The video is supposedly of a young woman recording herself practicing provocative “twerking” moves, which all go wrong. Her roommate enters the room and knocks her onto a glass coffee table covered in mood-setting candles, and her yoga pants catch fire.
Except it really didn’t happen. The girl in question was played by a professional stuntwoman. Kimmel has previously done stuff like this, including pranks and comedy bits with Matt Damon and ex-girlfriend Sarah Silverman.
Do up-and-coming late-night hosts need to do similar things to juice viewer interest? Yes and no. (Conan O’Brien, for example, is known for his interesting tweets.)
Kimmel’s current YouTube video -- which doesn’t feature Kimmel -- has gotten more than 11 million views since it posted last week on Sept. 3. It contained no mention, of course, of Kimmel’s involvement. But there was plenty of suspicion.
So there aren’t any metrics that point to causality of higher traditional TV ratings.
For example, Kimmel’s preliminary Nielsen numbers didn’t change much over the week. On Wednesday, Sept. 4, preliminary Nielsen viewing numbers were a 1.8 rating/5 share in households, and a 0.7 rating /3 share among 18-49 viewers. On Thursday, Sept. 5, Kimmel’s household numbers were a 1.6 rating/4 share, with a 0.4 rating/ 2 share among 18-49 viewers.
On Friday, Sept. 6, when an encore show ran, household numbers were a 1.9 rating/5, with a 0.6/3 among 18-49ers. On Monday, Sept. 9, the show had a household rating of 1.9/5, with a 0.8/4 among 18-49 viewers; and on Tuesday, Sept. 10, delayed by a Presidential address, a 1.8/5 home rating/share data and a 0.7/4 among 18-49 viewers.
TV comedy writers should consider YouTube a testing ground to work on material -- kind of off-Broadway or when a big -time comedian goes into a small club to test material -- as well as a a place to keep writers off the streets and out of trouble.
Kimmel says the latest stunt was to “to keep my writers interested... [to] come up with a video idea that would make national news without using the muscle of the show, our Facebook page, Twitter or YouTube channel.”
Why wouldn’t someone want to use that marketing muscle? I guess it’s more fun this way – and also finally includes the release of a “director’s cut” that showed Kimmel at the end of the video coming in with a fire extinguisher.
You want some marketing spin? “Viral” videos, helped by word-of-mouth marketing, can always bee more powerful (more authentic? More honest?) than anything constructed and heavily pitched ahead of time to viewers. The Internet has delivered just that for years.
For network comedians and writers, it’s stuff that can done without the constraints of traditional TV restrictions. But, after the fact, you can reveal all.