Howard Stern opened up about a cancer scare, vented about an ill-fated interview with Robin Williams and defended Jimmy Fallon for ruffling Donald Trump’s hair during a lengthy Tonight Show interview. The radio host was on-hand Wednesday to promote his newly issued book, Howard Stern Comes Again, which blends career-highlight interviews with memoir-styled commentary.
Early in the 14-minute segment, Stern admitted that his near-brush with cancer inspired him to reflect on his life in written form.
“I thought I was supposed to live forever,” he joked. “That was the promise my mother made to me — she told me that if I listened to her, I would live forever. My parents are 96 and 91. My parents are still alive. My mother is like the queen mother — I’m never gonna get to be king until she lets me have the throne. I had this health scare. They did one of these body scans, and it turned out I had this [growth on my kidney]. They couldn’t really see what was going on, so they did another test. They came in and said to me, ‘It’s 95 percent chance cancer.’ It really shook me; it did.”
“It was difficult to talk to anyone,” he continued. “It’s almost like I didn’t want to admit this to anyone, but of course I talked to my wife. I talked to my kids. I talked to [Robin Quivers, co-host of The Howard Stern Show]. Robin has been battling cancer — and so bravely. In fact, you know, she has been remarkable … She’s been with me for, I think we calculated 30 years already. In radio, relationships never last. A lot of teams break up; egos get in the way. But Robin has had my back every step of the way. She has been my rock. I don’t have an audience in the radio studio with me, so she’s my audience. She’s been the laughter in my life. She makes me feel funny. She’s got a great laugh. And she’s brilliant. So when she got cancer, I was rocked. I was really in fear that I was gonna lose her. She’s doing great — thank goodness. So when I got this, of course I spoke to her.”
After a procedure involving “seven robot arms,” he woke up and learned he was cancer-free. And when publisher Simon & Schuster approached him about writing a book — his first since 1995’s Miss America — he decided to look back at his body of work with a fresh perspective. “Maybe part of my legacy — if Fartman can have a legacy — would be that I’d have a collection of these interviews I’ve done that, for me, represent my best work.”
Stern teased some of the high-profile interviews collected in the book, including Jerry Seinfeld’s comedic dedication, Mike Tyson’s commentary on drug addiction and the “genius” of Ozzy Osborne. “You know you can’t understand Ozzy — you know, when he’s talking, you really don’t,” he said of the Black Sabbath singer. “When I started to read transcripts of what people have told me, all of the sudden I realized Ozzy is a genius. He’s full of wisdom — you just don’t know it.”
The book, Stern said, is also about “forgiveness” and “regrets” — including a contentious interview with Robin Williams from the early Nineties. “I was such a huge fan. But I couldn’t allow him to talk. I was so caught up in being outrageous that right away I just started hammering him with questions about his nanny and that he married his nanny. And he got very insulted, and as I went through psychotherapy and started thinking about people, I could only think about Robin Williams and how it went so wrong. I woke up one morning and said, ‘I’m calling him. I want to apologize.’ Not for him to come on the show again but just to say, ‘I was a jerk.’ And he committed suicide that day. And I was just like, ‘Oh, wow. I wish I could have just told him how much I appreciated him and loved him.”
The theme of “regret” also extended to his Tonight Show interviewer. One of Stern’s interviews with Fallon is featured in the book, and in the intro, the former shock-jock praises the comedian’s talents — defending him for the controversial pre-election moment where he rubbed Trump’s hair on the late-night show.
“Jimmy was quite distraught when you had Donald Trump on, and you had that whole incident where you rubbed his head,” Stern said. “I said to Jimmy, ‘It’s absolutely absurd that anyone would lay a trip on you. I would do the same bit. Everyone was curious what was doing on that bird’s nest, and you wanted to sit there and see.’ I think people wanted to blame you or say, ‘Hey, Jimmy got Donald Trump elected, this and that.’ It was absolutely absurd, this whole idea that you humanized him. I didn’t buy into him, and I thought the bit was solid.”
Fallon responded, “I appreciate you being there for me because I didn’t know who to talk to. I go, ‘Who’s been through what’s happening right now for me?’ Because the world is against you … You’re the perfect person to call.”
Stern’s appearance did feature a few moments of his signature irreverence. At one point, Fallon broadcast the live feed of their interview on a Times Square billboard, with Stern promising to hand out his book to select people in attendance. “I’m only going to give some copies,” he insisted. “Raise your hand if you’ve been vaccinated against measles.”