"Sirius satellite radio, $12.95/mo.

A few weeks ago, Howard Stern suggested that his radio show provided the inspiration for The View, the TV gabfest that’s been a staple of ABC’s morning lineup since 1997. Stern’s never been shy about making outrageous pronouncements — my favorite last year was that the second installment of The Pirates of the Caribbean would tank.

But I think he hit on something: For as long as he’s had a show, but especially for the past year, Stern and his crew discussing the day’s events has been, day in and day out, the most entertaining talk on radio. You could understand why someone would think the formula was worth copying.

At this time last year, after Stern had moved from terrestrial radio to Sirius satellite, I wrote a piece saying that his first week had been stiff and not all that funny. But in the 52 weeks since, the show has been better than ever. And the give-and-take among Stern and his cohorts — especially longtime news reader Robin Quivers and comic Artie Lange — is the reason.

It’s made paying $12.95 a month for radio seem like a bargain.

Now free from FCC restrictions on language and subject matter, as well as the never-ending streams of commercials that dominate regular radio, the satellite version of the Stern show is funnier, more dynamic and, as you might imagine, much more outrageous. But forget the strippers, the lesbians and the Sybian (the saddle-like vibrator that some of the more outgoing female guests “ride”). For that matter, never mind the guests.

In its best moments, the Stern show is a bunch of people sitting around talking. It’s an extension of the high school lunch table. These aren’t necessarily the cool kids (though they think they are); they’re the reasonably smart, funny, disaffected kids who observe what’s going on around them and aren’t short of opinions about what they see. They goof on each other, whether it’s Lange’s acknowledged heroin addiction or Stern’s inexplicable love for Dancing With the Stars. They share their take on the news. They talk music — one of the funniest discussions was their chat about the guttural singers who front death-metal bands. They talk in amazing, unflinching detail about their lives.

Like all good radio shows, listeners feel like they’re part of the conversation — or at least that they’d want to be in the room, participating.

Yes, Stern’s first year on satellite had a boatload of highlights: the roasts, the pranks played by and on the staff members, the phony phone calls and, perhaps most of all, Artie and the regular caller known as Crazy Alice screaming at each other like some insane a cappella rendition of “Dueling Banjos.”

But it’s the simple conversations that make the show. I don’t know how many people in Indianapolis are listening (Sirius doesn’t give out city-by-city subscriber information), but those who are have been hearing great radio.



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