Open Mic

Howard Stern's an A-Hole—and Why He's the Right Choice To Replace Simon Cowell on 'Idol'

Chuck Ross Posted February 9, 2010 at 6:52 AM

Howard Stern can be a mean-spirited a-hole. No doubt about it.

He is also one of the most brilliant, talented broadcasters I’ve ever heard. No doubt about it.

I don’t subscribe to Sirius Radio, so I have not heard Stern regularly in the past four years.

However, I was a regular listener when he was on free, over-the-air radio.

There were days when I was so upset with him for verbally abusing someone who I didn’t think deserved it that I swore I’d never listen to him again.

But a few days later there I was, again listening and laughing hysterically at something Stern said or at his antics or the antics of his gifted cohorts.

I don’t know Stern personally. Like you, I only know his public persona.

So here’s what I know. Stern is multi-dimensional. He’s colorful (duh) and smart as all get out. Yes, he can go on a rant and mercifully tear apart anyone at anytime. He can do it with some wit and biting humor or he can do it as an a-hole son of a bitch with nothing but verbal sludge and an oral sledgehammer. And while he thinks the latter might be funny and/or entertaining, it almost never comes across that way. At least it never did to me.

So what do I think about him taking over as a judge on “American Idol” when Simon Cowell leaves?

I think Stern would be a dazzling choice.

Before you decide that I’m crazy, go out and rent the movie “Private Parts.” Stern stars in it, based on his autobiography. The book came out in 1993, and the film was released in 1997.

It’s a fun, massively entertaining movie. Stern is terrific playing himself. And let’s credit Betty Thomas with a great job directing Stern and the film. If you only knew Stern from this movie, I don’t think any of you would question that he could take over for Cowell without being an inappropriate foul-mouthed scoundrel. A Simon-like scoundrel yes. And that’s that the show will need.

Stern is no stranger to TV. For many years he was on E!, but that was basically just a partly cleaned up version of his radio show, and still too raunchy for an audience with a lot of kids. And when I lived in New York in the 1990s, Stern had a comedy show on WWOR that I liked, but, again, probably not suitable for the young kid set.

But Stern could do this job, do it well, and be appropriate for kids. And it would pair Stern with a brilliant TV executive who has survived slings and arrows himself, and who I think Stern would respect and listen to: Fox’s Mike Darnell.

Ultimately, if Stern doesn’t take the job—or isn’t seriously offered it—here’s another choice I like:

Darnell himself.

Few may know this, but Mike is very musical. And I don’t know anyone with more smarts about what works on TV. Though he’s known for putting on daring and challenging programming, he may actually be too nice a man to replace Simon. Also, at this point in “Idol’s’ lifespan, it may be essential that Simon be replaced by someone who is more familiar to viewers than Darnell.

Which brings me back to Stern.

I’m a big fan of “Idol.” In our household it’s required viewing for me, my wife, our 14-year-old, our 11-year-old, and our six-year-old. If Stern took the gig I’d have no problem inviting him into our living room.

I can’t tell you the number of times, over the years, when Simon has spoken his mind and has gotten roundly booed—or attacked by the other judges for his opinion—that my wife and my kids have all looked at one another and then looked at me and we all nodded and have said, “Simon’s right.”

Next year I can easily see the new judge getting the same reaction on the show while my family and I all look at each other and say, “Stern’s right."#