If someone measured your brain-wave activity during the show, it would be interesting to see if your brain state changes.
Oh, my God! People who have seen me work – when I don't wear dark glasses and you can see my eyes – said my eyes go back and forth like a mile a minute. I said to my wife, "I'm in another zone." It's almost like my eyes roll into the back of my head, and four hours later, the show's over.
Do you ever fear your sharpness starting to deteriorate as you age?
Yeah, I guess I even questioned myself about signing a five-year deal. I go, "Gee, I wonder if I'm as quick or as sharp." And I think I am. When I'm done with this contract, I'll be 61 years old, and that sounds like the right age to leave. But who knows?
I noticed your studio is set up to keep you completely separated from everyone else.
I designed it that way. It's the perfect studio for me. My plan was to not interact with anyone or see them.
Are you highly critical of yourself?
We have that Celebrity Superfan Roundtable [during which Stern's famous fans discuss the show], and I was listening to it. It was so complimentary that my OCD kicks in and my neuroses, and I go, "Oh, my God, these people think I'm so good, and I'm going to have to get on the air Monday, and I'm not going to be able to do that for them again. And they're going to hate me." It's such insecurity.
One of the things you would think at this point in my life is that I would walk on Letterman as an elder statesman, someone who's been on the radio for 35 years and has done it all and really would not obsess about it. It drives me fucking crazy. I go nuts. You know, I'm in therapy now. I've been in it for some time. And I can't figure out why the obsession, like, why do I have to have everything perfect, why does it have to be the best appearance ever? The pressure I put on myself is horrible. It's excruciating. Everything is neurotic! And therapy has helped me with that.
In what way?
The goal is to walk off the Letterman show or walk out of my own show and go, "I really like the show today and what anyone else thought does not matter." Now, will I ever be able to do that? I doubt it. I wish I could. I hope before I die I'll walk out one day and feel that way.
Most people would think that a guy who spends four hours a day talking on the radio, the last thing he'd want to do is go talk about himself some more in therapy.
But it's not therapy. Talking on the radio is a performance. Even though it's pretty raw, what I do, and I do open up, it's still a performance. If you go to a therapy session, it's a whole 'nother level. It's been useful to me because I think it's just opened me up as a human being. I feel less like a detached robot. I actually feel human. I don't think I did before.
What made you start going to therapy in the first place?
Well, my first marriage was ending, and I was very confused by that. I knew there was a lot missing from my life: I was totally neurotic and sort of consumed with work. I took work as the most important thing and the only thing. I knew things weren't right, and I said, "Gee, where am I going to get some answers?" I had never been a guy to turn to religion, but then as my marriage was coming to an end, I needed help to explain it to my children and make sense of it all and communicate with them. Because once you are a divorced guy, being a father is a whole different bag.
What was the first session like for you?
It was really a very scary thing to me. I had never really opened up to someone. I never had conversations like that with another human being, let alone a man. And I never in a serious way thought about how I felt about anything. I was completely closed off from my feelings... I remember I started telling him stories like I was on the radio, and I'm laughing, and he goes, "Why are you laughing? It sounds very important to me. It's very sad, some of these things you're saying."
Because the show keeps you busy all day, I'm sure it's a distraction from the work you need to be doing for yourself.
My therapist was actually making the point that, why can't you admit you enjoy doing the radio show, because I was really going to leave to just keep my own sanity. And he was like, "There's the side of you that enjoys this and needs it." Because if I'm really the guy who doesn't want to be connected to the audience that way, why am I suddenly tweeting? Here I have a chance to be on my own and I'm busy connecting with the audience. So there is a side of me that needs this connection desperately and needs this acclaim and needs millions of people listening to me.
But isn't that like an addict speaking about a drug?
It is an addiction. You hit it right on the head. It's an addiction to people. I'm a people addict.
Is the addiction people or the attention and acclaim?
That's what an addiction to people is: attention, acclaim, validation. I think all of that is operating there. It's desperate.
It's like sex addiction. There's a hole inside that's being filled with that attention. And as soon as it wears off, you need another hit or a bigger hit.
Sex addiction, people addiction, it's the same thing. You're really afraid to be on your own. Listen, how much sex do you really think you need when it comes down to it? It's not about the sex. After my divorce, I realized, "Oh, wow, I can go have sex." And I was running around, picking up women. Then all of a sudden, it dawned on me that I really didn't need that much sex. I just wanted somebody with me every minute. I was using women as a surrogate mother. When I tapped into that, it suddenly/became very childish behavior. And really, was it so great fucking every night? They're using me for my fame, I'm using them for their beauty, and the whole fucking thing seemed empty.
Considering how much you seemed like this beast in a cage during your marriage, it was surprising that you didn't find the freedom satisfying.
It seemed more like a feeding frenzy than anything. I was in a frenzy. I had to grab everything and everyone. It was as if I was entitled to everything. I knew it was unhealthy: I'm not entitled to everything, I'm like everyone else.
I'm going to ask this only because you asked it to me on the air: How many people were you with in that period?
A lot. I was crazy. School nights are sacred to me. When I have the show the next day, I go to bed by 8:30, 9:00. And I was staying up until 10:00,10:30. Yeah, real wild, man. I wasn't completely out of control. But for me, it was like I had to get a woman that night. I was single for a period of, like, a year, I guess. Honestly, I don't really know how many women, but it was a considerable amount of women.
Over a hundred?
No, no, no. I wasn't that much of an animal. But for me it was a lot.
So did you rush back into a relationship because you couldn't be alone?
Some of it is that. I never thought I'd want to be married again. I thought that dating a bunch of different women would be the way to go. Be like a bee and pollinate every flower, and who cares whose feelings get hurt. This is my time, and I'm gonna grab the spoils like Genghis Khan.
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