Notes From Three Years at the Howard Stern Show
I started as a radio intern in January 2010, joined the staff of (now-defunct) Howard TV in May 2011, and left in late August 2012 for FX's The Americans. These are my memories, three years on, of my time at the Stern Show in New York. Most of them involve Howard's breakfast.
- •How I got hiredA woman I used to babysit for was friends with Stern Show personality Jon Hein. She got my resume to him, and he passed it on to the office manager. The OM met me and said "You know Jon, so this is a formality. You're hired." I graciously but politely explained that while I appreciated that, I had never actually met Jon, so maybe she might actually want to interview me? The OM brought me to the bullpen, introduced me to Jon, and said "Okay, you know Jon. You're hired." Scientific!
- •"Tell him to go fuck himself"On my very first day as an intern, I was tasked with answering the VIP phones. The VIP phones are a hotline that friends of the show (Stamos, Arquette, etc) have access to -- as well as Wack Packers (Howard's band of merry misfit listeners). Jeff the Drunk called and I asked a producer if he wanted to take it. The producer told me to tell Jeff to "go fuck himself." I thought the producer was being hyperbolic, but when I politely hung up on Jeff I was dressed down for not using the exact phrase.
- •Sal the Stock Broker's SteviaIn one of my first mornings at the show, Sal asked me to go out and find him "a special sugar substitute with the ingredient Stevia." I spent 2 hours going from Duane Reade to Duane Reade starting at 6am in search of the elusive ingredient -- only to discover Stevia was the brand, not the ingredient. I returned triumphantly -- only to realize that I forgot to get Howard's breakfast, due 90 minutes earlier. Ronnie the Limo Driver destroyed me, calling me my favorite insult to date: a "fuck-ass."
- •👀🚶🏻🚫=¯\_(ツ)_/¯My first internship had been at the Weinstein Co, where I had been explicitly warned (on my first day!) never to make eye contact with Harvey -- and that I'd be fired if I did. So I spent six months with my head down, and when I joined the Stern Show I was like someone who had left an abusive relationship and didn't know how to be intimate. I also assumed Howard would be worse, but I couldn't have been more wrong. The EP had to sit me down and assure me that I could say hi to people in the hall.
- •I got Bradley Cooper a banana oncehe said thank you
- •"Assured of competence"In my time at the show I managed to avoid being called into the studio for a proper dressing-down by Howard, but that doesn't mean he didn't complain *about* me on the air. The day after SEAL Team 6 killed Osama Bin Laden, I was responsible for messing up Howard's breakfast order. He spent 10 minutes of air time threatening to replace his dumbbell intern with a crack-shot Navy SEAL so he could be "assured of competence." I'll never forget that phrase: "Assured of competence."
- •A note on Howard's breakfastHoward likes plain oatmeal with chopped banana. No cinnamon. No sugar. No syrup. The Rockefeller Center bodega that prepares it has it ready and wrapped in cellophane at 6am. Howard is a noted germaphobe, so you canNOT open the container to confirm that the oatmeal was prepared the correct way, making it something like Schrödinger's Oatmeal -- neither plain nor not plain until Howard opens the container to see for himself. Every morning was an intern's nervous breakdown in the making.
- •The Kong OffI had been a big fan of the documentary King of Kong, and when I heard that Steve Weibe, Billy Mitchell, and all the rest would be going head-to-head in New Jersey I knew the Stern Show had to be there. I pitched it to the producers, who (surprisingly) gave me a microphone and a recorder and sent me off to capture as much dorky weird shit as I could. I'm still friends with some of those Kong Off guys to this day, and it was my first time having content produced and played by Howard on the air.
- •Big shot burgersHoward went through a brief phase where he ate a turkey burger for breakfast. I coordinated getting the goods at 6am from a bougie Times Square shop that typically didn't open until noon. I became friendly with the owner, and one day when I took a friend there (simply because I knew the food was good), the owner lavished us with attention and put our food on the house. That was literally the most special I've ever felt, and it was purely by accident.
- •Lady Gaga's first Stern Show interviewThe show broadcasts from a building otherwise used by a major bank, and Gaga's visit was the biggest circus I'd ever seen the otherwise-sleepy building devolve into, with i-bankers riding the elevators to catch a glimpse and tourists trolling outside. In a more profound sense, Gaga entered a hostile environment full of crew guys who thought she was a Millennial mascot for hipsters and homosexuals. Then she performed an acoustic Edge of Glory and left behind an office full of awe-struck admirers.
- •PolarizationMy favorite part of the show was *telling* people that I worked for the show. Some people were disgusted by the very idea, some people were enamored, and everyone -- across the board -- wanted to know what it was like.
- •Secret societyThe Stern Show has also, to this day, made for a great bonding agent with lowdown Superfans. It's how I imagine fanatics of a specific sports team must feel when they meet fellow fanatics in an otherwise unrelated space. You can find them anywhere and you never run out of things to talk about. Even though the Stern guys were just my coworkers and were just remote voices to fans, we can talk like they're family. It also made for my favorite job interview ever with my current boss @aliadler!
- •In summationThe Stern Show is a notorious place where adults can behave like children, but it taught me how to work like an adult. I woke daily at 430am (while juggling school and a second job); even the earliest call time no longer phases me. I dealt with A-listers and no longer get star struck by celebrities. And most importantly, as a very young writer struggling to be taken seriously, it taught me how to engage with coworkers often many years my senior. It was the best, and I miss it every day.
- •But I don't miss getting Howard his breakfastGod that was the fucking worst 🙅🏻