Book Review: 'Howard Stern Comes Again'

Aug 29, 2019

With his new book called “Howard Stern Comes Again” – two decades after the off-the-charts sales of “Private Parts” and “Miss America” – Howard Stern, the Shock Jock of the Western World, may disappoint those who expected his new memoir to be as shocking. But the old “poster boy for doing everything offensive,” as he once described himself, delightfully surprises . . . and charms. Though not to worry, he’s still outrageous.

“Howard Stern Comes Again,” two years in the making, succeeds as a collection of approximately 50 celebrity interviews selected from over 1500, some his favorites – he’s often asked. Most are taken from interviews he did after he left government-monitored commercial radio 13 years ago for satellite radio, which did not censor him. The wonderment here is how incisive and empathic an interviewer Stern is. No surprise that 40% of his listeners are women.

The book, a handsome production, succeeds not only in showing what Stern gets his subjects to disclose but also in revealing a lot about Stern himself – a good bad boy. The memoir may remind readers of what Norman Mailer once called his autobiographical commentaries – “Advertisements for Myself.” Sin sells, so does confession. St Augustine and Rousseau knew that. Howard Stern knows that.  

In “Howard Stern Comes Again,” Stern unearths a lot about the private lives of his guests, but does so in a breezy, conversational manner that invites discussion of substantive issues and avoids attack-dog questioning. He talks with his guests now, still steering them into ridiculous or dangerous admissions at times but not roughing them up, and he clearly exhibits empathy. Why the change? He’s been all over the media saying why. Psychotherapy, for one, which taught him how to listen and connect, instead of constantly trying to manipulate and entertain. And then in 2017, a cancer scare. These two have influenced his interviewing style, seen especially in his probing but sensitive exchanges with Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and David Letterman.  

The interviews are arranged in loose sections – really loose, since the topics overlap – Sex & Relationships, Money & Fame, Drugs & Sobriety, Religion, and Spirituality and Gone Too Soon – with only Donald Trump appearing in all sections, starting with a spacey interview he gave Stern in 1997 and ending in 2015 with clichéd non-sequiturs, when he became a presidential candidate.

The book is a tribute to those Stern loves, especially his children and his wife, Beth, and, under her guidance, the hundreds of stray cats they have rescued over the years for foster care, or, sometimes, for taking in as many as 20 into their own home. A painting Stern did of one of them, Leon, is on the last page of the book and shows a talented artist. A long headnote to a 2017 interview with David Letterman – arguably the best in the book – begins with Leon – and then moves from Leon to Letterman, an amazing and impressive segue.

Significantly the book’s last full interview is a dated one with Ray Stern, Howard’s mother, now 91. His father, is 95. Here’s how it begins: “There’s my mother on the phone. Hello, Mommy.” Delicious.