Rev. Tony Meets the Joke Man
Interview by tony pierce · Oct. 16, 1998 · Tabloid.net
Editor’s note: To inform his unique gospel, the Rev. Tony Pierce is a faithful — perhaps even fanatical — listener to the Howard Stern radio show. Some have even said that he has read two separate books about Mr. Stern. The following is Rev. Tony’s e-mail interview with Stern’s star joke-writer, Jackie Martling, who started the discussion off by saying: “First of all, anywhere you put my name, ‘The Joke Man’ has to be three separate words … Jackie ‘The Joke Man’ Martling.” He also gave typography recommendations, and an average of one plug per paragraph. If you’re looking for a foul-mouthed catalog behind-the-scenes trivia from the Howard Stern show, you’ve found it. If you’re not, well, here it is anyway.
Q. The Howard Stern Show appears to be a laid-back, spontaneous comedy show where a group of close friends tease each other and joke about celebrities. Other than the pre-taped bits, what do your duties as the “Head Writer” entail?
A. I’m on “The Howard Stern Show” for the entire duration every day, spontaneously writing notes that Howard sees on a television monitor, that he can either work into his conversation or not. The notes are punchlines that fit in with what he’s talking about, suggestions for a direction to take, questions for guests or callers, insults aimed at anyone in the room or in the newspaper or wherever … basically, whatever it takes to keep the show rolling and keep it funny.
Howard is absolutely brilliant alone. With me and Fred Norris both contributing, he’s the funniest and fastest thing that ever hit the airwaves.
Q. Now that you guys are in the new studio it looks like that it isn’t physically possible for you to pass your on-the-fly jokes to Howard by hand. Are you still sending him jokes? Is it done by computer?
A. In the old studio, for years I tossed the notes on the easel-like thing that holds the commercial copy and other crap. Now I place it under a television camera, and that is fed to a television monitor in front of Howard.
Q. Robin once said that you guys have meetings after the show. Is this true? How long do they last usually? What goes on in them usually?
A. After the show, we’ll usually stand around a few minutes and finish fucking with each other. Most days after the mikes are shut off I’ll say “Great show,” and they’ll all do my voice for a few minutes until they burn out. Once a week we have meetings with all of us, including the interns, to flush out ideas, but for the most part we communicate via IBM’s Lotus Notes program.
Q. Do you guys plan out a general sketch of the morning’s show the day before, or is it all pretty spontaneous?
A. We know who is coming in approximately when, or approximately when someone is going to call in, and Howard has a list of the zillion things we could get to. But what winds around all of that when is anybody’s guess on any day.
Q. Why is it that when E! shows your ad for your CD “Sgt. Pecker,” they censor out the “Pecker”? Since when is pecker a dirty word on TV, though it’s not on the radio?
A. That is the question of the decade. E! has a very strange morality, or whatever you’d call it. Personally, I think they look like idiots bleeping and covering an innocent word like “pecker.” That word is actually many people’s last name, look in any phone book. And in the dictionary, “pecker” is a chicken’s beak. But I got smart … I named my new CD “Hot Dogs & Donuts.” If they see the double entendre of that being too obvious and want to censor it, they can [**censored**].
Q. In no particular order, who are your top five comedians?
A. Red Skelton, The Marx Brothers, Redd Foxx, Rodney Dangerfield, Sam Kinison … and anybody who has the balls to do it.
Q. They always say that comedians are unhappy people, but it seems to me that between you, Fred, Gary, Robin and Howard, you lead the most happy, comfortable life, and you’re the only real comedian. How do you explain this?
A. I’ve got a beautiful wife, I drink like a bastard, and I love to smoke pot. Plus, I put up the best phony front. Fuck you and everyone you know.
Q. Do you think that pot will be legal in the next 25 years in America?
A. Yeah, I honestly do. The pot laws are ridiculous. But changing them takes so much effort, and potheads like to sit around and get stoned, not run around getting out the vote. You know, maybe it will be exactly like it is today in 25 years. I’ll still smoke pot, illegal or not. It grows. Fuck anybody who thinks it’s wrong.
Q. When Billy West was a regular on the show, were you ever intimidated by his humor? Did you feel like he was competition? Do you think he’ll ever be back as a regular?
A. I loved Billy, and I of course was never intimidated by his humor, because I wrote so much of what he was saying (as did Fred). Was I intimidated by his talent? Absolutely. The guy plays the guitar so well it’s uncomfortable for me to be in the same room as him when he plays. His fucking impressions are so dead-on it never failed to amaze me.
On the show, he was in no way competition in any form … he was simply another terrific piece to the puzzle. He added lots to the great whole of the show, and I have fond memories of when he was with us. Whether he’ll ever return, I have no idea, but I would welcome him with open arms. His “Jackie Puppet” riffs and his endless “haws” and other “Jackie” shots probably did as much for my popularity as it did for his and the show’s.
Jakie Martling’s new CD, “Hot Dogs and Donuts,” is published by Oglio. Ordering information can be found on Martling’s Web site, www.jokeland.com.