photo & text by nacrowe
ever since HOWARD STERN left TERRESTRIAL RADIO and the editorial confines that came with that format he has transitioned gracefully into a long-form interviewer of the first order. this is due in part to the UNIQUE opportunity afforded him by having his own channel on SATELLITE RADIO with no time or editorial constraints. i believe transformation is likewise also the result of years of THERAPY that made the former CONFRONTATIONAL and AGGRESSIVE media personality more INTROSPECTIVE, CONSIDERED and prone to listening and engaging more fully with his guests.
COMES AGAIN (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 2019) is less a memoir and more a curated transcript of some of his most insightful interviews in his later years where he has garnered such newfound respect as a THOUGHTFUL and EMPATHETIC interlocutor capable of conducting fruitful discussions with his high-profile guests including the likes of ANDERSON COOPER, OZZY OSBOURNE, COURTNEY LOVE, CHRIS ROCK, LADY GAGA, ROSIE O'DONNELL, DAVID LETTERMAN, HILARY CLINTON, JAY-Z, BILL MURRAY, KIM KARDASHIAN, CONAN O'BRIEN, LARRY DAVID, JON STEWART, TRACY MORGAN and former DISGRACED president DONALD TRUMP among many others. given this books presentation as a compendium of interviews, i have read most of it out of order over the past half year. it is almost more of reference document since there is no discernible narrative other than STERN's personal introductions that contextualize each interview.
for me the most ENGAGING and HEARTENING of these interviews is with ROSE O'DONNELL, a public comedic figure that was seemingly at odds with STERN and caught his ire and mockery throughout the 90s. most of such was undeserved and in retrospect comes off as her sense of FEMININITY contrasted strongly with that promoted by STERN's male gaze (i.e. famous models, playmates and porn stars). i have no doubt that TRUMP's ascension to power shook STERN to his core since the DISGRACED former president seemed to both inhabit and warp the CAVALIER and frankly CHAUVINIST attitudes promoted by the radio show. same for HUGH HEFNER and PLAYBOY. TRUMP was the embodiment of a mode of MASCULINITY that was a CULTURAL ANACHRONISM by the time of his inauguration. a throwback to a LESS ENLIGHTENED period. i think STERN realized quickly that the common area in the venn diagram of MAGA supporters and his radio audience was pretty SIGNIFICANT and this book is an attempt to rewrite his legacy. he profusely thanks O'DONNELL for her grace and humility in accepting his apologies for past abuse and both have garnered a level of mutual RESPECT and FRIENDSHIP that heretofore was absolutely unforeseen. it was a gift from her that he truly cherishes as it redeems his sense of identity as a father of three young adult women.
id argue that COMES AGAIN is probably the DEFINITIVE STERN publication, more so than the OUTLANDISH and PERFORMATIVE MISS AMERICA (REGANBOOKS, 1995) and PRIVATE PARTS (SIMON & SCHUSTER, 1993). what makes it so much more ENJOYABLE is his ability to listen and ask PERTINENT, PROBING questions with a sense of COMPASSION and HUMILITY that never existed in his previous incarnation as a "shock jock" pushing societal buttons for ratings. in its place you get INTRIGUING dialogue on the nature of comedy, the mass media, beauty, love, pain, death and celebrity. and i imagine the best is still yet to come.