Howard Stern and the truth

My biggest comedy influence (if ya go by time exposure): Howard Stern. The sheer number of hours I've spent listening to him dwarfs the amount I've been exposed to any other comedian (or is he a "humorist" or something else?)

I started listening to Howard in about seventh grade and couldn't get enough. I just felt like he was the only person on TV/radio that was actually telling the truth. He was a miserable, terrible person in a lot of ways...but it was fucking authentic. In comparison, everyone else on air seemed full of shit.

I didn't really care about the strippers, midgets, and other freak show stuff. But I loved when he and the crew would sit around talking about their lives. He talked about his small dick, how he hated his life, how he masturbated in his basement, his relationship with his wife, etc. He was Louis CK before Louis CK.

And I loved how he forced other people to tell the truth. Everyone on the show had to discuss intimate details of their lives, air out their dirty laundry, have any fights on air, etc.

It was so compelling because it was real. You can't be on the air for four hours every day of the week and fake it. Also, radio is a really intimate medium for some reason. Maybe it's the "voice in the ear" factor or something.

His interviews with celebs were super too. No Entertainment Tonight bullshit. He'd ask how much money people made, whom they fucked, whom they hated, which rumors were true, and all the stuff you want to know but people never ask. The next day, these interview would often be in the news. Because he got people to reveal things they never revealed before.

That's why a lot of celebs would never go on. He broke that PR shill shield of protection. You got to see the real person. People could play along and be cool (Arnold Schwarzenegger always handled Howard great). But if you weren't up for getting into the truth, you were better off staying away.

I don't have Sirius so I don't really listen to Howard anymore. (That's why I've been using the past tense.) But I came across this recent Chevy Chase interview (below) and it's a great example of what I'm talking about. Howard gets Chevy to talk about banging Goldie Hawn, being the most famous person on SNL and how the others resented him for it, getting into a fight with Bill Murray right before going on air, how Chase and Murray improvised their one scene together in Caddyshack, how he was locked in a basement when he was younger, and tons more. Where else would ya get this kind of conversation?

(Update: Bummer, YouTube took down the Stern-Chase video. Fwiw, Stern's site has notes of recent interviews with these people: Norm MacDonald, Chris Rock, Chevy Chase, and Brad Garrett.)

I don't think my standup is all that Howard-y (tough to dole out that vibe in 5-10 minute chunks)...but I do like the direction "We're All Friends Here" is going in. It's got a lot of that raw, truthful, conversations-you-never-hear-anywhere-else thing going on. And that's why it's so fun.


Matteson said...

Just read this as part of your '08 recap. I've been listening to Adam Carolla's radio show quite a bit lately, and like it for the same reasons. I never liked the Man Show, but Carolla's great on the radio. Somewhat of a Stern replacement.

Matt Ruby said...

Yeah, I'm a fan of Carolla too (posted about him here).

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