Howard Stern Opens Up About Psychotherapy, OCD: "I Was a Young Man Full of Rage"

Howard Stern has a reputation for disarming famous guests, from Bill Murray to Donald Trump, and making them spill details of their personal lives on his SiriusXM radio channels, Howard 100 and Howard 101. But on the latest episode of David Letterman's Netflix talk show, the (in)famous radio host opened up about his own life — including his struggles with OCD, anger and betraying the trust of friends and loved ones during a period when he focused intensely on his career at the expense of his personal life.

On the most recent episode of My Next Guest Needs No Introduction that released Friday morning, Letterman asked Stern about a rumor that Stern had been yanked from WWDC, the Washington, D.C., station where he was a host until 1982, because he had called an airline that had just had a plane crash into the Potomac and asked, "How much from Dulles to the bridge?"

"It would be pure id, total honesty, and I had a lot of rage, and I was going to let that rage out. … Which is great radio but really damaging to your personal life. You become a madman and that's who I was," Stern said, though he noted that he hadn't actually called the airline, but done it as a bit on his show. 

Stern added that in a period that spanned his time in Washington to his early time in New York, where he became a host on radio station WXRK and famously angered the FCC with some segments, he was not "self-aware" and ultimately left anxiety issues unaddressed. Before work every day, Stern used as an example, he would spend one to two hours in a bathroom touching things: "I've come to understand that this behavior is trying to control a world that's out of control," he told Letterman.

Stern also addressed his behavior to Letterman in these years, which he said made him "ashamed." in 2011, Stern appeared on Letterman's CBS show The Late Show to apologize for behavior that included retelling Letterman's private calls to him on air. On My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, the two hosts went into greater detail on their spat. "I had to stop listening to your show early on because I heard myself being talked about in unflattering ways," Letterman said.

Stern explained that he had heard from someone else that Letterman had said something mean about him, and so he began to bash the late-night host on air; one time, he compared Letterman and competitor Jay Leno's ratings market by market. Letterman joked that he was sure Stern had apologized to others.

"I've apologized to a lot of people. And I'll tell you why. I think I did a lot of growing up. And I do attribute this to psychotherapy. I was just a young man full of rage," Stern said. "Through psychotherapy I started to fall in love with life a little bit. I started to appreciate what was good. … One of those things was my relationship with you. I could appreciate what you had done for me. I had betrayed your trust, and I was ashamed. The reality was I loved you, and I really felt strongly about you."

Letterman then revealed a painting of a flower that Stern had sent to his wife after saying something about her on air. "Words had no meaning to me. Words didn't hurt — of course they hurt me if anyone ever said anything to me," Stern said. After trying psychotherapy and changing his approach to radio, Stern allowed that some listeners called him "soft" but that overall he believed he had maintained the "honesty" that drew listeners to him.

In keeping with Letterman's format of attempting to find common ground with guests, the Netflix host asked Stern about his relationship with his daughters (Letterman has a teenage son). Stern elaborated on his three daughters' careers and how he has had tough conversations with them over the years in order to become a better father. "They've been brutally honest with me and I appreciate that and we found it very liberating and it brings us closer together," he said. "I recommend this for any father out there, especially fathers with daughters: The best way to come together is to allow them to express themselves and tell you what they're really feeling." The audience then erupted into applause, after which Stern warned them not to take parenting advice from him.

At this point, Letterman then repeated a line he has used before on the program, that he believed he had children too late in his life. "I think I hung around too long on TV and I think it was because people in power were afraid to fire me," he said.

Also on the program, Stern divulged details on his relationship to Donald Trump, who appeared on Stern's radio show multiple times and whom the host considers a "friend." Stern revealed that Trump asked him to speak at the Republican National Convention, which he said put him in an "awkward position."

"I was put in a very awkward position of having to say publicly and to him that I am a Hillary Clinton supporter, and I always have been. And I was honest with Donald, I said, 'Donald, you also supported Hillary.' I do consider Donald a friend, but my politics are different," he said.

Stern also brought out some of his signature moves on My Next Guest on Friday, talking about how sexually frank his mother was, and arriving onstage to meet Letterman in a costume — this time in a fake beard to mirror Letterman's own facial hair.