The other thing you don't go into on the air is money and your lifestyle.
I get uncomfortable about that. Maybe because I can be so envious of money and power and fame and stuff that I'm sensitive to the guy who doesn't have it.
On air, you talk about your house on Long Island instead of the Hamptons. Is it because you want to be relatable?
I'm very self-conscious about it because I grew up on Long Island, but I never heard of the Hamptons. Where I lived, it wasn't the beautiful Long Island; it was horrible. And there's a part of me that still feels connected to the guy who doesn't have that stuff... I never got into it for money, so I became uncomfortable when all of a sudden there was a shift where I was now in the business section as opposed to the entertainment section.
What do you do with the money?
I'm very conservative. I'm not a guy who spends a lot of money on himself. I don't think it's a cheapness; it's just a respect for money. I got that from my father. I have stocks. I have some bonds. That's it. I'm not very sophisticated about that. I've read horrible things about people who make money and go out and buy an entire wardrobe and never wear the stuff. They buy crazy things, multiple cars.
The other thing you haven't discussed much are your feelings about Artie Lange.
It's OK to bring that up... Finding Artie was a great joy. But Artie's demons got ahold of him, and I'm probably the last one to really have realized what he was going through. To me, Artie was coming in and doing his job and he did it so well that I really didn't think he had a problem. Toward the end, I got it. You'd have to be blind not to see it. But I'm not a drug guy, really. Early in my life, I took drugs, but I'm very naive about it. Maybe I just wanted to have blinders on, I don't know.
In fact, we were due for a vacation, and Artie took a few days off beforehand because things were getting really bad for him. He was getting into a real depression. And you know what happened: He tried to kill himself. I've spoken to Artie a couple of times, and I think he's going through a real big struggle right now. The reason I don't bring up his struggles on the air is that I feel, again, it's a private family matter for Artie. I really feel kind of dumb that I didn't pick up on the signals. And Artie has even said to me recently that he would be willing to come on the show and explain what happened and stuff, and I don't even feel strong enough within myself or that I'd be doing the right thing by him, because I don't want to do the wrong thing for Artie. I just want Artie to stay alive.
While there are some things you don't discuss on the air now, at the same time you're a lot more open-minded than you used to be.
You know, people have said to me, "Gee, your show has gotten better. It seems multidimensional." I think it is because I am actually curious about other people's feelings. Therapy has opened up new sides to me. I'm more willing to explore areas that I didn't understand before with people. I was more one-dimensional, like Cro-Magnon in a way, banging people over the head in my early years. Sometimes when I hear the old shows broadcast, I want to cringe.
It actually seems like you've broadened your base now.
The sad part in it for me is that not everyone has Sirius. Instead of looking at the good – we started out with 600,000 people five years ago, and now we're at a company where we have 20 million and growing – I go, "But what about the guys who don't have Sirius?" And that is why I got excited about the new smartphone app, because all of a sudden, now it's like when the transistor radio came out. For a long time, people couldn't travel with us. Thank God for this technology. You can go to your gym now and hear the show. You can plug the phone into your car. The show is as accessible now, I feel, as it was on terrestrial radio. This is a game – changer for satellite.
Some fans get mad that you've changed, but those same people that got mad would also get bored if you stayed the same.
Absolutely. I get angry with performers like Rush Limbaugh who are just shills for the Republican Party. I'm not a big listener of his, but wouldn't he be a lot more interesting if once in a while he was for something that the Republican Party was against? I thought he had a real opportunity with that whole drug-addiction thing to maybe open up and say, "Man, I'm as confused as all of you." But, no, he has to keep the persona. He's an expert. He knows everything. It's boring. You've gotta grow. The audience has to feel that growth. There are so many guys doing the same act, like Sean Hannity. If Limbaugh was the one guy who started talking about his insecurities, then he'd have a following that would be 10 times the size. If you want to go to the next level, you gotta open up a whole bunch more. That's the secret for anybody who's considering a career in radio.
Some of your shows were eerily prophetic, especially when you're telling celebrities what's going to happen in their careers.
Those shows can bite you in the ass, too, because I think the war in Iraq is ridiculous, but you can hear old shows of me screaming, "Come on, we have to go to Iraq and blow everyone up." Oh, fuck, I sounded like an idiot.
When I pointed out how prophetic you were, your first instinct was to point out the times when you were wrong.
You're right, I tend to go to the ones where I was completely wrong, and I shudder to think how many of those are out there.
If you look at your life now, you're on radio and TV 24/7 You have a beautiful wife. You've succeeded in all your goals and are paid better than almost everyone, and yet you're still not happy. What would it take to make you happy?
I don't know. That's so complicated. There is an anger inside of me. Once in a while, I can douse it with some water, but it just never goes away. I don't know how to get rid of that.
Where do you think that anger came from?
I had something to prove to the world, to my father, to every woman that never fucked me. You know, everything. It was all over the place. I'm not saying I'm fully evolved now. I'm not Buddha. Sometimes it's hard for me to accept that I don't have every listener and I haven't written every good joke. I get competitive. But that's no way to live. I'm tired of walking around angry. It's a burden. And that's why I'm trying to find balance.
So what's the brass ring for you now?
Years ago, I would have answered to do another movie, or this or that thing. I'm not sure how to answer that. The brass ring is to actually find some balance. The whole idea of balance is to live with that anger or understand it, and somehow it dissipates. But I don't know if you ever get rid of it. I think that would be beautiful, but I don't know what it would take.
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This story is from the March 31, 2011 issue of Rolling Stone.
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