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TV 101: Why Howard Stern is the best role model on TV

by Jay Black, posted Feb 4th 2009 11:03AM
Howard SternMichael Phelps recently went from big-time role-model to big-eared pothead in about the time it took for some d-bag with a cameraphone to press "send."

This got me thinking about role models in general. Like it or not, most of us wind up choosing role models from television, probably because we see the people on TV more often than we do our own family. Considering the amount of alcohol-fueled Thanksgiving fistfights in my own family, that's probably for the best.

So, seeing as my son is going to be raised by TV, I decided that I needed to pick out the best role model on it. My choice?

Howard Stern.

Those of you who only know Howard Stern from his E! show days probably think of him as nothing more than a porn star obsessed vulture, leering at his scantily clad guests like he was Miggs from Silence of the Lambs.

Thanks to Howard TV On Demand -- the pay channel that lets you download vast uncensored swaths of Howard programming -- you can finally access more than just the salacious interviews. Don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of flesh (Howard wouldn't be Howard if he didn't have a nipple or twelve showing up in his studio), but for the first time ever TV fans can see what radio fans have always known: there's a lot more to Howard Stern than hoohas and coochie-cooch.

In fact, when you get past all that stuff, you realize that Howard Stern is exactly the kind of person you want your kid to grow up to be.

Let's get this straight right from the beginning, this isn't one of those columns where the author decides to take a contrarian position because he's out of ideas and wants to generate a little controversy ("201 Reasons Why TV Would be Better if America Had Lost the Korean War", etc.); I actually believe that Howard Stern is a good role model. I actually, truly would be happy if one day my eighteen-month old son grows up just like Howard.

It should be noted at this point that I am not, to my knowledge, insane. See if you can follow my logic...

America is about as good at picking out role models as Connie Corleone was at picking out husbands. We tend toward the flashy and the obvious, then are shocked -- shocked -- when our choices fail us. But they always fail us.

That brings us back to Michael Phelps.

It's no surprise that Phelps wound up disappointing us: his entire existence was built on a lie. I don't blame him, I blame us. Like Salvatore Romano's wife, we want to believe the lie.

We want to believe that Michael Phelps isn't just some dumb kid with a grotesquely proportioned torso, but rather a swimming God made mortal. When he decided to treat a "water pipe" the same way Tara Reid treats the junior executive at a direct-to-DVD production company, America started wailing. "But he's supposed to be so wonderful!"

No, he's just a dumb kid. The dark, satanic TV BS mills turned him into something he wasn't.

That's the first reason why Howard Stern is my choice for America's best role model. There's not a thing about him that's fake (except his new nose). He speaks and acts exactly like real men actually speak and act.

(By the way, I guarantee you two things: 1. there will be at least one man in the comments that will say "but that's not how I speak or act!" and 2. that person will either be lying or suffering from tertiary stage syphilis.)

Those of you who hate Stern might not want to believe this, but someone like, say, Ty Pennington looks at the world in much the same way Howard does. The only difference is that Ty would have you believe that all he does is build houses for the needy and concentrate on growing his soul patch, while Howard is willing to talk honestly about his own darker places.

Because Pennington lies, though, there are people who put him on a pedestal.

Does that make any sense? Worshiping someone because he lies?

We should look up to Howard because he's the first person in modern media to have the courage to tell us not to look up to him. (Except for maybe Charles Barkley, I can't think of another guy who is so honest with his flaws. Can you?)

Every other person on TV tries to make you think that they're perfect -- even their humility is false. If you're asking your kid to grow up to be like any one of them, you're essentially asking them to lie to everyone they meet.

Some other reasons kids ought to look up to Howard:

2. The thing he values more than anything is hard work.

Watch his show, especially when he gets angry, and you'll see that the rhythm of his rants often centers on the need for people to work harder. He hates laziness more than he hates Jay Leno, and that's saying something.

You wouldn't believe it from his current four-day work weeks -- the well-deserved spoils of a radio victory -- but there was a time when Howard did nothing all day but lock himself in his basement and work on his show. Doing so pretty much destroyed his first marriage and almost put him out of his mind, but that was his ethic and he stuck to it.

Is there anything more American than working so hard your brain melts?

3. He's got integrity.

I know Howard once performed in a pay-per-view special called Butt Bongo Fiesta, but when he played those butts like bongos, he did it his way.

Too often we see people willing to do anything to get on television. Somewhere in the last ten years, the entire network lineup became one long, unending segment of stupid human tricks.

Don't believe me? Watch Dancing with the Stars some time. Or any of the celeb-reality shows on VH1. It's like watching 10,000 Andy Millmans all willing to sell their souls for just a drop of fame-juice.

I'm going to make this bold claim right now, if Howard Stern ever shows up on a celeb-reality program or even as a guest-judge on some dumb competitive skills show like American Idol, I will cut off both my thumbs live, right here on TV Squad. (Many of you know how much I tend to use my thumbs, so that's a pretty big thing.)

