Howard Stern has evolved, and the results are fascinating. The man who dominated terrestrial radio with his "shock jock" persona has undergone some significant personal growth since moving to Sirius XM 13 years ago. Stern thrived for decades on being outlandish and chasing career success with a "him vs. the world" mentality. There wasn't a rule he wouldn't smash with a sledgehammer. Then he moved to satellite radio where there are no rules, and suddenly, there was nothing to rebel against. That new landscape, along with years of therapy, and his happiness with his current wife Beth, have resulted in a man who is much more introspective and has become a much better interviewer. Rather than beat his guests into submission, Stern has learned how to master engaging in real conversation, and you can read the results in his new book, Howard Stern Comes Again. (Release date: May 14, 2019)
This is Stern's first book in 20 years. It is a collection of transcripts of roughly 40 of his best interviews over the last 25 years, along with snippets from various celebrities organized by topics like sex, religion, death, and fame. Stern prefaces each transcript with his thoughts about that featured guest, as well as how the following pages relate to his personal development. As a result, Howard Stern Comes Again is a combination autobiography/greatest hits collection. He expresses a lot of regret over his former approach to his job where chaos and domination were the priority, including mentioning interviews he'd like to do over, like one with Robin Williams. This contrition is sure to anger a number of Stern's longtime fans, but his commentary is just as interesting as the actual interviews, which turns out to be a high bar.
The transcripts reveal a thoughtful man who has learned how to approach interviews like a dinner conversation, rather than an assault on his guests. This softer approach leads to insightful discussions with these high-profile figures about personal traumas and fears, as well as reflections upon their careers. Many will likely be surprised at how candid people like Anderson Cooper, Jon Stewart, and former nemesis Rosie O'Donnell get in their interviews. Stern is also fascinated with late night talk shows, and there are transcripts with Conan O'Brien, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and David Letterman. (Here's a tease: Stern describes one of those as his favorite all-time interview.) There is a lot of talk around how all of these people deal with the fear of failure, and how hard they worked to get to this point in their careers. The book also includes an excruciating interview with Steve Rannazzisi, the actor who was caught lying about being at the World Trade Center on 9/11. All of these are discussions that the "old Howard Stern" would not have been able to get at, and the reader is better off for the change.
Don't worry, Stern hasn't completely given up his "naughty" side. There's still plenty of sex talk with people like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Amy Poehler, and Michael J. Fox. What's different is that these conversations now read like they come from a point of trust between Stern and the celebrity, rather than him forcing them into the topic. There are also memorable interviews with Harvey Weinstein and Bill O'Reilly, which are now seen as blatantly dishonest, as both men deny any hint of sexual misconduct. (These were conducted years before accusations against both men were made public.)
There's one guest who gets multiple interviews documented throughout the book: Donald Trump. The man was a regular guest and caller to the show for years before moving into the White House. The selections in the book take us back to a simpler time when he was just a buffoon who had nothing better to do than boast about his sexual prowess and how much he was worth. Come to think of it, not much has changed. Trump fans will love all of this, but they will have to do some rationalizing to ignore the fact that he praises Hillary Clinton at one point. (Stern also writes about how he tried to get Clinton to appear on his show during the 2016 presidential election.) Trump's base will probably just choose to ignore that inconvenient part and focus on the man who called in to brag about stealing gossip columnist A.J. Benza's girlfriend.
At 549 pages, with Howard Stern Comes Again never feels like a slow read. His personal and professional journey is inspiring. Hopefully it won't be another 20 years until his next book, because it will be interesting to see where this path continues to take him. His evolution may anger some fans, but he's clearly in a much better place in his life, and it shows in his work. A large portion of his audience will still enjoy this collection, but it's almost more of a must-read for people who don't think they like Stern. Readers who appreciate the art of conversation should check out this book
An engrossing read from a changed man. (pic via amazon.com)
- Hardcover: 560 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (May 14, 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501194291
- ISBN-13: 978-1501194290
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