Bubba Back: And This Time, He's Nationwide
Because I had to meet the Times' early deadlines for entertainment copy, I dipped in and out of Bubba the Love sponge's first satellite radio show for Sirius Monday.
Like his big boss Howard Stern, Bubba seemed to have a little difficulty getting started, repeatedly apologizing for feeling a bit rusty after nearly two years out of the radio game. He kicked off Monday's drive time show (4 p.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays) for Stern's Howard 101 channel promising to dish about Clear Channel once his settlement with them expires in about three weeks -- until then, he's getting two paychecks, one from Sirius and one from Clear Channel; I want his agent!
In the first hour, Bubba spent a lot of time thanking Stern for rescuing his career. When we talked last month about how this would unfold, Bubba told me he was using the checks from Clear Channel to keep paying his crew and hold his team together until they could find work elsewhere -- but his firing from Tampa's WXTB-97.9 FM in February 2004 has made him virtually unemployable in the terrestrial radio industry.
Oddly enough, Bubba seemed to ease into his new, uncensored environment a bit easier than Stern, inviting porn star Shay Sweet into his studio to show off his talents at certain oral activities and playing uncensored parody songs that could only air in heavily edited form on his earlier shows (he also promised to broadcast uncensored versions of the bits that brought hefty federal fines in terrestrial radio, including the skit portraying cartoons characters George Jetson and Scooby Doo searching for drugs and hookers)
Over his time on air Monday, Bubba took calls from Hulk Hogan and the King of All Media himself, who warmed to the idea of occasionally switching timeslots with Bubba in a way terrestrial jocks would never consider (see Bubba's fan web site here). It was a pairing that Bubba predicted might happen soon after he was fired, though he has since admitted to me that was mostly wishful thinking back then.
I didn't listen to Bubba much before he was fired, so I don't know if this is a recent transition. But I always remembered Bubba as an odd mix of redneck bluster and wanna-be hip hop swagger. He used a lot of patter from hip hop culture and threw around the b-word with abandon. But Monday's show was a much different vibe -- with Bubba emphasizing his redneck roots and talking up such blue collar staples as race car driving, wrestling and, of course, porn stars.
Standard critic's disclaimer here: I've never been a big proponent of the knuckleheaded material shock jocks like Bubba and Stern traffic in. Too often their shows come across as a cavalcade of losers, encouraging the worst sort of misogyny, race-baiting and ignorance.
But seeing this material move off the open radio spectrum to a pay service makes alot of sense to me -- allowing these guys to do what they do, unfettered, in a medium where their fans can find them, while leaving the publicly-owned airwaves free from such caustic material.