It's not as though Sirius Satellite shock jock Howard Stern has been taking credit for Sanjaya Malakar's startling longevity on the sixth season of Fox's "American Idol," but boy, would he like to.
That's right, folks — Malakar has himself an unlikely campaigner in the "King of All Media," who's been advising his fans to vote in jest for the first contestant of Indian descent to make it into the show's top 12.
Stern — a self-professed "Idol" junkie, much to the chagrin of his mostly male audience and buoyant sidekick, funnyman Artie Lange — has thrown his full support behind the 17-year-old finalist, considered by many to be this season's underdog. The mediocre Malakar has evoked comparisons to third-season hopeful William Hung, and each week, he finds himself accused of slaughtering yet another song.
And that's precisely why Stern would like to see Sanjaya assume the "Idol" title from the affable, salt-and-pepper-pelted Taylor Hicks. Of course Stern's espousal is largely disingenuous; after calling Malakar his "favorite contestant" recently, Stern confessed he'd like to see Sanjaya win because he's the least talented of this year's finalists.
Likewise, Malakar is the "Idol" aspirant of choice on the Web site VotefortheWorst.com, which encourages its visitors to vote for the show's least talented contestants in hopes of ultimately swaying the final vote and derailing the reality-TV franchise altogether. On Tuesday (March 20), Stern interviewed VotefortheWorst.com founder Dave Della Terza about his Malakar mission.
Stern — who has theorized Malakar's staying power on the show has hinged on phoned-in votes from India — may just be doing all of this to raise the ire of regular caller and resident "Idol" expert Eric Lynch, known to fans as "Eric the Midget."
Lynch, who claims he has been voting for 27-year-old Lakisha Jones, fears Malakar's inclusion on this summer's impending "American Idol" tour and promises to call Stern and gloat the second Sanjaya is given the old heave-ho. Stern has said he's even toying with the idea of sending show writer Benjy Bronk out on the streets of Manhattan with a sign, urging the public to vote for Sanjaya.
With more than 6 million subscribers signing up for Sirius Satellite service since his arrival, it's possible Stern's influence will be felt. But Maria Milito — a New York radio host who appeared on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" earlier this month, touting herself as the " 'American Idol' Princess" — doubts Stern's audience is carrying out his orders.
"I don't think that he can do this," she said. "Compared to the days when he was on free radio, it's different now. I don't think [Malakar is still in contention] because of Howard. I think [Malakar will get booted] eventually — this kid won't last."
While an improbable campaign, Stern did mobilize his audience enough to land repeat guest Hank the Angry Drunken Dwarf onto People magazine's list of most beautiful people in 1998. Stern called on his audience to vote for Hank, and they inadvertently hijacked the poll, giving him the edge over Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and others.
Only time will tell if the supposed "Stern Effect," a term coined to reflect the subscription growth attributed to Stern's joining Sirius, will influence who stays and who goes on "Idol." One thing's for certain: Lynch is licking his chops and hoping for sweet revenge.