4. He's loyal.

Anybody who would keep employed that crew of degenerates and drug addicts for as long as he has is someone who sticks by his colleagues. Compare that with TV people who drop their producers or writers if the wind shifts.

And I mean literally if the wind shifts. Many networks have a weather vane that they use to figure out who to fire.

5. He's in therapy.

Not an obvious choice as to why you ought to look up to Stern, but consider this:

a) He's not just in pretend, "My Daddy Didn't Love Me" therapy like a lot of us; he's in hardcore talking-cure Freudian psychotherapy. Forget for a second that Freud was a cokehead who got just about everything wrong, and concentrate on the fact that Stern is willing to give up several afternoons a week in order to fix his personal problems. This is amazing because...

b) Someone as rich and famous as Stern doesn't need to fix his personal problems. He could be a full-on Christian Bale-level nutjob and people would still kiss his hairy butt. He's in therapy to be a better person even though his success means that he doesn't have to be a better person.

That makes him a helluva person.

6. He treats all people like people.

TV has tried to train us that there are only two acceptable ways to treat non-traditional people: with faux-sensitive kid gloves (how you've had to struggle!) or with derision (how can you do that on camera!?).

Stern does something that no other person does, near as I can tell: he treats those people like they were actual people, warts and all. Sure that sometimes means telling a midget in a wheelchair (MySpace link) that he's annoying and boring, but these are the eggs you have to break when you're making a dignity omelette.

--

I'm sure you've all got an opinion on Stern, so I'd love to hear them in the comments. In fact, I'd love for you try to convince me I'm wrong. Here are the ground rules, though: you can use any argument you want why Stern is a bad choice for a role model except that he uses naughty words.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go buy my son a bootleg video of U.S. Open Sores.

(Jay Black is a writer and comedian who is best known for his pandering articles about celebrities he admires. For more information about Jay or to catch one of his live shows, check out his website www.jayblackcomedy.com.)

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55 Comments

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jvon

i sent this in to the show, lisa g read it on the one news report.

February 14 2009 at 2:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan German

It's clear after reading many of these comments that those who disagree just haven't listened to Stern and therefore really can't comment from any kind of informed perspective. The naked girls are about 1% of the show, but 99% of the perception of the show.

February 12 2009 at 1:54 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
amy

I didn't listen to Howard for years because I had heard he was crude and incredibly crass. Then my friend gave me the book "miss america" and, after reading it, I began listening. I had no idea it was a comedy show, and an entertaining one. I have followed them to satellite and enjoy listening every day.

I am not a 21 year old single man either; I am a 46 year old mom of 3 teenagers.

I was driving listening to AM radio on the morning of 9/11. I turned to Howard and kept it on, hearing the most honest commentary I've ever heard of a news event. Unlike Brian Williams or other newscasters, Howard and his crew talked about the events, speculated, articulated their fears--they were real, and they remained on the air long after many newscasters in NYC had fled the city.

I agree with Jay, I would be proud if my kids grew up to have the loyalty, integrity, work ethic, and honesty of Howard Stern.

February 10 2009 at 3:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Ken

Nice article. I couldn't agree with you more! Baba Booey to you!

February 07 2009 at 9:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pingles

The one thing that bugs me about Howard (I am a daily listener) is his lack of compassion for his "guests". He (and he admits this) thinks of ONE thing: How good a show will it be?

Too many times I've seen him throw somebody to the wolves because he knows it will be good drama.

Whether it's Robin's choice of wine or Sal's discovery in the parking lot he KNOWS he can screw up somebody's LIFE but chooses the show over that.

Otherwise I admire many traits of Stern.

February 05 2009 at 11:00 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
carrespondent

Disturbingly, I have to concede that Mr. Black has some excellent points here. Food for thought -- and not just at an all-you-can-eat strip club buffet.

February 05 2009 at 10:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dan German

Howard is a genius. Light & shade. Dynamics. Pace. Honesty. The sybian. Ba Ba Booey Fa Fa Fo Hi.

February 05 2009 at 7:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dan German's comment
Rocketboy_X

ZMG! IS HOWARD HAVING ANOTHER WOMAN SIT ON A VIBRATOR!?!?!?!?!

It's what, only the 10th time this week? *yawn*

February 05 2009 at 2:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
YouFaceTheTick

Why are people hung up on the Bale thing? I've heard Stern tear into his employees FAR worse than that Bale tape. I like Stern but good grief, get off the Bale thing. He did nothing unusual. It was a slow news day.

February 05 2009 at 1:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lauren

I'm not gonna lie... I absolutely agree with you. I love Howard Stern, even though I'm one of the fake people who has decided not to admit it in the open... but you've got some fantastic points. Everyone is so obsessed with having their kids grow up to be fake that they miss the freedom and excitement that comes with being real. Thanks for writing this... it was a fantastic read. :)

And I didn't realize until I read this but... the only role models of mine that have never let me down are the ones that I never should have picked in the first place - if that makes any sense at all.

February 05 2009 at 12:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
KevinInChains

right on Jay! Howard is someone we could all look up too.

February 04 2009 at 7:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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