I saw Howard Stern's movie at the press screening, and I laughed
through almost every minute of it. The film opens nationwide this
coming Friday, March 7.
First, let me assure my loyal readers that I have not been cloned.
My evil twin is not the one writing this review, and I have not lost my
First, confessions are in order. Before seeing Howard Stern's
movie, called PRIVATE PARTS, I had never seen nor listened to Howard
Stern even for a single minute. Moreover, I was absolutely sure that
I had no desire to ever see him. I was so sure that his humor would be
gross and mean spirited that if there had been a conflict with another
press screening, as there frequently is, I would have gone to see the
other film instead -- any other film.
Well, PRIVATE PARTS was the biggest pleasant surprise for me in a
quite a while. Yes, the film is certainly outrageous, but so was
AIRPLANE! (1980). And yes, Howard is shocking. I would postulate that
Howard Stern is one of the funniest and sweetest people around.
Although I laughed so hard that I even got choked, the biggest surprise
for me was how tender and good spirited the show is even at its most
audacious. The plot even contains the long lasting love story between
Howard and Alison, his wife of twenty years. (All of Howard's
entourage in the film, with the exception of Alison, are played by
themselves. Alison is acted by Mary McCormack.)
PRIVATE PARTS is the autobiography of Howard's life and is based
on his book. In the first part, his father Ben (Richard Portnow) tells
Howard at every opportunity how moronic he is. "We never went to
ballgames," reminisces Howard. "The only sport my dad liked was
yelling." This gave Howard his tough skin and his obsession with being
liked. Howard's antics, like those of any class clown, are disguised,
plaintive cries to be wanted and be popular.
His ability to simultaneously disgust and involve an audience is
seen when he is twelve. He gives a traditional puppet show at a senior
citizen's home that has them all dropping like flies. He decides to
jazz up the act with simulated puppet sex. Needless to say, the
audience is so shocked and enraged that they can't take their eyes off
Howard's movie isn't just about Howard. The film is careful to
focus in on his supporting crew, especially Robin Quivers and Fred
Norris. The first to join him was cherubic looking black newscaster
Robin Quivers. The rules of the time were that the DJ did his shtick,
and when it came time, they switched to the newscaster. From the first
day, Howard pulled Robin into his comedic fray. She is as sweet as
sweet can be, but she can hold her own. In her own more subtle way,
she manages to top Howard in the banter on the air. Robin gives a
marvelously compelling performance in the film.
Although much of the show does happen on the air, a large portion
is devoted to Howard's constant battles with management. When he
finally works his way to the top -- the biggest radio station in New
York -- the NBC lawyers read him the riot act. There are seven words
you can not say on the air so he must stop saying them. So what does
he do? In arguably the funniest scene in the show, he devises a match
game where he picks a common word and lets his coworkers guess the
missing, and, if taken out of context, obscene word that goes with it.
(For example, if I say Hoover, you would say Dam. This is not used in
the movie, but it is the only G rated one I could think of to give you
the idea.) His nemesis and personal watch dog manager, Kenny (played
with angry fervor by Paul Giamatti), goes ballistic when Howard
violates the rules. Howard becomes vindictive and refers to Kenny on
the air only as Pig Vomit.
NBC executive Roger Erlick (Michael Murphy) says that "Howard is
on the FCC's Most Wanted List." NBC wants to fire him, but there is a
problem. He has become the hottest DJ in the nation. How long does
the average listener stay tuned to the same station? 18 minutes. For
Howard it is an hour and twenty minutes. Well, how about the Howard
haters, the managers ask, since there are a lot of those? Over two
hours. In both cases the reason is that listeners want to know "what
will he say next?"
"After all, being misunderstood is the fate of all true geniuses
is it not?" laments Howard. Even earning a fortune and having
millions of fans, he still worries that people will think he is just a
I do not want to mislead you. The show manages to insult just
about everyone. Still, the humor is non-stop, and based on the theater
audience's reactions, people respond extremely well to his jokes. Go
with an open mind, and you may not be able to control yourself.
Howard's film raises comedy to a new level. I will reject the urge to
recount more of the film's crazy antics and let you experience it
yourself as I did.
As I left the theater I began to recount my favorite scene to my
friend I had taken with me. As soon as I laughed my way through one, I
kept remembering another that was even better. If the film had had one
tenth the humor or one fourth the likeableness of its stars, I would
have counted it a success. The movie it most reminded of was PEOPLE
VS. LARRY FLYNT, but I liked PRIVATE PARTS better.
An incredible and unique experience. An infectiously happy show.
Howard teaches us to laugh at everything in life. And yes, by the end
we have fallen in love with him, his comedic conspirators, and just
about everyone associated with the production. A more likable group I
haven't seen in a long time.
PRIVATE PARTS flies by at 1:49. (Stay through the final credits,
for the film keeps coming back on.) It is rated R for strong language,
dope smoking, crude sexual humor, and nudity. Teenagers will probably
love it, but make sure they are mature enough for the material. I give
the film my strongest recommendation and my top rating of ****.
Copyright © 1997 Steve Rhodes