WSJ on Howard Stern

Howard Stern has been in the news more often these days as rumors of an American Idol gig coincide w/ the ending of his $500 million, five year deal on satellite radio. The WSJ on Friday asked “what’s next for Howard?

Having grown up listening to Stern on NYC radio i hope it’s a return to mainstream media – either radio or American Idol (which i don’t watch). Pre-Sirius Stern was great for three reasons, which the satellite deal all killed for me:

1. He used to be the underdog: Before he was the half billion dollar man, Howard was always on the outskirts of celebrity – loved by the blue collar publicly and the white collar secretly. Then he got divorced, started dating the models and attending restaurant openings. While this transformation was distinct from his move to satellite, the huge employment contract he received became the prefix on any discussion of his work. Any deal he gets is likely to be lucrative but perhaps a return to “market wages” and mainstream radio will put the focus back on Howard and away from his bank account.

2. He was limited by ‘the man’: No matter how large his audience, Stern was constantly at war w/ the FCC for his style of humor. This ongoing battle and his attempts to deal with restrictions and corporate oversight produced some of his best humor. The freedom of satellite let him move from innuendo and self-censorship to an anything-goes style of comedy which overshadowed his intellect and subversiveness.

3. Celebs had to put up with him: Stern commanded a massive audience on radio and this forced celebrities to swing by the studio on publicity junkets. In return for a plug here and there, they let Stern eviscerate them, asking the type of questions that Entertainment Tonight never would. And it wasn’t just dick jokes. Stern would treat them like people – asking about their relationships, foibles and failures. Often with gripping results.

C’mon Stern, come back to us.