As controversy over Howard Stern's debut on "America's Got Talent" rose earlier this week in anticipation of Monday night's season premiere, I couldn't help but find a bit of humor in all of the hate and contempt being spewed toward the self-proclaimed "King of All Media."
A few years ago, like most people who are only vaguely familiar with the work of the radio shock-jock, I had just about every negative preconceived notion about Howard Stern that a person could possibly have: racist, sexist, vile, vulgar and disgusting, to name just a few. He was just another Don Imus or Rush Limbaugh.
One day last year, however, for some reason, I tuned in to his radio program with the full expectation of quickly changing to another channel. But as the seconds turned to minutes and the minutes turned to hours, he won me over. I'm not sure when exactly it happened or what made me realize it. All I know is that, as I walked to my classes that day listening to his show through my iPhone earbuds, I found myself covering my mouth with my hands to conceal my hysterical laughter from passers-by who might think I'm some crazed lunatic cracking up at nothing.
Amid my introduction to The Howard Stern Show, it became quite clear that neither Stern nor his longtime sidekick, Robin Quivers, is racist, sexist, vile, vulgar and disgusting. Sure, his comedic style might not be for everyone. He often talks about his "Wack Pack" full of alcoholics and socially awkward individuals, provides immature jokes like prank phone calls, and frequently lets loose loud belches. Not to mention the heavy use of expletives and talking points that might be uncomfortable for some (let's just say I sometimes mute the volume if Mom is in the car with me).
But his entire shtick is part of the persona that makes him so engaging and successful. Whether he's talking about politics or sex, or interviewing celebrities or making fun of them, he speaks his mind with a level of truth that, in today's world of political correctness, is difficult to find. Whether you agree with what he's saying, he always has a way to make it interesting and funny -- so much so that you cannot help but keep listening to hear what he's going to say next.
As a former Stern-hater, I wasn't surprised to learn that the Parents Television Council launched a recent campaign against NBC to boot him from the show. I cannot blame others who might feel similarly.
Perhaps some fans of "America's Got Talent" are disappointed that a man of Stern's reputation joined a family-friendly show on prime time network television. But like him or hate him, Howard Stern is one of the most accomplished entertainers alive, and a person that smart knows his audience better than anybody.
During Monday's premiere, Stern was kind and compassionate during some performances (leaving his seat to go onstage to hug one contestant) and harsh during others (when one particularly weak performer said his parents had passed away, Stern asked if they "died of embarrassment"). But, except for some subtle and harmless references, he left his radio personality behind in what was a mostly PG production of reality television. As Stern has adamantly repeated over the past few months, he is not looking to bring his uncensored radio program to "America's Got Talent." He's bringing himself -- rock star hair and sunglasses included -- along with his years of knowledge and expertise of working in the industry.
So to critics and naysayers, I advise you to not deliver a verdict on the new judge until you've seen him in action. You might just be surprised at how much you grow to love the guy.
Avery Maehrer, a graduate of Emmaus High School, is a sophomore at Temple University.
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