Saturday, June 9, 2018

Howard Stern On Letterman On Netflix | Lefsetz Letter

Netflix is a club.

Just like Howard Stern’s radio show. Occasionally Howard makes news, mostly while interviewing celebrities, the gossip columns go wild, but mostly if you don’t listen, you’ve got no idea what’s going on.

But those who do…

Kind of like Netflix.

Now some news outlets noted that Howard’s appearance was going live last week. But I saw no reviews. It wasn’t deemed NEWS! That’s right, despite all the hype about the internet, the Long Tail, the major and the minor, the truth is something different. We’ve returned to the sixties. There’s a burgeoning underground, even though those in control of the major media outlets deny this.

Kind of like network television. Kind of like Fox. Kind of like Disney.

If you read the so-called news outlets, Howard Stern’s radio show doesn’t exist. And despite the appearance of Obama on Letterman’s Netflix debut, the follow-up episodes had no fallout in the culture.

Unless you were a member of the club.

Now pay attention here. This is very important. This is the now, this is the FUTURE!

The MTV generation, the monoculture paradigm, existed for so long, dominated for so long, that most still see the world through that lens. But that’s over.

You can see this in politics. Where not only do we have different opinions, they’re fed to us by different news outlets, most people don’t even cross sides to see what the others think. Why should it be any different in entertainment?

What its competitors don’t realize is Netflix has established a clubhouse. No different from the one in “The Little Rascals.” You watched that show, right? You had a crush on Darla, Miss Crabtree, you loved Spanky and Alfalfa, BUT IT WAS A KID THING! Kinda like Nickelodeon, kinda like MTV itself, but now EVERYTHING’S A KID THING!

We’re not even reacting to the mainstream, we’re just going our own way.

So my car is in the shop, and I cannot listen to Howard, the loaner doesn’t have Sirius. So I’m listening to terrestrial radio, the non-comm stations, you can’t listen to the for profit ones, they’re too jive, there are too many commercials, but as you listen to KCRW and KCSN you realize they have communities. So when I go to a show and wonder how everybody found out, the manager or the promoter says PUBLIC RADIO!

But I’m out of the loop. I don’t have time. I’ve got to listen to Howard. I feel part of that club.

And I lament that I have less time to listen to music, but Howard has hooked me, and millions more.

So the movie business is dominated by Marvel movies, superheroes. But the truth is there’s a huge swath of the public who will never ever go to see one. Reading the news reports would have you believe otherwise, but it’s just like hip-hop. Hip-hop is the biggest musical genre, but no one forces you to listen to it, most people have never even heard Kanye West, EVER!

Once again, the news media tells us otherwise.

But the news media doesn’t like this. Because the news media believes if they don’t report on it, it didn’t happen. But what we’ve realized in the past ten years is oftentimes stories are broken online.

Now, forget about alternative news sources. Real news costs money. So we’ve got clickbait and gossip. But the truth is even that doesn’t get much attention, we’re all down in our little niches.

So I feel proud when I watch some show on Netflix, the same way I felt proud watching W.C. Fields films back in the sixties. They weren’t for everybody, just a few of us, and we felt good being a member of the club.

Appealing to everybody is death. That’s how network television got into this problem.

So if you’re playing for world domination… There’s no world to dominate, there’s no one place everybody’s paying attention. You’ve got to realize your audience is limited. And you must either build your own club or join another. If you’re on Howard Stern, you’re a star in his hemisphere, you’re a made man or woman. If you’re on “Stranger Things” or even…

But the media is slow to everything on Netflix. They didn’t realize “Stranger Things” was a phenomenon, they had to wait until parents reacted to “13 Reasons Why” to weigh in. And Netflix didn’t blink, because it has to be true to its audience, not some judge and jury outside the paywall.

Sure, HBO gets ink, but when it comes to Amazon and Hulu and Netflix…

Same deal with music. Just look at the festivals. Most of them ARE NOT hip-hop dominated, even though some of the big ones are. Proving the audience wants more.

Also, the festivals have become bigger than the acts, they’re clubs in their own right. Coachella sustains, the acts come and go. And the experience is similar no matter who plies the boards.

So you’re waiting for acknowledgement, you’re waiting for approval, you’re waiting for some committee to anoint you, most often the mainstream media.

But you’ve already made it.

And those playing the publicity game, the hype game, spamming, fall flat on their face. In a narrow, monoculture world we all pay attention to the few morsels that come our way. In an infinite world, we ignore them, or view them like a drive-by car wreck, interesting for a second, but they don’t stick with us.

P.S. If you’re a Stern fan, you won’t learn much new here, because Howard is so honest on his show. Which is a good thing, which is what made him. Although to see him visually imitate his parents is priceless.

P.P.S. Be sure to stay to the end, when Letterman goes to Utah to explore the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which Trump eviscerated protection of. Letterman’s taking a stand, one view of the landscape will close you, but chances are you were closed already. This is the echo chamber. But Letterman is now more honest, he even uses the F-word, you’re bonded to him in a way you never were before, he may be playing to fewer people, but he has more impact. And he realizes the old game is dead. SNL gets all the ink, but it’s a circle jerk for the New York media elite. And the show’s main problem, other than rarely being funny, is that we no longer share the same reference points, we don’t get the jokes because we don’t know the backstory, we’re all deep into our own clubs. This is the way it is now.

P.P.P.S. Netflix recently added a bonus episode of Seinfeld interviewing Letterman, recorded live at Raleigh Studios, which I attended and wrote about here. I have not seen a single article about the availability of this show in big time media, never mind a review, you’ve got to be a Netflix subscriber and a Letterman fan to find it, AND IT’S WORTH IT! But even more, it proves my point…you’re either a member of the club or you’re not. And FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) is so last decade, nobody can see, watch and experience everything. You’ve made your choices, you’re open to new things, but you’re already overbooked so it’s hard for new things to break through. Which is why if you’re a producer, it’s best to be a member of a club.


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