Don’t Judge Me Right Away: I Think Howard Stern is an Artist

When I came to the US, and started my job in the New York area I was faced with long driving distances. I never minded that, I love to drive. It relaxes me, and I had the opportunity to do this outside of regular hours, so traffic jams were not something that really bothered me. I didn’t mind living quite a distance away from my work, I preferred it. It gave me time to unwind when driving home, and time to get in the working mood and wake up in the early morning.

But there was a problem, keeping myself entertained while I drove the distance for about three hours a day. Radio killed me, because out of the two hours I listened more than one hour to commercials. And the music on my iPod, even though it was quite a lot, became very repetitive at one moment. Until a colleague of mine advised me to buy a Sirius Satellite Radio. I did some research and soon found out that there were two satellite radio providers back then; Sirius and XM. In all the reviews XM seemed to get the better ratings, but she convinced me to try out Sirius. Also, she mentioned, because you could then also get Howard Stern on it, because he just had signed up with the radio station.

Howard Stern? I did not know the guy, but somehow I remembered his movie poster for his movie Private Parts, and he seemed like an arrogant bastard who had his ego way too high up in his head. I did not know him, he was practically unknown in Europe, so I had nothing to base my judgment on, but I did not like the guy.

But she convinced me to buy Sirius, got the radio that same day, installed it and soon enough I got familiar with it and had my favorite set of channels. Life on the road got better again. Until even then you sometimes want something different. And one morning, switching through another set of channels to see which one would suit me, I actually came across this voice that immediately entranced me, and although the subject was nothing interesting, it fascinated me the way it was brought on the air. And, I’ll be damned, this was Howard Stern.

And from that moment on, I became a fan. In a split-second, I had changed my mind. And while I listened more, the more I enjoyed the show, also because it delivered me new content to listen to on a daily basis, and for more than the three hours I needed for my daily commute. I never had experienced radio like this, that even then after arriving at my destination, I wanted to sit in the car a little bit longer just so to hear what was going on.

But in the end, it was not the content, it was not the personality or vulgarity that people claim it makes people like or dislike Mr. Stern, it was for me that he clearly has been the only one who was so comfortable in his own world on radio that he made it his own.

When someone not only thinks, but knows he or she is good at something, and shows that comfort and has created his audience all because of quality instead of marketing, you hit something unique. It is an artist at work. Yes, I did call Mr. Stern an artist, simply because he is able to create a huge amount of production purely out of passion, for others to take in, and done uncontrolled.

Having been taught at the art academy myself for Interaction Design in the early ’90s, one thing you learn early enough is that someone is an artist who can create a creative product out of passion, instead of commercial purposes, unrelated to the effect it has on an audience. This does not mean that a true artist is someone who lives a live of starvation and anarchy, defying everything that the society likes to consider as rules; it means that an artist creates, unrelated to how the audience responds. Art does not mean it cannot be a commercial success. Steven Spielberg is a real artist, Martin Scorsese, Walt Disney… and many more. Even though they ended up to become very wealthy persons, commercially very successful, their careers started unrelated to the financial success, often risking everything to follow their dreams. And I consider, knowing a bit now about the history of Mr. Stern, Mr Stern indeed an artist.

I do not always agree with his opinions, nor do I think his work is of the best technical or professional quality… but it keeps me listening. I want to hear the end of an interview, even if it is with someone I don’t know or care about. It is not the ‘polished’ quality that makes a production good, it is the experience. Usually, when I hear a subject on radio or tv that I don’t care about, I switch channels. Here, it is different. I was one of the people who absolutely could not care anything about Lady Gaga, thought she was obnoxious and her music mediocre at best, and probably another would-be singer in the pop-genre. Until I heard her perform on the Howard Stern show last year, where she gave a stellar performance of ‘The Edge of Glory’ that lasted such an impression that I absolutely think she is an amazing musician and an interesting personality.

This is what I miss on the internet. You have amazing books, music, movies, television that really moves you. That takes you on a ride that you really enjoy. I don’t see this too much yet on the web. The web is still considered, I guess, a place to go to be ‘functional’. To learn about the news, companies, your friends. It is more to get ‘up-to-date’ or ‘stay-in-touch’. But not yet the thing where something amazing is happening.

Don’t get me wrong, there are amazing blog-writers, journalists and artists and production companies working on the web. And some pearls of sites. But I mean, the web is not yet used as a blank canvas, for an artist to rise to make it its own. It is not about drive-by information like Twitter or Facebook. It is about something unique, and addictive, and something that creates awe.

Maybe internet is still too young to really have that going on. Maybe doing these kind of things are still too difficult to achieve if you are not really familiar with the technical layer. And that it will only take time for this to happen. That Internet is not only an information platform, but really something completely on its own.

I am looking forward to that. Just like to Mr. Stern’s debut on AGT later this month (May 24th, NBC).


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