I've recently been listening to old shows from 1995, 1996 and 2007 and 2008. I noticed that especially during the 90's, Howard was way more brutal.
Being funny was clearly the most important thing there and he didn't gave a shit about the fact that he constantly offended almost everyone. I've had some genuine hard laughs when he talked about NIN's song "Hurt" that just came out then in '95. He told us to think about morbid stuff and he named some things as examples. There was some hard-core, dark, and sometimes downright racist shit in there, and it was funny as hell. Jackie's goofy laugh in the background adds a lot more to the whole thing than I thought. Also the way he goes off at callers is just crazy sometimes, and it's almost always funny.
Then fast forward to the Artie years. I notice a much more mellow Howard here, and Artie is the one starting/creating the controversy and funny most of the time. Howard goes along with it most times and often makes it funnier. They still talk about "niggers" and "faggots" here, which is almost automatically funny, because it's automatically offensive to a lot of people. Artie's goofing and fighting with High Pitch Mike is absolute comedy gold. Sal and Richard also have a way bigger role in here. Sal's "I wanna beat my wife" (based on Bon Jovi's "It's my life") song almost made me piss my pants. Comedy still seems to be the most important thing here. It's not a PC show at all.
Now compared to today's show. Howard has mellowed out a lot more and there's no other guy there to really get into the no-holds-barred funny stuff. And when it does happen with Bigfoot Jr. who calls Eric the Midget a faggot, Howard almost apologizes for it. It still pisses me off that Eric the Midget is no longer called Eric the Midget. He is at his best when he gets goofed on, and Artie was also very good at doing that. Most interviews are fantastic if he has an interesting guest in there. I'll admit I skipped a couple of them, and I also skipped through a lot of AGT talk. That whole deal was horrible for the show.
Every now and then in today's show, though, Howard makes me laugh very hard. The Howard Stern show is still the best radio show I've come across so far. Especially when I compare it to the kind of radio we have here in the Netherlands. It's the most boring, lame shit you can imagine. It's either top-40 radio, techno or news radio. No comedy and not even rock anymore. We have one or two DJ's who are supposed to be funny working the hit radio stations, but they aren't funny. They're fucking lame.
I'm still a fan of Howard and I admire his career very much. But I also understand why fans of Howard from the 90's don't like the current show.
I also understand it from Howard's standpoint. He doesn't need to conquer anything anymore, he doesn't need to beat anyone anymore, he's the king of radio and he has been that for over two decades. Not to mention a successful movie and a couple of bestsellers on top of that. I mean, be honest, that's a very impressive level of success. He's also clearly a dark guy with psychological problems and he seems to be getting his shit together on some level. He has a big-ass house and he has a much younger wife. Who can honestly blame him for mellowing out after all these years? Good for him, I wish him the best. It's been an insane career so far.
But I do agree that evil Howard makes better, funnier radio.