1. He’s a lot mellower now
Years of therapy and perhaps a mellower life have noticeably made a difference. He’s relaxed, his kids are grown, he’s happy in his job and isn’t worried about competing against other disc jockeys like Mancow or Don Imus. He can now say “I love you” to his father and his father says it back. He’s done transcendental meditation for a long time, but has very recently returned to prayer.
2. Sal and Richard are doing amazing prank calls
Their best work is prank calls to “Tradio” - local market radio shows where people can call in to sell or buy used items (basically a radio version of Craig’s List). They call over and over mercilessly with fake items to sell, wasting the host’s time. In this call, Richard describes his “item” ad nauseum but never says what the item actually is. It’s sublime.
3. Artie Lange isn’t on the show anymore
After a 2010 suicide attempt, Artie left the show and hasn’t come back. Howard has chosen not to replace him with another comedian in the “Jackie seat”. The suicide attempt was particularly grisly (he reportedly stabbed himself in the stomach with a kitchen knife). I was so upset when this happened I mailed him a card to the station; the only time I’ve ever actually sent a fan letter by mail.
4. He’s super liberal now
Stern became a “9/11 Republican”; he was hawkish and was fully in support of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was always liberal on social topics such as gay rights, and now he’s a big supporter of gay marriage and is a large donor to animal rights organizations.
5. There’s new Wack Pack members
Eric the Actor (formerly Eric the Midget) is my favorite, there’s also Debbie the Pet Lady, who is probably a certifiable paranoid schizophrenic, a weirdo from Maine called Bigfoot, and “Ass Napkin Ed” who got his for wearing a napkin tucked in his ass cheeks to soak up any leakage, are some of the newest wack packers.
What’s always delighted me about the wack pack is how Howard will treat them with the same interest and respect when talking to them as he would a celebrity guest.
6. He’s hands-down the best celebrity interview out there
Since leaving terrestrial radion, he doesn’t get as many high-profile guests as frequently, but when he does, he manages to get the most personal and interviews out of people.
He got Wilmer Valderrama to reveal he took Mandy Moore’s virginity. He got Courtney Love to admit Gavin Rossdale cheated on Gwen Stefani with her back in the ’90s. He got John Stamos to describe how he’d hide in the back of a florist’s van to get past the paparazzi into Denise Richard’s house to have sex with her.
This morning, he got Art Alexakis from Everclear to admit he had the largest penis in the band. Admittedly, I didn’t want to know that.
7. Robin lost 100lbs, Gary published a book.
Gary published an autobiography. I went to the book signing and met him (I reminded him he misspelled my name the last time I went to one of his signings in 1998). I didn’t finish the book, though.
Robin also took hallucinogenic drugs while on vacation in South America and is a strict vegan.
8. He’s remarried and less of a perv now
And she changed her name to Beth Stern (even though this weekend’s New York Times article on him referred to her as Beth Ostrovsky). Since he’s been remarried, he has a very different attitude to female guests who come on the show; he doesn’t ever get inappropriate with them or say lewd things. It’s actually very sweet.
9. He still has porn stars on, but less often
When he does, he interviews them about their childhood and it’s more like a therapy session. An exception to this was a classic moment when they had the inventory of the sybian, a female masturbation machine, in the studio to instruct a porn star on how to use it (pictured above). The guy was utterly creepy and his repeating the phrase “get the poison out” was the inspiration to the album title for the superb indie rock band The Beets.
10. There are other shows on his Sirius channel, like Celebrity Superfan Roundtable
Howard is in charge of programming two SiriumXM channels. One channel replays his show several time throughout the day, and the other channel airs regular shows that he’s handpicked the hosts for. Jackie Martling hosts a show on this channel, as well as some real radio people and comedians, and wack packers like Riley Martin whose show is about his belief in alien abductions.
There’s also a regular “superfan roundtable” show, and a few times a year a celebrity version with a regular group of celebrities who happen to be huge Stern fans: Mark McGrath, Jerry O’Connell, Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks, Jeff Probst, and David Arquette, who occasionally will work as an “intern” at the show for a week or two at a time.
11. Kenneth Keith Kallenbach died in jail
Kenneth Keith was one of the original Wack Pack members from ’80s, who first got onto the show by claiming he could smoke out of his eyes. In 2008, he died of pneumonia while in a private jail while awaiting trial for allegedly trying to lure an underage girl into his car.
12. George Takei is the show’s announcer
The former Star Trek star and current gays activist is the semi-official announcer for the show, and will come sit in for a week or two at a time throughout the year. It’s a surprising fit, but he’s great on the show, and somehow he can fit in with the rest of the crew naturally.