howard stern, a new beginning

I’m listening to yesterday’s inaugural episode of Howard Stern’s new satellite radio show. (Someone in the universe, knowing that I didn’t have access otherwise, was nice enough to record it and pipe it over to me.) All in all, it’s pretty good. I was pleased to hear from Howard that he plans not to overdo it with the profanity (it would get boring really quickly and, fortunately, he realized that early on), but disappointed to hear that they’ve made the decision to start running advertising, which seems to run more than just a bit contrary to the whole “commercial free” format. (I mentioned this to someone earlier and he pointed out that Sirius had been careful in recent months to just say that their “music” stations were commercial free.)

I knew that this was going to happen. When it was first announced that Mel Karmazin, an accomplished executive in the world of terrestrial radio and former President of Viacom, would be following Stern to Sirius as the company’s CEO, I heard an interview in which he mentioned that he was optimistic about the company’s prospects because advertisers loved Stern. I don’t remember it being picked up in the press, but it was clear to me at that point that, for all the talk of new paradigms and comparisons to HBO, Karmazin wanted to pull the fledgling company into more familiar waters. And, that’s apparently exactly what’s happening. Starting on day-two they’ll be running 6 ads an hour. While most people, I suspect, would prefer the occasional record (so that Howard and the rest of the cast can eat and use the restroom), I don’t think that subscribers will squawk too much, especially when XM, the competitor to Sirius, charges an additional surcharge for their “premium” channels. (It’s probably a small point that won’t interest anyone but me, but I’m really interested in how, and why, strategic business decisions like these are made.)

I’ve got a lot of other thoughts on the show, but I’m going to hold off until I’ve finished listening. Let me just say that, based on what I’ve heard so far, I still have reservations. I’ve been a Stern fan since he was on WNBC in New York in the early 80’s, and I think he’s still an incredibly bright performer, but, unfortunately, I think, in the quest for more listeners, he’s moved the show into places where he’s not necessarily at his best. I like the filth as much as anyone else, but that’s not where his strengths lie. And it kind of depresses me to see him embracing that. I know some of you might disagree, but Howard is an incredibly astute social critic and that just doesn’t come through as clearly when he’s playing clips of senior citizens being sexually degraded. Does he have a right to do it? Absolutely. I just don’t think it’s the best showcase for what he has to offer. Mark Twain, I’m sure, would have been a brilliant pimp, but it still would have made me sad.

(OK, start typing your hate mail now. I can deal with it. Call me a prude. Whatever… I’m not saying that it’s not funny. (I laughed at the bit they just did about shoving things up Letterman’s ass.) It’s just that there’s a certain whiff of desperation about it. That doesn’t mean it’s not entertaining, relevant, etc. It just means that I’d rather leave this stuff to someone else and have Howard focus on what he’s best at.)

I’ll be curious to see how it all plays out over time, and whether or not the celebrities will still come in and submit to his questioning when it means 3 million listeners instead of 12 million. And, along the same lines, I also wonder whether Artie Lang will stay on the show. (Because of its extremely large audience, the previous Stern show was responsible for filling comedy venues for Lang and for getting him several acting jobs. While they must be paying him more at Sirius to offset the smaller audience, I suspect that once some of the other opportunities begin to dry up, he’ll begin having second thoughts about following Howard.)

In spite of anything I may have said, I’m thinking that I might buy a unit this weekend and begin following along. (If they released Stern’s show as a podcast to subscribers, or if Sirius had Phil Hendrie (he’s on XM), I would have done it already, but I still think that I might make the plunge.)

update: Here’s a link to my last post on Howard, if you’re interested. If you do go, be sure to check out the comments. It’s the thread where we’re first introduced to America’s sweetheart, Kami Andrews.

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  1. terry
    Posted January 11, 2006 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    I keep thinking about getting Sirius radio but I’d like to wait until they have a true portable receiver available.

    We also need to make that movie with Kami.

  2. mark
    Posted January 11, 2006 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    Now that I know Peter Falk, there are endless possibilities!

  3. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted January 11, 2006 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Just be sure that Kami washes the eye before giving it back.

  4. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 11, 2006 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    I found it odd listening to Howard go on and on about how good this guy “Bubba The Love Sponge” is, after hearing him for years call the guy a no talent fuck.I guess now that he’s working for Howard (he has the 4 to 8 slot on Howard’s network), he suddenly has tremendous skills.

  5. Dr Cherry
    Posted January 12, 2006 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    So far I’m not terribly impressed with the Bubba Show. His bits seem a lot like Stern’s and Leykis’ in many ways.

    Well, except bubba covers nascar, sports, country music, and truckers. It’s no wonder he’s big in Florida.

  6. Theodore Glass
    Posted January 12, 2006 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    Have you heard Bubba eat hooker pussy yet, Steve? That seems to be one of his more popular reoccurring bits. He’s also a bigtime ball shaver (something he clearly picked up here).

  7. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted January 12, 2006 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Howard says he’s going to have a Ball Shaving special air on his On-Demand cable channel. Perhaps an injunction is called for.

  8. Dr Cherry
    Posted January 12, 2006 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    They were saying Bubba perfomed cunlingus on Alicia Klass on the air. Maybe that’s what you are referring to.

    Also I did hear the conversation about ball and asshole shaving.

  9. mark
    Posted January 12, 2006 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I just got to that part. (It’s taking me days to find the time to listen to just the one episode.) The part that I thought was funny was that Bubba claims to have learned how to shave his balls and ass from Hulk Hogan.

    And if there’s a lawyer out there looking to do some pro bono work, I guess we could file some sort of complaint with a magistrate somewhere claiming that they’re planning to infringe on our testicular intellectual property.

    The funniest thing about Howard’s show, and I forgot to mention it in my first post, is that they’re trying to brand it as revolutionary and anti-corporate, which it may be on one level, but clearly isn’t pirate radio. (The logo they’re using is a raised fist.) It’s big business.

  10. Tony Buttons Esq.
    Posted January 13, 2006 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I really should start watching “Hogan Knows Best”. I had no idea.

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