Michael Harris Is Still Clueless About Howard Stern

When Howard Stern started broadcasting on the Canadian airwaves in 1997, one of his biggest critics was Toronto Sun columnist Michael Harris, who could pass for Donald Trump’s grey-haired twin.  In a piece entitled “Say goodnight, Howard” which was published on November 18, 1997, he claimed that “The King Of All Media’s” initial invasion of The Great White North was to be a short one.  He opened the piece thusly:
 
“Howard Stern is Dead Man Talking. 
 
Remember where you heard it first.”
 
At the time, Stern had been doing his New York-based morning drive broadcast in two Canadian markets for two and a half months.  (He was heard on CHOM-FM in Montreal and CILQ-FM in Toronto.)  Almost immediately, there was a firestorm of controversy.  People got upset when he referred to Quebecers as “peckerheads” while talking about the endlessly annoying Sovereignty issue.  During his first Canadian broadcast, which occurred on September 2nd (the day after Labour Day), while draped in the Canadian flag he told the French in that province to “bend over” for him like they did for Hitler in WW2, a funny line despite the fact that France actually fought nobly against the Germans as Sun Media columnist Eric Margolis has noted.
 
Nonetheless, there was a small, phony movement to get Stern kicked off the air.  Complaints were sent to the useless Canadian Broadcast Standards Council and a number of media professionals started throwing him under the bus hoping to be rid of him forever, most likely because they couldn’t compete with him.  Citing evidence “from folks in the know”, Harris claimed that the American comedian would cease broadcasting in Canada “in as little as two weeks”.
 
His information turned out to be dead wrong.  Stern’s stint in Montreal would last a year and the Toronto station stuck with him for 5 years.  While he was popular on this side of the border (while never number one in Toronto, he was always in the Top 10), politics remains the only reason he was fired.  For those who enjoyed his program on CILQ, it didn’t matter when he was replaced by the pale imitator John Derringer.  Stern’s show could still be heard on the Buffalo FM station, WBUF, right up until his final day on terrestrial radio on December 16, 2005.  In fact, Canadian listeners switched to that channel well before his dismissal because they couldn’t take that 7-minute delay that CILQ used for every broadcast, a CBSC requirement.
 
10 years later, Harris is still not a fan.  In his Ottawa Sun column today (Stern lasted longer in Toronto than he did at The Sun), he tries to compare one undated, out-of-context remark (that’s actually quite funny) with out-of-context rap lyrics and Don Imus’ libellous and now infamous remark about the Rutgers womens basketball team.
 
One wonders how much of The Howard Stern Show he’s actually listened to.  He’s under the mistaken impression that sex is the only topic of discussion (everything you could think of is dissected on that show) and that Howard has a problem with women.  Considering the fact that Howard has been in two longterm relationships (his marriage to first wife Allison lasted over 20 years and he’s been involved with current squeeze, Beth Ostrosky, for 7), has three healthy, well-adjusted daughters, is very close to his mother, Ray, and has been loyal to sidekick/news reader Robin Quivers for over 20 years (he bought her an expensive car as a thank you, not too long ago), Harris’ twin accusations of mysogyny and sexism ring extremely hollow.  When have any of these ladies gone out of their way to bash him?  On the twelfth of never, actually.  Even his ex-girlfriends, like the lovely Angie Everhart, have nothing but nice things to say about the guy.  Furthermore, he went out of his way to defend Mia Farrow (who appeared at the end of Private Parts) while lashing out at Woody Allen for his role in destroying their relationship.
 
Contrary to Harris’ false claims, Stern’s favourite target isn’t women.  They’re one of his many, lifelong ruminations.  He’s far too horny and insatiable sexually to be hateful of the opposite sex.  He’s also extraordinarily curious and a shameless flirt, two qualities that make him a great interviewer.  No, Stern’s preferred targets of mockery have always been those who are too cool for the room, guys like Michael Harris who give one the impression that they’ve never laughed at anything in their entire lives.  If a conversation they hear on the radio is not serious and extremely important, they get their panties in a bunch.  Everybody else simply wants to be entertained on their way to work in the morning.  Stern and his loyal, talented crew have always provided that with their clever and funny program. 
 
Roger Ebert said it best in the April 16, 2004 edition of The Chicago Sun-Times: 
 
“Like millions of Americans, I listen to Howard Stern on the radio in the mornings.  I think he is smart, quick and funny.  Sometimes he is ‘offensive,’ but to be quite frank, I am not ‘offended,’ because what he says falls within the realm of words and subjects that, as an adult, I have long been familiar with even without the tutelage of Stern.”
 
And remember, that’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic (married to a black woman) saying that.
 
Howard Stern has also railed against authority figures who try to control peoples’ lives.  Think religious figures, extreme right-wing Republicans and members of the FCC.  And he’s decried Don Imus’ racism long before Media Matters For America and others paid close attention to it.  (How many times have they goofed on Sal The Stockbroker’s bigotted remarks?  I’ve lost count.)  For Harris to compare him to Archie Bunker, as he did in 1997, is foolish and just plain stupid.  I’ve yet to see concrete evidence that the guy’s a bigot.
 
The disappointing thing about all of this is that Harris has been one of the few Sun Media columnists willing to criticize The Bush Administration in America and The Harper Administation in Canada for their wrongheaded and dangerous foreign policies on a consistent basis.  How can he be so right about that and yet, so clueless about Howard Stern?  It boggles the mind.
 
Harris should remember that Howard Stern is a comedian, a damn good one, too, and his program is loaded with insight, candor and laughs.  (I read the daily write-ups on MarksFriggin and the official Stern site which are both funny and interesting.)  Without the restrictive nannying of the FCC hounding him any longer, it’s no wonder Stern’s thriving on Sirius Satellite Radio.
 
As for Harris, his job is most likely in jeopardy.  Why?  He’s employed by Quebecor.
 
Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Friday, April 27, 2007
4:36 p.m.
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Published in: on April 27, 2007 at 4:37 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. Couple things: 1) Stern was given the boot from Q107 because advertisers got cold feet, nothing more, nothing less (probably says more about Canadian advertisers than it does about listeners).  Q could have had the show sponsored by a line up of stripper bars and massage parlours, but they decided not to go that route. 2) Derringer has never been an imitator of Stern.  He pretty much done the same thing throughout his career – be himself.  No interviews with porn stars, no exploiting retarded dwarfs, no joking about his wife’s miscarriage.  He replaced Stern – not his fault Stern couldn’t cut it here.


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