Out of all the great things my dad ever did for me, one of the best was to turn me on to the Howard Stern Show in 1983, back when he was doing afternoons on WNBC. My friends and I would go home grab a snack, turn on the radio and listen to Howard rail against management, ask porn stars about their bathroom habits or abuse his own staffers. “The Howard Stern Show” is the greatest workplace comedy of all time. I soon decided that this show was so good that everyone had to hear it. I became as devoted to the Howard cause as Scientologists are to thinking that Jesus Christ is a step below operating thetan. Over the years, I’m proud to say that I brought some converts into Howard’s church.
To the uninitiated, Howard Stern is just some crass philistine who’s just about having strippers come in to disrobe but there’s so much more. Besides being really funny, Howard is the best interviewer and has been for the past ten years.
Before you think I’ve completely drank the Kool-Aid, there are some things Howard has done in his career that I’m not a fan of. For instance, I still resent shelling out thirty dollars for his “U.S. Open Sores” video which was pretty much just him playing tennis against his producer, Gary Dell’Abate. I also think his fabled channel 9 show was almost unwatchable with sketches that ran, seemingly, forever. But his movie, books and radio show are pretty freakin’ great.
The moments I’ve chosen aren’t necessarily the funniest, although many are, but they are, to me, the most interesting. Enjoy and thanks for all the entertainment, Howard.
10. Jackie Apologizes To His Wife, Nancy (1989)
Former Stern on-air personality and writer and current hack comedian, Jackie Martling, found himself in hot water when he got into a bathtub with a naked Jessica Hahn in Philadelphia. Martling’s wife, Nancy, was pretty pissed which lead to this great Stern show moment of Jackie reading an apology to her.
It sounds like the apologies the Viet Cong made American POW’s read on camera. Highlights of this apology include “I just want to apologize to my wife, Nancy, for the Jessica Hahn bathtub incident…” and “I’m very sincere. Don’t make a mockery over this.” It was so humiliating it felt like every male listener was taking it in the family jewels that day. Future tip, the best way for people to know you’re sincere is to tell them.
9. “All In Pat Cooper’s Family” (1990)
Famed Borscht Belt comedian, Pat Cooper, was one of the all time great guests in the late eighties / early nineties. He gave new meaning to the word “volatile.” As Jackie Martling pointed out, if you said Pat Cooper was the funniest man on Earth, Pat’s reply would be, “so does that mean I suck on Mars?!” Pat Cooper would get revved up, ask himself a question, answer the question and then get angry at the response. But Pat Cooper saved his best venom for his family.
Pat Cooper didn’t get along with anyone in his family including his ex-wife, children and his own mother. One day in 1989, Pat Cooper started railing against his family and Howard was able to get all the family members on the phone. The result was radio gold. Eventually, the best parts were edited into a promo for the fake show, “All In Pat Cooper’s Family.” It remains the only time that I’ve had to pull to the side of the road because I was laughing so hard.
8. Sal “The Stockbroker’s” Rap Career (2008)
“The Howard Stern Show” leads the league in hiring misfits and what they lack in competence, they more than make up for with their stories. Sal Governale started by being a frequent caller on the show where he mocked Gary Dell’Abate mercilessly. Sal was so relentless, that Howard eventually hired him.
The Stern Show wasn’t Governale’s first brush with show business. When he was a teenager he responded to one of those “want to be a star, call me” business cards Sal showed up and played a tape of his rap to a record producer who loved it. All he needed was seven thousand dollars for studio time, tapes, head shots and publishing to make Sal a star. Sal dutifully paid it and even had his mom take a loan out at the bank. Shockingly, it was all a scam but really entertaining radio.
7. Steve Carell Interview (2013)
Not the most obvious choice but to me it showed Howard Stern at his best as an interviewer. Steve Carell came in to promote “Anchorman 2” but Howard got him to talk about his early career, how he feels about making big money and if he ever was jealous when his wife was cast on “Saturday Night Live” and he wasn’t. The answers were that he’s uncomfortable about making “obscene” money and he was a little envious about his wife but it never got to a dark place. Howard also got Steve to talk about teaching at Second City and his day job as a mailman which he quit after a year. Steve then found undelivered mail wedged into the seats of his car which is a federal offense.
