Initially John Melendez got famous for his disability, then recognized for his hilarity. Known as “Stuttering John” from “The Howard Stern Show,” this Massapequa native started as Stern’s flunky intern and became an on-air contributor, which he writes about in his new memoir, “Easy for You to Say.”
“The people from the show who have written books, in my estimation, didn’t give the fans what they want,” says Melendez, 53. “I’m going to pull back the curtain and say how it was.”
Melendez was a “Stern Show” intern who rose to fame conducting man-on-the-street style interviews with celebrities, asking them outrageous questions while verbally stumbling due to his speech impediment.
“In my fourth-grade report card, the teacher said, ‘John tends to ask outrageous and penetrating questions in class and stutters when excited,’ ” says Melendez. “It was a natural job for me. I’ll always ask anything. I don’t have a problem with it.”
One of his most infamous moments came at a 1989 press conference when he asked drummer Ringo Starr, “What did you do with the money?" The ex-Beatle responded, “What money?” Melendez replied, “The money your mother gave you for singing lessons.”
When interviewing the Dalai Lama, Melendez asked, “What was it like to wake up one day and realize that you were God?”
While he scored a lot of laughs, Melendez caught heat from Stern, who would often badger him on the air.
“Howard would laugh at my jokes one day and the next day I’m called a loser, told all I do is stutter and without him I’m nobody,” recalls Melendez. “As thick as your skin can be, it’s not an easy thing to take. If there were no guests booked, I’d be in fear of getting the verbal abuse and leave with tears in my eyes.”
After a run on the reality show “I’m a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here!,” Melendez broke away from Stern in 2004, heading for greener pastures as the announcer on “The Tonight Show Starring Jay Leno," where he also wrote and appeared in sketches.
“I think it bothered Howard that I was accepted nationally outside of the ‘Stern Show,’ ” says Melendez. “I got to show my real colors as opposed to just asking goofy questions.”
In the book, Melendez accuses the satellite radio-era Stern of being hypocritical.
“He’s become everything that he once goofed on,” says Melendez. “All those years Howard was beating up on celebrities because he wanted to be one of them.” (Stern’s representative did not reply to a Newsday request for comment.)
This past summer on his self-titled podcast Melendez, made national news when he prank-called President Donald Trump posing as New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez.
“I wanted to talk to the president about immigration reform and his Supreme Court justice pick,” says Melendez. “I don’t sound senatorial, I sound janitorial! Who knew it was easier to get a hold of the president than my agent?”