Marc Ambinder

Howard Stern is the best celebrity interviewer

Howard Stern has hosted a TV show or two, and I'm sure that several major networks have pitched him other ideas. Here's a pitch that won't require much money to execute and would produce incredibly compelling television. Acquire the rights to the interviews that Stern conducts on his SiriusXM radio show, find a cable network, and re-run them. No sketches, bits, or anything silly. Just the interviews. Whatever else Howard Stern is good at, and as a long-time fan, I think he's a maestro of many things, he is sublime as an interviewer of celebrities.

The reason why he's so good is because he is insanely curious. I'm sure he can find a psychoanalytic root for his intense desire to know things, but his audience is all the better for it. Not only is he curious: he is curious in the right way. He wants to know why. His enormous confidence as a radio host and as an established celebrity makes it easy for him to ask things that other interviewers couldn't get away with, but the difference is that Stern holds himself to the same standards of self-disclosure.

Here are questions he asks almost everyone:

  • How much are you worth?

  • What do you do with your money?

  • When you were single, what was your sex life like? What drugs did you do?

  • Who is jealous of you? Who screwed you over?

Salacious? You bet. But these questions get to the core of what Stern wants to know, which is usually motivation. What motivates creative people to create? How do they handle celebrity? How do they — or do they — handle success and failure?

The things you learn on the Stern show are often counterintuitive.

  • Louis CK learned about how to be a good father from Andrew Dice Clay.

  • Why Jimmy Kimmel doesn't respect Jay Leno.

  • Why Dr. Drew Pinsky hates his chosen profession.

  • How to program a network (from a fascinating interview with ex-NBC entertaining honcho Warren Littlefield)

As a celebrity interviewer, his pace and flow are natural. His subjects almost always come out of the experience having revealed a lot more about themselves than they anticipated but they don't seem upset about it.

See for yourself. Subscribe to HowardTV for the full archive.

Or, if you're cheap, Google "You Tube interviews Howard Stern" for free. (Stern dislikes YouTube for its pirating of his content.)

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