Today Howard Stern did the impossible: he made me care about Ozzie Osborne. Don’t really know who the guy is, haven’t listened to his music, and I couldn’t care less about his reality show or what he has to say—when I can understand what he’s saying. Today I turned in to hear Howard interviewing Ozzie about his new autobiography. I was just about to switch to All Things Considered when Howard pushed the interview in a direction that had me riveted: he asked Ozzie about the 19 times he failed his driving exam. It’s not the kind of thing most interviewers would latch onto, but Howard must have sensed there was comic gold there.
“How do you fail a driving test 19 times?” Howard asked.
Ozzie then told the story of showing up high, or drunk, of having instructors refuse to get into a car with him—it wasn’t an anecdote, it was a whole movie. Howard has that ability to push into places in interviews where a great, untold story lies hidden, and draw it out. Part of it I think is his talent as an entertainer, his sense that what interests him will interest his audience. But deeper than that is his sense of curiosity, driving him to go beyond almost all other print or on air interviewers would go.
When I interviewed the great Israeli novelist Amos Oz earlier this year, he said the key to his talent is just that, curiosity. It drives one to a deeper understanding of oneself and the world and makes for great art… and great radio.