Howard Stern has five radio shows to go before he possibly disappears from the mainstream public eye and ear (I’ve checked out some of that Sirius equipment at Best Buy and it looks like a lot of work that only a month of bad car radio will force us to look into). Howard's goodbye seemed to peak the week before his Thanksgiving vacation, but this last week of shows will be historic in any case.
We’ll miss him. In the meantime, what’s the future of radio?
The view from LA:
Phil Hendrie: He may be the most brilliant talent in all of show business right now.
And his take on the talk show never gets boring.
Michael Savage: The most hilarious radio personality out there.
Savage is a lunatic, and his hair-trigger ascents to screaming rants are hysterical.
It doesn’t matter what side of the political spectrum he’s from.
The fact that his real name is Michael Weiner and that he once ran a flower shop and wrote love letters to Allen Ginsberg only adds to the wackiness.
Johnny Wendell: Punk rocker turned music journalist turned smart liberal radio talk show host.
Johnny works himself up into his own rages on the air, but it’s absurdity and unfairness that gets him going. He’s on the local Air America station, and his audience and scope will grow.
Steve Jones: Punk rocker turned Sunset Strip guitarist turned rock ‘n’ roll deejay. They give him a sidekick to translate his Cockney mumblings, but his snorting, farting, gurgling amateurishness is part of what keeps us tuned in. He plays old music hall & Benny Hill 45s, then picks up an acoustic guitar and bangs out a rock ‘n’ roll parody in the key of the original that follows. Inspired casting.
Stephanie Miller: Nice Sixties-style comedy lady does a funny, smart morning show with a good impressionist.
Mancow: First of all, that name is very disturbing. Man Cow. Supposedly it’s a nickname from college, but it brings to mind a hermaphroditic guy with breasts (which, photos indicate, he does indeed resemble). I don’t get it. And I don’t get the Mancow act. His show reeks of racist, homophobic, jock-sniffing, evangelical Christian right wing creepiness, it’s always got this Nazi heavy metal guitar crunching in the background, he’s got a guy who imitates Lewis Black, prank phone calls that aren’t funny, and when he’s not picking on poor people like New Orleans victims, he’s saying degrading things about his wife. He tries to be Howard, but he’s the anti-Howard. This guy really blows.
John & Ken: These reactionary nitwits play up racism and anti-immigrant hysteria for ratings. We hope Tookie Williams escapes from prison and climbs into their bedroom windows. That would make good radio.
Sean Hannity: I don’t believe this guy is a true conservative. I think he’s a college radio dork who jumped on the conservative bandwagon because he didn’t fit in with the music hipsters and came up with an angle. When he slips in references to his good pals Ollie North, Charlie Daniels and Phyllis Schlafly, this literal lowbrow reveals how out of touch and stupid he is.
Larry Elder: Listen to his show and realize he’s the one major league talk show host who yells at, then hangs up on, his listeners when they make good points that disagree with his. He seems to be afraid of real debate and his bits with his mother are not revealing. Dull.
Conway & Whitman: Tim Conway Jr. and his partner Doug Steckler worked a long time to develop a very dry comedy chemistry that even took the edge off their “What the hell is Jesse Jackson saying?” bit. It worked because Steckler was a weird old guy who’d last touched the big time writing for SCTV more than twenty years ago, and Conway was, well, Tim Conway’s kid who spent his days at the racetrack. Then, weirdly, Steckler quit or was fired and Conway just carried on with a new partner, radio voice man Brian Whitman. They still do the Jesse Jackson bit (and for some reason they use this really heavy compression on their voices, making them sound like they’re caught in Cousin Brucie’s echo chamber). But they're just a dull radio team, two contemporaries teamed arbitrarily like "Frosty, Heidi & Frank" or Peter Tilden and his cohorts on the country station.
At least Tilden is a lesson in how not to lose your dignity or patronize your audience when your situation changes. He made his reputation doing smart talk radio. He became a morning country music jock. And he doesn't sound like a country jock. He sounds like a smart talk radio guy. But he plays it straight. And funny. Too bad most of the music is terrible. But that's a different story and it's coming from a country fan.