Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Howard Stern Show

Gay activists often comb the airwaves looking for fair and accurate representations of gay people, but I never hear any of them talk about The Howard Stern Show. Available only on satellite radio, the show presents a rather complete picture of how different races and orientations can get along - by ribbing each other.

It is not to everyone's tastes, and those easily offended - the umbrage community - would just carp. But those of us who enjoy a good laugh and who can take a teasing must be pleasantly surprised. Stern, a genius when it comes to open discussion, staffs his show with such diverse personalities as Robin Quivers (female, heterosexual, black, educated, upwardly mobile), renowned stand-up comedian Artie Lange (male, heterosexual, fat, New Jerseyish, filled with heterosexist prejudices), and former Star Trek star George Takai (male, homosexual, Asian, sophisticated, considerably older). No one is spared. At a recent evening out, Quivers, a bit of a wine snob, ordered an $800 bottle of wine. The others have never let her forget it.

The particular chemistry of these people as led by Stern (male, heterosexual, Jewish, neurotic) makes for marvelous radio. Along with other staffers and various guests, everyone is mocked. And because it's satellite radio, and therefore a subscription service with no censorship, the language and topics of discussion have no boundaries. Takai, who has talked at length about his relationship, spent a lot of time answering Stern's questions about giving head, and even admits to swallowing the occasional load. Why is this not news? Is it possible no gay or lesbian persons listen to satellite radio? (Stern claims to have anywhere from six to twenty million listeners.) Another jaw-dropping segment, courtesy of fellow radio host Greg Fitzsimmons, featured Margaret Cho talking about the day she had sex with six people at once. In this day and age of publicists and spin control, carefully sheparding a useless Jennifer Aniston around lest anyone dare ask her about Brad Pitt, it is refreshing to hear celebrities talk so openly about their sexual lives.

I could praise Stern's radio show all day. Its wanton disregard for propriety quickly weeds out the squares from the cool kids, although many of Stern's listeners seem to be apes. Never mistake the audience for the show, however. Not once in the years I have been listening did I ever feel insulted or humiliated. Lange, a total homophobe, makes me laugh out loud. I wouldn't want him to be anything but what he is, a modern Archie Bunker. (His advice to Jimmy Fallon as to how to make his new talk show more interesting? Waterboard the guests.) And Takai is an excellent elder spokesperson for the gay community. If he's not insulted by the fag jokes, why should I be?

The point is, as our world continues to drown in the hypocrisy of political correctness, Stern's show is the last bastion of this kind of racy, vulgar talk. It puts all of us on the same level, and serves to remind us that to mock someone is in essence to accept them for what they are, that blunt honesty is more important than any politcal agenda. This isn't just the greatest radio show of all time. It's one of the greatest shows of all time.