. He kinda reminded me of Gomer Pyle. But I started watching bits of his shows here and there and eventually it got to a point where if I came across his show I would sit and watch it to the end. He could make a grain of sand sound fascinating. He reminded me not to be so cynical and dismissive so much. He was a true original and he personified positivity and humanity. I hope they archive all his shows digitally so his work would last forever in its original quality. He was and forever will be a true legend. Thanks Huell for making me a better person.

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This Remembrance DOES NOT SUCK.

I'll really miss Huell Howser.

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Thank you Thomas for your article and warm thoughts of Huell - g great perspective on a great man who will be greatly missed.

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This Huellogy comes in the form of 2 Odes (sung to familiar tunes):

(To the tune of "Davy Crockett") -

RAY'sd with an AKsent out of TEN-a-SEE
NICE green STATE but not SO a-may-ZEEN
GOT him a JOB where he WORK'd on tee-VEE
be-CAME our FAY'vrit HOST on kay-cee-ee-TEE
HU-ELL, HU-ELL HOWSER
KING of CAL-i-FOR'nyas GOLD

(To the tune of "The Marine Corps Anthem") -

from the CLIFFS a-LONG the NORthern COAST
to the FLATS at SAUL-ton SEA
he has BROUGHT us CAL-ih-FOR'nyas GOLD
in its RICH dye-VER-si-TEE
WITH a SENSE of WON-der-MENT and AWE
ALL-ways CHEER-full, KIND and CLEAN
we'll ree-MEM-er that HUELL HOWSER saw
"OH MY GOSH!" in EV'ry-THING

- Mike Coppi, 1/18/2013, mjcoppi@att.net

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Thanks for sharing your feelings about Huell and I did the same thing when I found out he was gone. I just felt like I had lost a best friend although I had never met him. This is the first time I have been so sad over someone I watched on TV and it is great to see others feel the same way. I will be feeling a tender spot in my heart for a long time over Huell's death. RIP Huell.