I listen to too much Howard Stern, but I have an explanation. Or multiple explanations.
First of all, every writer needs procrastination. It's part of the job description. Any writer worth his salt has to find ways to waste time, and solitaire takes you only so far. (Actually, my solitaire is on-line bridge, a couple of hands at a time, until I drive myself back to my notes and the draft I'm working on.)
Second of all, Howard is funny. "Funny" needs no apology nor explanation; if you laugh, you laugh. And I laugh, plenty. Oh sometimes he can get tiring – who wouldn't, filling up four to five hours a days of radio? – and there are large swaths I turn off. But Howard's radio show is consistently entertaining and diverting. That's why millions of people listen to him.
Third of all, Howard is practically a landsman. (That's a good old Yiddish word that means 'from the same home town,' but also means someone who's from the same 'tribe' or someone who is on the same wavelength as you are.) Howard is from the south shore of Long Island, too. He was raised in Roosevelt and later moved to Rockville Centre, where he was in the same class at South Side High School as my best friend Alan Blumenfeld. They're both about two years younger than I. I'm from Valley Stream, only a few towns west of these burgs, as far west as you can get in Nassau County before you cross the line into Queens and New York City. Funny, all these areas are clearly see-able now on Google maps, images, etc.
Rockville Centre is a little more prosperous than Roosevelt or Valley Stream, and Howard and I are basically from the same lower-middle-class background. His father was a radio engineer; my father was furniture salesman. His mother stayed at home; my mother was a public school teacher. He went to summer camp; I went to summer camp. He got married right out of college; so did I. (Of course I stayed married, but the impulse was the same. We both like and need women.)
Of course there are lots of differences between us. He's super-famous, and I'm as anonymous as anyone can be. He's unhappy enough to go to therapy in search of peace of mind, and I'm just about the happiest person you can imagine. Howard just cut back from three-sessions-a-week to two. I hope he's making progress.
The best part of the show these days – I've been listening, on and off, since the 80s – are the interviews. I was going to say "celebrity interviews" and there are plenty of those, but Howard can interview anybody, from the biggest star (recently Neil Young, Bill Murray) to the scum of the earth (too many to list.) Part of it is because Howard has no time limits on Sirius; these interviews can go on for an hour or more; but most of it is because Howard is a great interviewer. His years in therapy have given him an analyst's tools, to go with his native wit and curiosity. He probes and probes – with appropriate jokes, of course – until the interviewee confesses ... everything.
Here's a good example. Once he had Jerry Rice, the great receiver for the San Francisco 49ers, on his show. Immediately Howard goes into his routine about penis size (he often complains about his small penis) and the discomfort he felt as a youth being in a locker room with other naked guys, black guys' size v. white guys' size, who had the biggest?, etc. etc. Jerry Rice is completely flummoxed by the interview. He's a good sport and tries to answer and keep up. After a long time of this line of questioning, Howard asks Jerry, "Who was a better quarterback: Joe Montana or Steve Young?" (These were Rice's two main slingers.) By now Rice is so happy to have an actual football question that he quickly answers, "Montana!" Probably no other interviewer – and certainly no ordinary sports interviewer – could get that choice piece of information out of Rice except for Howard Stern.
I stopped listening to Howard for a while in the early-mid 1990s. There was an interval when Howard left terrestrial radio (it was KLSX-FM here in SoCal) and went to Sirius Radio. Here was my chance, I thought. I won't have Howard to listen to, so I'll get a lot more work done. I won't purchase Sirius Radio – I have tons to listen to – and things will be OK, Howard-free.
But then Sirius Radio began the Metropolitan Opera station, with four live performances from the Met during the season, and classic, archived performances all the rest of the time.
So that was it. I had to get Sirius for the opera ... and Howard came along with it. You see, I love opera even more than Howard.
The Metropolitan Opera channel is my #1 Sirius preset. Howard is #2.