In the last few weeks, Howard Stern has made appearances on late night TV shows to promote his new book, and in each instance, the host has introduced him as “King Of All Media.” That’s a moniker Howard gave to himself a couple of decades ago and it seems everyone continues to play along, even though it was never true.
To be “King Of All Media,” you’d have to be the most successful person in each medium. Yes, Howard is likely the most well-paid radio broadcaster in history not named Limbaugh, and his morning show and spinoffs continue to prop up SiriusXM. But what about other media? He’s had exactly one hit movie, “Private Parts.” He’s had a few bestselling books, but he’s no James Patterson or JK Rowling. He had a TV version of his radio show in the mid-nineties, but it was never at the top of the national Nielsen ratings. Even online, he can’t match the YouTube views of phenomena like cute little kids opening boxes and tweens making Tik Tok videos.
I’ll note here that Limbaugh also tried his hand at TV, but bombed horribly and ran back to the security of his radio studio. If you want to know who the real radio-to-television crossover success of this century has been, I’d point you to Jimmy Kimmel, who rose from his role as a sidekick on KROQ/Los Angeles to host of a nationally broadcast late-night TV show that’s been on the air for 16 years.
During a recent appearance on Kimmel’s show, and another with Bill Maher, Howard crowed about (and the hosts marveled at) how wonderful it is to do long-form interviews, sometimes running an hour and a half uninterrupted. But that’s not new or unique. Howard’s been on satellite radio — where he is never interrupted by commercials — for 13 years. And plenty of podcasters like Marc Maron, Scott Feinberg, and even Frank Santopadre/Gilbert Gottfried have routinely spent that much time in conversation with their guests for years.
Howard and I have had a mutually respectful acquaintanceship since we both worked for NBC Radio in New York in the mid 1980s. Even when we competed against each other for years in Washington, DC, we never bad-mouthed each other, and I’m not doing so now. There’s no denying not only his enormous success, but also the influence he’s had on a generation of other radio personalities. I know how much preparation it takes to do really good interviews that keep people listening, so I recognize his skill level in that regard.
What’s been most fascinating has been how Howard has reinvented himself as a mainstream entertainer after all those years spent developing a bad-boy image. Hell, he’s even friends with Ellen DeGeneres and made nice on her daytime TV show recently. I’m not a SiriusXM subscriber, so I don’t know what his daily (actually, three-days-a-week) radio show sounds like, but I gather it’s come a long way from the schtick that made him famous. He deserves all the accolades but, in truth, he’s still the King Of One Medium.