I’ve been into Howard since he first came on AM radio here in Houston in the early 2000s. I was a fan by reputation before then, but it’s tough to really ‘get’ the show without listening regularly. This tenure as a listener certainly doesn’t get me into even the top 75%, but once hooked I had no choice but to follow him to Sirius Satellite Radio, picking up my car unit and subscription in mid-2005 to be ready and waiting when he made his 1/9/06 debut.*
As a devoted follower, I was very excited when he was named a judge on America’s Got Talent. I’d never watched the show outside of the occasional YouTube clip but it instantly became appointment television. I haven’t been disappointed. He entertains in a way that is both true to himself and endearing to the many newbies in the audience. Any regular listener knew the hand-wringing about his potential behavior by both the pop media and conservative surrogate parenting groups was ridiculous posturing. But it’s still been nice to see his abilities proven out.
But why I’m into Howard this week is only partially related to AGT. The larger component is based on a combination of his skills as an interviewer and my love of music. New in-studio interviews this week included Slash and Greg Allman. Repeats I caught included Frank Zappa from 1987 and Ike Turner from 1993. There is simply nothing better for a fan of anyone than having them interviewed by Howard. It is a long-form (often stretching past 90 minutes), unedited, live interview of the sort the sort that simply cannot be conducted anywhere else (due to spot breaks and censorship) or by anyone else.
And this is the core of what makes Howard work: he puts both his interview subjects and you at ease. The first part of this equation is what allows the people who come into his studio to discuss nearly any topic freely. The second is what had me hooked after just one week of listening. He puts his own humanity so fearlessly on display that the person he’s talking with can barely help but do the same, and the listener, me, is able to accept the fact that they are no more or less fucked up than anyone else as beautiful and transcendent fact.
In short, Howard makes me feel normal. Not quite as normal as returning to my childhood hometown. But as close as any form of media will likely ever come.
*I also love my Sirius in general and will remain a subscriber if and when Howard finally retires. I only listen to terrestrial radio for local sports coverage. And even there the non-stop pitches for the local Chevy dealership or whatever else is getting hocked drive me crazy. Music? No comparison. But that’s a topic for a different article.