Howard Stern Comes Again marks the culmination and arrival of a decent human being and a highly respected broadcaster.
Over the last 44 years, Howard Stern’s wildly successful radio career has been built upon shock. It was often also met with moral outrage, much of it justified. Historically, Stern often objectified women (who were usually adult film actresses), regularly used offensive terms as monikers or punchlines and frequently barraged his early celebrity guests with outrageous questions about their personal lives. Singularly obsessed with pushing the boundaries of good taste, he provoked wrath from both sides of the political spectrum. “Most people considered me the love child of the Boston Strangler and [Manson family member] Squeaky Fromme,” he notes in his new book Howard Stern Comes Again.
A funny thing happened in the last 20 years: Stern pulled off an unprecedented rehabilitation, a public relations coup. This once-scorned outsider now vacations with A-listers like Jimmy Kimmel and Jennifer Anniston. He’s built a cohort of young fans who only know him as the cuddly judge from “America’s Got Talent” (“I’d gone from being America’s Nightmare to Santa Claus”). Broadcasting giants, such as Terry Gross and Ira Glass, now cite Stern as the best living interviewer, period.
Howard Stern Comes Again, his third bestseller, isn’t exactly a 560-page mea culpa. Instead, it’s a handsomely bound collection of his finest interviews. “That’s what I want to be my legacy,” he writes in the introduction, and “why I let Simon & Schuster push me into doing this book.” As such, it functions like a corrective, especially when compared to Private Parts (1993) and Miss America (1995), his first forays as an author. Those disjointed and puerile autobiographies haven’t aged well, though the former was the basis for a terrific 1997 biopic of the same name.
This newest book works best as a primer for those who haven’t been following Stern’s evolution as a person (he’s an outspoken proponent of psychotherapy) and an interviewer since leaving the FM dial to become the poster boy for satellite radio in 2006. (Though some of these exchanges are from his late terrestrial-radio period.) For fans like me, this compendium of familiar interviews is most notable for Stern’s commentaries, which introduce each chapter with candor and introspection. The transcripts, though edited for readability, speak for themselves.
They’re equally curious and surprising, funny and heartbreaking, irreverent and deep. His breathtaking conversations with Madonna, Stephen Colbert, Paul McCartney, Rosie O’Donnell, Lady Gaga, Joan Rivers, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Gwyneth Paltrow and Sia are masterclasses of the celebrity interview. Stern peppers these insightful chapters with choice cuts from his many interactions over the years with Donald Trump (titled “And Now a Word from Our President…”) and interstitial chapters that feature many voices and focus on a range of topics (such as sex and relationships, money and fame, drugs and sobriety, religion and spirituality). He includes interviews with Harvey Weinstein and Bill O’Reilly that are eye-popping given the subsequent #MeToo movement, and even throws in a rumination on “The Interview That Never Happened” with Hillary Clinton (whom he supported in 2016).
Howard Stern Comes Again is a misnomer of a title. This tome marks the culmination and arrival of a decent human being and a highly respected broadcaster. Though there’s little new to chew on here, Howard Stern has delivered a monument to his radio legacy, one he’s long been craving.