Be like Harry

Editor’s note: This is a lightly-edited version of the introduction to my most recent newsletter. I’m reproducing it here in the interests of having #content on this blog and because Harry Anderson meant more to me than I realized.

Last week was rough for famous people. R. Lee Ermey, Carl Kasell, Barbara Bush, Avicii, and Verne Troyer all passed away. But one name stood out for me: Harry Anderson. I first got to “know” Harry when I was young. My parents would often watch the TV series “Dave’s World”. Since we only had one TV, that meant I watched it, too. I have no real memories of the show, but I remember being amused by it.

The memory that sticks out most is a recollection from a road trip to visit my grandfather in Florida. It was a two-day drive for us, and I remember one particular time we stopped in a motel on the way down. My parents turned the TV on to distract us kids while they got the room ready and the toothbrushes unpacked. I saw Harry Anderson and said “oh good! ‘Dave’s World’ is on.” It was actually “Night Court”.

Years later, I began watching “Night Court” in earnest, largely through clips on YouTube until my wife started a tradition of buying me a season on DVD for each Gift-Giving Occasion™. The show is an absolute gem of popular culture. Some of the jokes were probably funnier 30 years ago, but most of it holds up well.

Part of what makes it so great is Anderson as the goofball Judge Stone. Stone is not perfect – he’s a real jerk sometimes – but he’s fundamentally a decent person who wants to do right by everyone. Harry Stone had the ability to see the best in people and bring it out of them. Funny one moment, sappy the next, Harry Stone wasn’t just someone you could aspire to be, he was someone you could be.

I don’t know what Harry Anderson was like as a person, but I’d like to think he was a lot like his Harry Stone character. I think we should all be a little more like Harry Stone.