By Howard Stern's own admission, his show is all about humiliation. One might venture to write that Howard views himself as the Christopher Columbus of Humiliation, or at the very least a patent holder in it's usage as a tool for entertainment. When Howard claims the show, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader is his invention, what he really is regarding as his creation is the adroit usage of humiliation as performance art for a modern callous society.
Of course humiliation, and ridicule have long been a staple of entertainment, even when it's camouflaged in the news media. Boxing has a humiliation component. Perhaps it's just human nature to want to witness the misfortunes of others from a position of safety and comfort. How else can one explain gossip or rubbernecking at traffic accidents? What's the gruesome attraction? Does it start in childhood with a fascination of scary things, and monsters? Maybe it blooms in puberty when boys delight in all that is gross. This is the foundation of locker-room humor.
Nor is the craving for viewing humiliation the provenance of only the dimwitted, as the quick-witted crave it every bit as much. The erudite lover of humiliation even has an affectionate name for it -- wit. If you can humiliate someone or something with style then you're called "witty" and will be a hit at parties. You might even be compared to the famous virtuoso of wit, Oscar Wilde. However, if your humiliation skills are limited, then you will be a social pariah, and labeled as crude or worse.
From what dark place did Howard Stern's penchant for humiliation take root? You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to know the answer to this question. Obviously the seeds for a career in humiliation were sown by the same man who sowed the seeds for Howard's creation, Benjamin Stern. Of course, Ben was aided, and abetted in his Frankenstein-like endeavors by his sharp-tongued wife, Rae Stern. To prove my point, all one has to do is listen to the childhood tapes of Howard's dad yelling at him while his mother was in the room. What could be more humiliating for a sensitive child than to have his father call him stupid and a moron, all with his mother's approval? Lenny Bruce would say Rae and Ben were merely channeling behaviors ingrained in Jews since they suffered humiliation as slaves at the hands of the Egyptians during the building of the pyramids or as diarists humiliated at the height of the Third Reich. Such are the Darwinian origins of Howard's skills as a humiliationist. There, now I've coined a new word. I'll let Howard claim the credit.
One can use geography to run away, but it's impossible to escape what's in our own heads. And hanging curtains in our minds as a way to hide the things that pain us is futile. It's called denial. It's also necessary for survival as a functional, or semi-functional member of society. I submit that while Howard knows his show is all about humiliation, he's never really taken responsibility for it, and doesn't fully understand it. This is why Howard's visits to his shrink will never accomplish anything.
The day Howard acknowledges, that while his show is entertaining, it contributes nothing, is the day Howard will be on the road to self-actualization, and recovery. The Howard Stern Show doesn't make anyone better for having experienced it. All of which is fine, but what I take umbrage with is Howard, Robin, Fred, and Gary's frequent insistences that they are morally better than others. As one example of this, Howard recently said on-air that he had a problem with Rosie O'Donnell's honesty regarding her homosexuality. Coming from a person who hid his own nose job, and who used his power to prevent rival radio show hosts from mentioning him, this behavior lacks all credibility.
My opinion on all this is Howard should cut the sanctimonious bullshit, and own up to his moral inferiority. None of us are fooled. Rescuing all the injured birds that seek refuge on his multi-million dollar Hamptons mansion will not redeem his soul or erase the memory of his lack of action when Kenneth Keith Kallenbach was rotting in jail, or the time he played with Debra Tay's cremated remains.
Humiliation is like heroin, the more you take, the more you need to get the same high. This is why Howard created Howard 100 News. The so-called reporters handle the humiliation heavy-lifting, and do the dirty-work Howard wants to enjoy, while at the same time distance himself from. This is how a loyal fan of the show like Captain Janks can have his dirty laundry aired on-air as a way to feed Howard's unending need to humiliate others. Janks has long been a willing participant in humiliating others for Howard's enjoyment, so on some level I suppose it's only fair he get humiliated too. However, I find it sad. I wonder how much Howard's publicizing of Janks legal troubles contributed and led to his prosecution. I also find it hypocritical as Howard prevents Howard 100 News from reporting on many aspects of his own life such as when his daughter appeared in the altogether in an Off-Off Broadway play.
When we as fans listen to the show, for our own sanity, and to prevent ourselves from being so enamored with the art of humiliation that we victimize those we love, we must be mindful of the poison we consume. Humiliation is key to understanding The Howard Stern Show, it is in fact, The Rosetta Stone for The Howard Stern Show. You've been warned.
Next time you listen to the show, try putting on a pair of glasses with humiliation lenses. It will be a revelation.
For Howard Shrine Spews and Views, this is I. Humphrey singing, "I feel witty, oh so witty, oh so witty and gay, beyaaatch!"