One of the criticisms you hear about Stern is that he has an out of control ego. I think a better term is healthy. Howard’s healthy ego is a lesson in itself. And the lesson is this: ego is good.
People say we live in a narcissistic society, that we are the twisted children of a Me generation of unbridled entitlement and desire, but often I find just the opposite: people shrink from their true power and their true potential. Every rabbi at some point drags out the story of a sage named Zusia who had a vision of what the angels would ask him in heaven. They wouldn’t ask him why he wasn’t as great as Moses, or Joshua. They would ask him why he wasn’t as great as Zusia.
“They will say to me, ‘Zusia, there was only one thing that no power of heaven or earth could have prevented you from becoming.’ They will say, ‘Zusia, why weren’t you Zusia?’”
Howard doesn’t shirk from being fully himself. He has used his talents to their fullest, and asserted his personality into a sedate media landscape. He’s been fully Howard.
The apotheosis of this is of course the Howard 100 News—an entire professional news team devoted to gathering and presenting news about Howard Stern and his universe. Is there a better spoof of our celebrity-crazed society? Is there a more brilliant parody of celebs who feed on creating TMZ- worthy moments? The Howard 100 News is celebrity culture taken to its goofy extreme, where every star hires his or her own team of journalists to report on their every thought. (The difference between TMZ and Howard 100 News is that Howard uses truly seasoned journalists. I’ve been interviewed by Steve Langford a few times and there is zero difference in professionalism and approach between him and someone reporting on health care or nuclear terrorism). I’m trying to think of any comedian who’s done something similar to the Howard 100 News, and I can’t. It’s not like having a straight man, it’s like having a division of straight men.
That comic idea—that a star deserves his own news channel—can only come from someone who isn’t afraid of asserting his ego, of taking total control of his world and his image. Howard’s got an out of control ego? Like that’s a bad thing…...