Howard Stern is in the middle of a whirlwind. He's the first one to tell me that fact.
"First, I was on Jimmy Fallon. Then I was on 'The Today Show.' I was over at 'The View' with those yentas.'"
This is what happens when the kinder, nicer Stern emerges. Last night my jaw dropped when I watched him on "America's Got Talent" on NBC.
He's a great judge. He's Simon Lite. You can tell that he won't promote the acts that are lame, but he has a heart with those who do have talent. He even hugs!
This is Howard Stern? Who knew?
TALKS ABOUT "AMERICA'S GOT TALENT."
Stern is the first one to admit that he was surprised to get the "America's Got Talent" offer.
"When Grant Tinker was at NBC, he said, 'I'll never allow Howard Stern to work on this network again.' Now, he's a dead body," he says.
"When NBC first asked me to judge, I was sure they made some kind of a mistake. This is a family show where family values are respected," Stern says.
The shock jock isn't known for his warm fuzzy family values platform. But he says that he can adapt for different mediums.
"This experience has been wonderful," he says. "I've seen so much talent. Of course, you've got your nud-nicks, your talent, and all the in-betweens."
He says that audiences will see a softer Stern.
"There's a seven year old that I hugged. He broke down and cried. I felt so awful for him. The kid was crying, so I got down on my knees and I hugged him. I said, 'You're going to Vegas.' I did give him another chance.
"Other than that, I was very honest with people," he says.
WORKING WITH SHARON OSBOURNE AND HOWIE MANDEL
What has it been like working with other judges, Howie Mandel and Sharon Osbourne?
"Howie and Sharon look up to me," Stern says. "They are learning so much."
"They were good judges and now they're great judges," he says. "The most important thing is we gotta be honest. We gotta be direct. We gotta help the talent."
This brings him to that other talent show, "American Idol," which wraps up their season in two weeks.
"You watch 'American Idol' and you could throw up," he says.
"J. Lo, I don't understand what she's doing there. Not every contestant can be wonderful. You can't just sit there in a beautiful dress. You have to be honest and tell the contestants why it's not happening for them."
Will he be meaner to the hopefuls? "I'm not doing this to be mean," he insists. "I'm doing it to be helpful and constructive."
TROUBLE ON THE SET?
The gossip press wants to stir up trouble on the set between Howie Mandel and Stern. Is it true?
"Howie has been wonderful. There have been all kinds of things in the tabloid press that we don't get along. We get along just fine," he says.
"Howie is a practical joker. I said, 'Howie, I don't have a sense of humor and I only think practical jokes are funny if they're done to someone else.
"Then I said, 'I will punch you in the nose,'" Stern says.
Is he that tough?
Stern retorts: "I'm a strong man. I'm just not virile at all, but Howie and I still get along great."
STERN AT AGE 58
At age 58, Stern says he doesn't worry about much.
"I've been around a long time. It's been 35 years in broadcasting. I don't worry about much," he says.
"With this show, I respect that it is for the family. It's a show I love. I don't want to come in and do The Howard Stern Show. I don't want to interrupt the flow," he says. "I just want to make it better.
"I know I can't be the way I am on the radio. People will hate it," he says.
Does he worry about losing his edge?
"I'm not beginning. I'm an elder statesman now. I don't think about losing my edge. I've always been about honesty. As long as you're honest in life, you don't lose your edge," he says.
Yes, he will offer some life advice for midlifers.
"The only reason I made it in this business is I didn't listen to critics or execs. I just listened to my heart," he says.
As for beauty, Stern will even go there.
"People have to look at my face on this show. This is a face for radio. Thank God, my wife Beth loves me," he says.