6. Gary’s First Pitch (2009)
Getting to throw a first pitch would usually be one of the greatest moments in a sports fan’s life. If you’re Gary Dell’Abate, it’s one of the most humiliating moments of your life. Before the start of a Mets/Pirates game, Gary threw out what is easily one of the worst first pitches of all time. It went over the catcher’s head and way to the right. Remember, this guy is a life long Mets fan and a Little League coach. To make it even worse, Artie Lange was there for some hilarious ball busting.
To make it even worse, Gary appeared on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” to promote his book and Jimmy graciously gave Gary a chance to redeem himself by throwing out another pitch. Jimmy went into the audience with his glove and Gary threw pitch after pitch, each one worse than the previous one. Gary nearly hit an audience member. Some people just aren’t any damn good under pressure.
5. Artie vs. Sal and Richard (2007)
It all started so innocently but then again so did World War I. Richard and Sal came in and asked Artie to not be so mean if he didn’t like their prank calls. Artie said that that’s ridiculous and that one of the hallmarks of “The Howard Stern Show” is honestly, sometimes brutal honesty. Then things got a little nutty.
The subject of Artie’s movie, “Beer League” came up and how Sal didn’t like it. When Artie asked Sal if he ever made a movie, Sal replied how the short film he made for the “Howard Stern Film Festival” got a standing ovation. Artie was pissed that Sal compared his short movie about having sex with vegetables with Artie’s feature film which he busted his ass to make. Voices were raised. Sal said Artie was arrogant. Artie said Sal and Richard had no talent. Artie threw a cart at Sal. It was pretty awesome.
4. The Jesus Twins (1997)
To this day I’m still not a hundred percent sure if this was all a massive put on or not. On the surface, the Jesus Twins were a singing group comprised of identical twins, Eric and Jeffrey Liebowitz who were so obnoxious that Howard Stern loved them while everyone else despised them. The Twins wanted Howard to put their song, “Feel My Ubiquity” on the “Private Parts” soundtrack even though the album had gone to the printer.
They would not take “no” for an answer and went on to perform the song live and in studio. As Howard maintained from the beginning, it was too late to put the song on the soundtrack. The Jesus Twins were permanently, and tragically, silenced when Eric was gunned down by the L.A.P.D. during a manic episode.
3. Jackie and Gary Puppets (1991)
No one was meaner than the Jackie Martling puppet, operated by Billy West. The puppet was so vicious that guest, Conan O’Brien begged him to back off and seemed to momentarily forget that he was talking to a puppet and not a real person. Essentially, the puppet was a caricature of the real Jackie with his braying laugh, drunkenness and being bitter that his career didn’t go farther.
The Gary Dell’Abate puppet was operated by Fred Norris and was basically the village idiot with a speech impediment. The puppet’s popularity crested when he was kidnapped during one of Dell’Abate’s appearances at a Radio Shack grand opening. It was later revealed that it was “Stuttering” John who stole the puppet and let Gary worry all weekend. No matter, it lead to some prime Gary ball busting and that’s what’s truly important.
2. Howard’s Birthday Show (2014)
I don’t usually like the big event shows but this one truly was great. Part of it was the guest list. Only Howard Stern could get Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman under the same roof. There was also a really insightful interview that Howard conducted with Letterman where Dave opened up much more than usual.
The rest of the guest list included Lorne Michaels, Sarah Silverman, Steven Tyler, Louis C.K., Robert Downey Jr., Barbara Walters, etc. If that wasn’t enough, John Fogerty, Dave Grohl and Jewel performed. There were so many amazing moments. It’s too bad Howard can only turn sixty once.
1. Gary’s “I Want You Back” Video (1999)
To any regular listener of the show, there could be no doubt that this moment would be number one. In the late 80’s, Gary Dell’Abate was dumped so he made a video tape where he pleaded for a second chance. This tape would never have been discovered if it wasn’t for a listener who dated the same girl Gary was stuck on. Gary had a copy and after Howard and the listeners ponied up $18,000, the tape was brought in and played the next day.
What you got was over a half hour with a rain soaked Baba Booey making his case as for why he and she should get back together. There were so many great moments like Gary saying how when he lost her “he lost a lover and a best friend.” How his personal life was a two but his professional life was “a noine.” Gary saying that maybe one day he’d be ready for “ma-ma-ma-marriage.” If you’re ever suicidal, play this tape and, not only will you laugh, you will see that there was once an even bigger loser than you.
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