9 Howard Stern | EW.com

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9 Howard Stern

It’s a safe bet that no entertainer in this issue has revealedmore of himself than Howard Stern did this past year. And we’renot just talking about the buffed bod he displays all too much ofon the cover of his best-selling autobiography, Private Parts(1.25 million copies in print), a collection of shrewdly crudemusings that is Stern at his most blatant.

Although there are constant rumors that he will make feature filmsor host a network television show, it is on the radio that Sternmakes his obsessive vulgarity most varied and effective.Hyperbolic fantasies about sex and race; details about bathroomhygiene so carefully described they push past appalling to becomehypnotic; political opinions so absolutist they explode inself-contradiction – this and so much more have made Stern, 39, theonly consistently unpredictable performer on the air. (Andincreasingly influential: It is entirely possible that Stern’slast-minute endorsement of Republican candidate Christine Whitmanswung the close New Jersey gubernatorial race her way.) Stern’suncorked, fizzy id is utterly unfashionable in this era of coolirony, which makes his popularity all the more startling. He’s nothip (the guy dresses like he’s going to an Iron Maiden audition,for Pete’s sake), and he professes to despise the profession hehas revitalized (”It’s my curse,” he moans, ”to have the kind oftalent where I have to be on the radio all the time.”’). Whatmakes Stern a strikingly original entertainer is the same thingthat drives him to hilarious despair: His self-imposed destiny inlife is to fill a minimum of four daily radio hours with whateverpops into his head.

Yet Stern can’t even fully enjoy the outlaw image he tries tocultivate, because in his heart he knows that he’s a much morecomplicated paradox: a misanthropic family man. ”I hate people;I hate ‘em,” he’ll rasp; yet on the radio he’s constantlypraising his wife and three daughters. In Private Parts hereveals ”My Secret of Life,” which turns out to be – howshocking! – orderliness, faithfulness, and self-control. Amonghis directives: ”If you have kids, you live with the kids. Youdon’t move out on your wife…. Nobody follows that. They don’trealize that’s the secret of life. When you’ve got kids, youraise them.”

For all its bristly roughness, Stern’s is the sort of talentthat can wilt from overexposure – there’s a thin line betweenSavage Iconoclast and Overblown Bore. This year, Sternmaintained this high-wire balancing act; he walked that walk aswell as he talked that talk.

– Ken Tucker

He’s boorish, loud-mouthed, and hopelessly un-PC – no wonder wekeep listening

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He’s boorish, loud-mouthed, and hopelessly un-PC – no wonder wekeep listening