Huell Howser died last night and there's never been a night I wished more I was in California.
For me, growing up in Los Angeles in the '90s, Huell Howser was the most consistently watchable entertainer on TV. I was more of a radio geek as a teenager, but Huell I watched whenever I got the chance. A lot of us did. And if you missed something, friends would swap stories of California's Gold and Visiting and his other shows on KCET, always lapsing into impressions of his awe-struck exclamations: "This is amazing!"
His voice is so familiar to me and so closely tied to his love of the state that it might as well be the voice of California itself in my mind. So when I got into sketch comedy I felt compelled to do an impression of Huell because he was such an innocent and joyful character to mimic, and it was fun to get to play him for a few minutes on stage.
Like a lot of us, I heard and re-told stories of real-life Huell Howser encounters. Friends had spotted Huell all over Southern California: at the Hollywood farmer's market, at Whittier Narrows, at a historic hotel in Palm Springs. Huell eyewitnesses always re-tell their particular tale with a gleam in their eye, as an encounter with a mythological character. It seemed you had a 1 in 10 chance to meet Huell Howser if you grew up in California, but I never did. So I made up my own Huell stories and told them in-character on the Comedy Bang! Bang! podcast.
And then he called me on the phone.More »