Howard Stern is used to inspiring the very worst press possible. He’s done just that for decades while laughing all the way to the bank.
This felt different, though.
The aging shock jock got pummeled by his hometown New York Post earlier this week. Columnist Maureen Callahan’s haymaker pounded Stern as an elitist whose best days are years, if not decades, behind him.
“Things will never get back to normal,” [Stern] declared just two weeks ago. “I do not believe the pandemic will ever be over….”
But such sentiments have defined Stern’s show and attitude this past year: pessimism, anger, and a worldview that shrinks ever inward, limited in size and scope to The Basement — the literal and metaphorical dwelling place of this once-great show.
Callahan paints an image of a burned out artist whose act flies in the face of almost everything he once stood for. This longtime Stern listener fled the show for some of the very same reasons.
In short, the Stern of yore would tee off on the current version.
The New York Post article about Howard Stern was exactly right. I would listen to every show…tape them…joined Sirius…but it all started to die in 2008. It’s been 12 years since I cared to listen to him. It’s really sad what he turned into.
— Wayne Jetski (@RegD7) April 27, 2021
Callahan’s column suggests something else, though. Stern no longer cares about the culture and, more specifically, the fight to save free speech. He celebrated Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s leadership last year but, by all indications, hasn’t reversed course based on what we’ve since learned about the governor’s alleged sexual abuses, reportedly hiding pandemic death tolls and endless bullying.
[Editor’s note: This reporter has a Google Alert set up for the terms ‘Howard Stern Cuomo’ to keep tabs on this issue]
A native New Yorker with a loud and proud megaphone might weigh in on this, no? Instead, Stern rails against show regulars like Ronnie the Limo Driver for the thousandth time.
This critic has a much bigger beef with the current Howard Stern.
For years Stern battled the F.C.C., a government body eager to smite him at every turn. He couldn’t say this, or that, on air, rules Stern hated more than even his arch nemesis, Rosie O’Donnell.
Stern eventually mended fences with the so-called Queen of Nice, and he stopped fighting government overreach the minute he signed up with Sirius satellite radio. You couldn’t blame him for declaring victory and enjoying the spoils of his new contract.
Finally, he could curse to his heart’s content without fear of fines, or worse.
The culture changed since his 2006 leap to satellite radio, though. The current free speech fight demands a voice like Stern to rise up against the woke mob. Today, comedians are routinely forced to apologize for jokes told, past and present, which might hurt someone’s feelings. Classic movies are being memory holed, labeled or a combination of the two.
We need Stern now more than ever, but he’s content to soak up his vacation days and, as Callahan puts it, mock his elderly parents for laughs. If he’s squawking about Cancel Culture on a regular basis the media isn’t picking it up. Callahan certainly doesn’t mention it in her column.
Anthony Cumia, by comparison, can’t stop defending free speech.
The former “Opie and Anthony” radio star always toiled in Stern’s shadow. That’s not exactly fair to Cumia, since every radio personality on the planet not named Rush Limbaugh similarly did.
Cumia still fashioned an impressive career behind the terrestrial radio mic, making him one of the biggest stars of his era. His “O&A” show, alongside Gregg “Opie” Hughes, became a premiere shock jock destination. The duo earned national syndication before landing at XM satellite radio and, later, working alongside Stern at the united SiriusXM audio home.
Like Stern, Cumia faced firings for random offenses, from airing a couple having simulated intercourse in a church to an April Fool’s Day prank alleging Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had died in a car crash.
Pure Shock Jock 101, for better and worse.
Cumia’s traditional radio career ended after an altercation with a black woman in New York City and his subsequent Twitter comments that some deemed racist. He realized he couldn’t continue sharing his unexpurgated thoughts on any traditional radio format, given the creeping rise of political correctness. So he created Compound Media, his personal home and video podcast base.
While Stern toned down his act, played nice with the P.C. types and even quasi-apologized for his past bits, Cumia stood tall. He has his own radio station, of sorts, and he hired like-minded folks who wouldn’t be welcome even on satellite radio now.
Cumia saw the rise of Cancel Culture, and he did all he could to survive it. Even better? He made sure other comedians had a “safe space” where they could speak their minds without punishment.
Think the kind of raw radio Howard Stern once delivered.
— InsideRadio (@InsideRadio) April 27, 2021
Cumia clearly cares about more than just his broadcasting future. He’s created a haven for free speech. It’s his business model and, most likely, his passion.
Stern, meanwhile, spends his time attacking his colleagues for not landing Neil Young interviews for the show. He’d be better off giving a platform for canceled comics, one way he could protect rising stars from the digital mob.
Stern remains an absurdly wealthy man, his storied SiriusXM contracts paying him roughly $1 million per radio show, according to The New York Post. Here’s guessing Compound Media doesn’t give Cumia anything close to that figure.
No matter. Cumia continues to speak his mind, protect others who crave the same freedoms he enjoys and offer hope against the woke mob.
On that front alone he’s emerged as the more critical broadcasting figure than Stern, a radio titan whose legacy shrinks with every new broadcast.