When thinking of the classic version of “The Howard Stern Show” on K-Rock (92.3 FM), a high-pitched laugh in the background comes to mind. That signature giggle belongs to comedian Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling, who served as head writer for the legendary radio program from 1986-2001.
Martling, a resident of Bayville, was often used as the punching bag of the group whether Stern and his co-host Robin Quivers were busting his chops about his drinking, his relationship with his wife or taunted him with a puppet that evoked him. However, Martling, 69, was the one behind the scenes writing material that provided the ammo.
In his new book, “The Joke Man: Bow to Stern,” Martling gives Stern fans insight into some of the show’s greatest moments.
On Tuesday, Oct. 24, at 7 p.m., Martling will meet and greet folks at a Book Revue signing in Huntington where he will share some of his spicy jokes and maybe even let out that familiar cackle. He spoke with Newsday’s David J. Criblez.
How did you come together with Howard?
I sent him a set of my stand-up records in 1982. He called me up and I spent a day with him in February of 1983. He said, “You’re a lot of fun, come back next week.” For three years I did that for free, but I was getting promoted on WNBC. When he got fired and went to K-Rock, I had been passing him notes. It was so gradual from sitting in and laughing to passing notes. When he was going to mornings on K-Rock, he called me up and said, “I need a price for you two days a week. I want you to come in and do your thing with the notes.” That was our entire business conversation for 15 years.
Did you guys socialize much outside the show?
I hosted several events at my house. The first Fourth of July when I was on the air the whole crew came including Howard. My father and mother were sitting in lawn chairs in the backyard. I said, “Howard, you’ve got to meet my old man.” We walked back there and I said, “Pop, this is Howard. Howard, this my father.” My father reached out to shake his hand and said, “So nice to meet you Mr. Cosell!” Howard turned to me and said, “He’s your father all right.”
Your exit from the show was legendary. Did you address that in the book?
Yes, I put everything in there about my salary when I left, what I asked for and what really happened. I want people to know the true story. There’s not an exaggerated or false word. So many people think I walked out leaving them high and dry like all of sudden I just didn’t show up on a Monday. I had walked out like three or four times. Each time they knew I wasn’t coming in. I left because I didn’t get my contract or because they wouldn’t negotiate with me. I’m a good soldier. For 15 years I was there in my seat at 6 a.m. every day with very few exceptions.
Were you surprised by Howard’s move to satellite radio in 2006?
I always thought the fact that we went right up to the censor line made the show. I never thought he’d go to Sirius because the whole show was dancing around the rules.
Do you feel people will suspect this is a tell-all book?
Of course they are going to immediately think it’s got to be a tell-all. I’m sure some people are going to say, “Jackie wrote a trashy book,” without reading a page. That’s a barrier that was going to be there no matter what I did. It’s meant to be a memoir that goes deeper on stories fans already know but it’s not negative. There’s going to be a lot of people saying, “Man, you didn’t spill any beans on the Stern Show or about Howard.” Other people are going to say, “Man, what a backstabber! You said so much stuff about the show.” Hopefully, it will start some kind of dialogue.
Do you think Howard will read it?
I think he’d have to read it out of curiosity. I don’t know if he will address it on the air but it’s the elephant in the room. I have not heard from him at all. There are a couple of stories in there I’m sure he’s not going to be thrilled about, but tough noogies.