If I find myself in the awkward position of denigrating a kind of genius in favor of propping up a kind of bore, well, I guess that’s what happens when the genius is fronting The Howard Stern Radio Show and the bore is Saturday Night Live.
SNL’s satire and irony are, of course, strangers to Howard Stern, who prefers the insult and the gross-out whenever he can’t stir up authentic psychodrama. On the radio, he’s often brilliant at peeling back celebrities’ thin skins and flogging his own sad-sack, suck-up staff. Put him on TV, though, and his instincts go all wonky. He edits the radio show for TV under the delusion that all we want are the freaks and the naked people. Wrong. Faced with already-dwindling ratings (SNL’s premiere outing delivered a 7.9 versus Stern’s 2.7), Stern seems to be getting the message; his verbal assault on masochistic whipping boy Stuttering John approached Stern sadism at its steeliest. But this stuff is still more effective on radio, where the host works wonders with the subtleties of voices under strain.
Contrary to his most famous boast, Stern is really only the King of One Medium. But what’s wrong with being the greatest radio performer of your generation? Give it up, Howard, and understand that we are a nation lazily content with the scattershot amusement of SNL until something better comes along — which hasn’t happened for almost a quarter of a century now. The Howard Stern Radio Show: D
The Howard Stern Radio Show