Howard Stern exposes himself (and what do you know, he's a softie)
- Last Updated: 3:01 AM, May 13, 2012
- Posted: 10:24 PM, May 12, 2012
With his debut tomorrow night as a judge on “America’s Got Talent,” Howard Stern — a man most people associate with strippers, porn stars and a rogue’s gallery of freaks and misfits — is making the riskiest move of his career.
He’s working to win the love of mainstream America.
“I want to do a good job for NBC,” Stern said at a press conference last week. “ ‘AGT’ is a family show, and I don’t want to alienate their audience.”
He had walked into the room to audio of “Hail to the Chief,” laughing softly, and this is a miniaturized version of his comic sensibility. Acknowledging his own narcissism while ironically undercutting the pomposity of the event itself — 50 media outlets crammed into a tiny, overheated pocket at the Friars Club to hear Stern talk about his new gig as a reality-show judge.
As silly as it may sound, this is a big deal. NBC was so keen to sign Stern that it relocated the entire production from LA to New York at his behest, though actually the show is taping in Newark. “I really think I should be given a hero’s parade in New Jersey,” Stern said. “Watch where you park.”
He spoke about his contentious history with NBC — he was fired from New York radio station WNBC in 1985 — and the great satisfaction he takes in returning as something of a savior.
“[Former NBC CEO] Grant Tinker said, ‘I will never allow Stern to work for this company again — over my dead body,’ ” Stern said. “And now — he’s a dead body.”
After addressing the competition (“You watch ‘American Idol’ and you could throw up”) and whom he hopes to emulate (Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Adam Levine), Stern was asked if working for a family-friendly prime-time network juggernaut meant he was losing his edge.
“I don’t worry about that much,” he said. “I have over 35 years in broadcasting, and I’ve always been about honesty. On ‘AGT’ I’m being honest. And as long as you’re honest, you can’t lose your edge.”
He also mentioned that his favorite act thus far was a man who took a bowling ball to the nuts.
“It’s true vaudeville,” he said. “You don’t get that kind of talent on other shows.”
Now 58, Howard Stern has been a New York fixture since 1982, when he was hired by WNBC radio after a massively successful run as a morning host at a DC station. He is a celebrity unique to the city in that he — much like Donald Trump, Ed Koch, Al Sharpton, David Letterman — is identified so closely with all that defines it.
He is brash, opinionated, impatient, aggrieved, misunderstood — all id.
Then there’s the off-air Howard who meditates twice a day, has successfully raised three daughters — who’ve never been caught stumbling out of nightclubs or trading on their father’s name — and has spent the past 15 years in therapy four days a week (although, after much lobbying by Stern, his therapist has recently agreed to take Howard down to three).