I, like the millions of his fans, consider Howard Stern to be the greatest radio personality/broadcaster who has ever lived. He is a legend, an innovator, and a trailblazer like John Lennon was in music and Joan Rivers was in comedy, though their time among the living has passed. Just as there was music and comedy before and after John and Joan, there was radio before and after Howard, meaning their contributions in their respective fields forever changed the landscape of music and entertainment and paved the way for contemporary entertainers.
Without Howard Stern talk radio wouldn’t be what it is today in terms of tolerance and censorship. By shocking his way through the airwaves (at a time when it was considered shocking) for over three decades on radio stations such as DC101, WNBC, and WXRK with bits like Lesbian-Dial-a-Date and Beastiality-Dial-a-Date, to name a couple, videos like Butt Bongo Fiesta, and his ever-evolving cast of Wack Packers, he opened the doors to imitators and admirers and gradually transformed what was once taboo and unacceptable to talk about, to be accepted and tolerated. One could also say he is a major reason or influence on the advent of the podcast and it’s subsequent proliferation and prevalence in today’s world.
During the 1990’s his sonic revolution would soon become visual as well with his local Channel 9 show where he would have guests, sketch comedy, and show clips of Stuttering John ask celebrities hilariously uncomfortable and akward questions. Later nationally, with his cutting edge show televised on the E! Network he soared to new heights and continued his dominance having women gladly undress for him on television to the sounds of his hypnotically octave-lowered voice and participate in contests for prizes or plugs. Additionally, as time passed and he honed in and perfected his craft, he acquired the ability to flawlessly, effortlessly, and naturally persuade celebrities to often reveal candid details of their personal lives they otherwise wouldn’t to anyone else on any other outlet. The 90’s were a decade of constant transformation and Howard was a major player in its cultural evolution.
After being persecuted and crucified by the FCC for several years, he rolled the dice and took a risk by venturing on a relatively new and unstable market, satellite radio, a subscription-based radio service not governed by FCC regulations. The risk paid off and not only did his legions of followers subscribe to satellite radio, but he now had complete and unrestricted freedom to create the content he had always wanted to. His interview process has also evolved during this period, incorporating elements of psychology and morality into his conversations with his guests resulting in a pensive, at times deep, and reflective outcome. This is no doubt a result of the wisdom and maturity that comes with age, a welcome element to his multifaceted persona. During this time he also innovated radio further by creating and branding Howard TV, Howard 100 (with its own news team) and Howard 101 channels, under The Howard Stern Show all featured on Sirius XM satellite radio.
His newest incarnation as “America’s Judge” on America’s Got Talent was another unexpected and calculated move that surprised many, who’ve embraced it, and has also won him new fans from a younger generation whom some are too young to know his original claim to fame.
Of course no one can accomplish any great feat on their own without a great team to support them, in Howard’s case, his right hand Robin Quivers and his left hand Fred Norris, both of which whom he’s been collaborating with since their days at DC101, not to mention Don Buchwald, his agent and consigliere. The contributions of the third chair once occupied by Jackie Martling (Howard’s comedy “voice”) then by the unforgettable Artie Lange with anecdotes of his colorful past and Ed Torian impressions must be acknowledged as well. Creatively, Robin and Fred have been major contributors to his success and longevity. Attempts to replicate their formula for success will undoubtedly continue by many just as it has in the past yet there will always only be one Howard, one Robin, and one Fred, and their chemistry together.
I believe him when he says he can go back to terrestrial radio if he wanted to and do it all over again despite today’s societal climate of intolerance and censorship. If Private Parts was his autobiographical film about his professional beginnings, 1st marriage, rise to stardom, and dominance on terrestrial radio. I’d love for there to be a sequel to chronicle his transition and dominance in satellite radio and glimpses into his marriage and life with Beth. Long live the King of All Media and America’s Judge.