Comedian Jackie “The Joke Man” Martling was the head writer for The Howard Stern Show from 1986-2001. Martling says he was earning just shy of $578,000 and decided to ask for an average of $1 million over five years. K-Rock’s general manager Tom Chiusano offered $611,000 and finally bumped it up to $650,000 although he admits he would have settled for $800,000.
K-Rock gave Martling a deadline and warned that if it wasn’t signed the deal was off the table. Martling writes that his lawyer advised him to not go into work so he emailed Stern to let him know he wouldn’t be in that Monday, the rest is history.
Now, in his new book, “The Joke Man: Bow to Stern,” Martling gives Stern fans insights into some of the show’s greatest moments.
Do you think Howard will read your book?
“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.”
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.”
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.”