Jimmy Kimmel, host of Jimmy Kimmel Live, will be a guest on tonight’s episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. While the two hosts have very similar jobs, they could not be farther apart in terms of their awareness of the diversifying American media landscape.
This summer, Kimmel decided to pick an unnecessary, multi-episode fight with the video game community. The feud culminated in Kimmel having popular online gaming personalities Markiplier and MissesMae on his show in an attempt to mend fences – and stop the mean YouTube comments – but even that got condescending when Kimmel and his guests engaged in an awkward three-way hug that ended with Kimmel suggesting they should “try being around other humans every once in a while.”
On Tuesday’s episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, the musical guest wasn’t a stylish indie rock band with an album to promote. It was The Legend Of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses, a 74-piece orchestra who performs music from Nintendo’s iconic video game series. Earlier this month, one of Colbert’s conversation partners was Sean Murray, who doesn’t have a new film or TV series on the horizon: Murray is one of the creators of the upcoming space exploration video game No Man’s Sky, and he guided Colbert through a live gameplay demo on air. PewDiePie, YouTube’s most popular gaming personality and highest-earning user, also guested on The Late Show a few weeks ago.
Kimmel still sees gamers as awkward, non-athletic, basement-dwelling nerds who forgot long ago what fresh air and human interaction feel like – a dated stereotype that has been proven to be inaccurate. Colbert, who has been praised for breaking new ground in late night TV, understands that video games have become the fourth pillar of entertainment – alongside movies, TV and music –and that this large and expanding audience deserves proportionate recognition.
It is estimated that the revenues of the video game industry worldwide will reach about $91.5bn when 2015 comes to an end, while live and recorded music revenues are estimated at about $47bn, movies at around $104bn, and television subscriptions at well over $200bn.
Conan O’Brien also understands that video games are a legitimate entertainment medium and has taken steps to demonstrate it. Conan hosts has its own weekly livestreaming program and a favourite recurring sketch on the show is Clueless Gamer – but it is Colbert who is the bridge between nerd culture and “what’s cool”. He became one of television’s biggest personalities on The Colbert Report, all while challenging James Franco to JRR Tolkien trivia contests and starring in a comic book series, and his profile has only expanded since taking over for David Letterman at CBS.
Most importantly, despite being the oldest host in late night television at 51, Colbert relates to his young, video game-playing audience – one of the youngest in late night – because he is a self-proclaimed nerd who understands that his interests didn’t always demand widespread attention like they do now, and that his nerd peers, the early adopters of the new normal, deserve their time in the spotlight.
“I was a nerd when nerd was nerd,” he told Time in August. “OK? All right? There was no reward. No one catered to us. We weren’t a demographic. We were a punching bag and a punch line. There was a movie called Revenge of the Nerds because the nerds needed revenge because of all of the things that were happening to them. That’s a cultural artifact that people need to understand.”
While talking to Markiplier and MissesMae, Kimmel showed some humility and admitted that he is “old” and “out of touch”, but Colbert has proven that being older is no excuse for being out of touch, especially when having a firm understanding of popular interests is such a crucial part of your job.
Some talk show hosts may struggle to adapt to the evolving tastes of their audience, but CBS can rest easy knowing that its Late Show leader knows what the kids are into … even is he remembers what it was like when the Atari 2600 was released.