Why Howard Stern?
by George Takei
The twists and turns of life can be so unpredictable. The day after New Year’s, a phone call suddenly presented an utterly unexpected prospect for me. It was from Gary Dell’Abate, the producer of the Howard Stern Show on the satellite radio network, Sirius.
I had been on the Howard Stern Show many times before – a few times intentionally, but more often, not. The times I went on the Stern Show with purpose were to promote a play I was doing or the publication of my autobiography, “To the Stars.” But more frequently, I’ve been on the show via bandit recordings of phrases I said while on the show – like, “Oh my!” – or a phone conversation with a celebrity imitator with whom I talked, thinking it was the real celebrity – most absurdly, a brief conversation with a rather poor imitator of Ricardo Montalban. Howard Stern has had his fun with me – and his listeners seemed to be having a hilarious good time listening to his mischiefs. The Stern Show technicians even took my voice from the audiocassette version of my autobiography and manipulated the words to make it seem as if I were actually making some outrageously vulgar statements. They say they’re doing all this because they love me, but, I must say, I’ve never been loved in such a bizarre way.
Gary Dell’Abate was calling me, only two days into the new year, with a question. Like Pavlov’s dog, my muscles immediately tightened. What new prank is this, I thought. This was the producer of the Howard Stern Show calling! Gary quickly assured me that our conversation was not being recorded. A little wary, but still a little curious, I continued the conversation. Gary asked, “Would you be interested in joining the Stern Show as the announcer?” I burst out laughing. I was not going to be taken in by that tired old joke. “No, I really mean it, George,” he insisted. “I’m serious.” He did sound sincere. Very guardedly, I played along. “Well, it does sound intriguing,” I responded. “But why don’t you talk to my agent and see what happens? You may not be able to afford me.” That should put an end to this trick, I thought. “Of course I’ll do that,” he assured me, “but I wanted to know if you would really be interested.” I sensed that he was trying to keep me on the line. So, I said to Gary that I would call my agent myself and tell him that I am intrigued by the invitation and gave him my agent’s number. Then I hung up. From that conversation with Gary Dell’Abate, the year 2006 was off and running as I had never, in my wildest dreams, expected it to be.
Of all things, the invitation turned out to be true! It wasn’t a prank. My agent had conversations with the Stern people, and, five days after that call from Gary, I was on a plane for New York to be the “announcer” on the Howard Stern Show.
Some people have questioned why I appear on a radio show so filled with disgusting talk and obscenity. I respond to them that, yes, the show has language and talk of body functions that really aren’t my cup of tea. I try not to use those words myself, but don’t we hear them around us daily? The body functions that Howard and gang talk about are what we all do daily as normal, healthy human beings. Howard simply talks about the realities of our life candidly. Some people seem to find life as it is – obscene. I don’t.
However, Howard Stern is passionately against what is truly obscene in our society. He has railed at the obscenity of allocating billions of dollars of pork barrel money for a “bridge to nowhere” in Alaska, while our soldiers in Iraq are dying because of deficient and ineffective body armor. He has attacked the indecency of tax cuts for the wealthiest at a time of war. He has howled at the outrage of plunging our nation into war with bad intelligence, tough talk, and inadequate planning. He strongly believes that people who love each other, care for each other, and take responsibility for each other that happen to be of the same gender are entitled to equal rights. Howard Stern is a shock jock because truth naked can be shocking. Some of his humor can be adolescent. So what? We all could use a bit of adolescent giggle from time to time. It’s good for us. And sometimes, for me it has been humbling, which is also good for all of us from time to time. Humility keeps us grounded. Laughter is the tonic of life.
Howard Stern challenges the status quo, politically, socially, and economically. He exercises our Constitutional freedom of speech vigorously. I admire his daring. I have high regard for his venturesome spirit in making the move from free terrestrial radio to the high-risk adventure of paid satellite radio. It was a singular distinction for me to be the first voice heard on the very first broadcast of his new show. And, Howard’s brave move seems to be paying off. His loyal fans and others are switching in the millions as subscribers to Sirius. It is in the same bold spirit of “Star Trek” – to explore new frontiers, new technologies, and new ways of doing things – and laughing at the absurdities of life all the way.