Today is Howard Stern’s last day on regular radio. In a few weeks he will disappear on satellite radio where you will have to pay to hear him. Howard is being paid $500 million over the next five years to fade away and that’s an offer that would be hard for anyone to turn down. I miss the early days when Howard was cutting-edge funny and was the hero of the ordinary person struggling to make it from one day to the next.
Howard has become the hollow of himself and, for that reality; I mourn the loss of a great talent. My Aunt Idona turned me on to Howard Stern way back in 1984 or so during a visit with her at her home in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
I was a Nebraska boy who was born and bred in the humid dust bowl plains and visiting New Jersey during the summer was a great experience I will not forget. The land was lush. The weather was clear and clean. Howard Stern ruled the radio. Aunt Idona and I were traveling in her car when she asked me if I liked Howard Stern. I had no idea who she was talking about and she just said, “Listen.” She turned on the radio, WNBC, and I heard Howard Stern interviewing Ron Palillo from Welcome Back Cotter and Howard kept asking about Ron’s character named “Horshack” but Howard kept pronouncing it “Horse-Shak” and wondering aloud if Ron was well-hung and if that was really why his character was named “Horse-shack.”
The whole interview was handled in a giggling, self-effacing manner that was endearing and never gross. When I moved to New York City a few years later to attend graduate school at Columbia University, Howard Stern became the start of my day on WXRK and I found many shared laughs with him.
The fall from grace began when Howard did not fight to keep Billy West and Jackie “The Jokeman” Martling. The radio show began dying a morose and narcissistic death. Those of us who knew the brilliance of the early career Stern shows sat in amazement as we kept the faith while Howard and his crew continued their tumble from relatable suffering into the unfamiliar grotesque of raunch and gross-out homoeroticism. Artie Lange is a pale replacement for Jackie: Lange is Ed McMahon in a fat suit.
Benji Bronk plays for crude and shocking instead of Billy West’s intimate silliness. Howard claims moving to satellite — where you will pay $13 a month as a subscription fee after purchasing a $200 radio that can actually bring in the satellite feed — will “free” him to curse and do even more outrageous sexual things. He will offer “Tissue Time” where you can masturbate to a pornographic bedtime story. You can hear curse words instead of hearing bleeps. You can guess along with Stern how many pounds of poop a fat guy can excrete in a 24 hour period. I will pass. I will not be joining Howard on satellite. Hearing a bleep is funnier than hearing the actual curse word.
Howard should have learned the fact of that fine line when he wrote his books. He cursed on the pages of his books and it was alarming and discomforting to read the hard cursing in print. Howard is better skittering around the edges of sanctity instead of shoving us headlong into his awful. As we age we hope to mature our sensibilities and our humor. Stern’s humor isn’t maturing or even regressing into the funny of childhood.
He is instead tempting the worst in all of us by chewing away the fibers of class and grace that once bound us to him and when that violation of the humble occurs, the most vulnerable among us suffer and we all are made to pay for that degeneration of aesthetic and caring because more viciousness and greater hate are bled into the world under the guise of being “outrageously funny.”
People will sit for outrage on free radio but millions more will not stand to pay a subscription fee to feel worse about the world. There’s funny and there’s disgusting and disgusting is never funny. Howard Stern’s self-anointed title as “King of All Media” — like Michael Jackson’s self-crowned “King of Pop” moniker — is just as phony as this long list of failed Stern media projects:
– Fartman: The Movie
– Doomsday: The Animated TV show
– Etiquette for Outlaws
– The syndicated E! show
– The ABC interview show
– Howard Stern’s Rock N Roll High School
– Howard Stern’s Porky’s
– Howard Stern: The High School Years That’s the short list or projects Howard pushed on us as listeners every day but none of them found the light of day as a released project.
Stern’s track record of success is growing dimmer and gloomier by the moment. Stern has been bleeding audience on free radio by the hundreds of thousands for years. That bleed-out will only grow greater on for-pay satellite radio: The King is dead and he isn’t wearing any clothes! Howard’s cutting-edge radio show lost its lifeblood when his marriage ended and he took up with a woman half his age. He became what he mocked and no one in his precious inner circle is able to point out the hypocrisy in his life.
When Howard Stern was married and yearning and living miserably in the midst of a loving family, we all laughed with him, because we could relate to his real human suffering and we sewed a shared funny thread with him every day in the fabric of the universal ordinariness of our shared station. Now that Howard has actively disavowed everything he claimed to cherish and believe in; we true fans of his original humor now realize it is time for us to turn off Howard Stern for good for the greatness of our humanity and let him wallow alone in his $500 million dollar sh*t pit.