Behind The Mask: Colbert, KISS And Character

April 11, 2014

Well, Internet, you got what you wanted: Stephen Colbert will replace David Letterman as the host of “The Late Show” in 2015.

The real Stephen Colbert.

The real Stephen Colbert.

I can’t imagine what this change will mean for “Stephen Colbert” as we know him. He’ll leave behind a decade-long run as one of Comedy Central’s mainstays, but he’ll also abandon the persona that made him endlessly appealing as a host. He won’t be the blowhard patriot unafraid to call out those great threats to American life—liberals, Doritos and rampant bears. The Colbert who inherits CBS’s flagship spot will not be the Stephen who launched Colbert Nation.

In fact, Colbert’s hire strikes me as a little odd. It’s almost like opening a daycare center based on your experience in the military. Colbert’s former character will have little bearing on his future job, but it got me thinking: What if some of the great personae in pop culture were given the chance to show their true passions?

Gene Simmons, class warrior. We know Gene Simmons as the man who takes almost pornographic pleasure in making money. He’s happily sold an entire lifetime—and afterlife—of products to a willing Kiss Army, but few would expect The Demon to be a fervent supporter of the Occupy movement in private. Simmons, who has advocated suing file-sharing users in the past, frequently posts jeremiads about smashing banks and “radical action” to anarchist message boards under the name “MusicFromThaElder.” Who knew?

Banksy, the straphanger. We don’t know who Banksy is — if you believe “Exit Through The Gift Shop,” we kind of do — but that’s because he’s just like the rest of us. “The whole street art thing is just what I do after work,” the level-headed accountant says. Fast Horse sources can confirm he rides the Tube to and from his mid-level financial job each day. “Visual puns may be what the world knows me for,” he says, “but I can just destroy some SQL queries. You don’t even want to know.”

Lady Gaga, the lowbrow. Though her costumes and ideas grow progressively “artier,” Stefani Germanotta says she doesn’t actually “get” what she’s doing. “Funnily enough, my favorite movie is ‘The Hangover Part 2,’” she says. “I think my finest work was ‘Macaroni Plate’, an exploration of space and texture I did in first grade.” Decade-old quizzes on Myspace reveal that her favorite wardrobe item is “sweatpants” and her ideal date-night dining is “frozen pizza – the fancy kind!!!” Huh.

Diamond Dallas Page, yoga instructor. Oh, wait. This already happened.

Insane Clown Posse, youth social workers. Yes, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope are at the epicenter of what the FBI calls a “gang,” but they’re doing their best to turn the tide. During their tours, they often speak to at-risk kids about the dangers of drug use, misogyny and gang activity. Their heartwarming social work is sadly ignored—their research in theoretical physics and magnetism rocked the Internet a few years back. Oh, well. I guess people don’t want to read good news.