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Thomas Lennon: Why Huell Howser Was the Opposite of the Internet

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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.

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