In 2006, an unknown named Olivia Munn began hosting a program on game-centric network G4. Five years later, she’s sitting on Dave Letterman’s sofa and readying her sitcom debut. Olivia Munn is a new breed, that stretches beyond the US.
Born in Oklahoma but growing up (and modelling) in Tokyo, Munn went on to cut her teeth in the straight-to-video horror flick Scarecrow Gone Wild as “Girl #1”. By 2006, she was hosting on G4’s Attack of the Show!, eating hot dogs and cosplaying as Chun-Li (as well as talking video games).
While games might not have been Munn’s strong point initially, she worked hard on her comedy at G4, which won her both fans and detractors. But while many cable network co-host languish and then vanish, Munn kept chipping away, with a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it movie appearance here and a more substantial appearance here.
A nudity-free Playboy photo shoot, which sounds like it was no fun ensued, and the Munn express was picking up steam. She released a best-selling geeky memoir, is preparing her own magazine, is a regular on The Daily Show and is set to star in new sitcom Perfect Couples, appearing on David Letterman last night to promote the show.
Munn might not be the best comedian, she might not even be the best-looking television host and she might not be the greatest actress, but she’s plucky, she works hard, and she knows how to get attention – three skills that are golden.
Yet Munn is not alone. Her story is similar to that of Japanese celebrities Shoko Nakagawa and Suzanne, who started out as otaku idols, but later hit the mainstream. These idols differ from other female celebrities in that they either reveled in their geekdom or had a strong nerd pedigree.
Sure, once they hit the mainstream, they might have broken ties with their nerd past – talent Suzanne left her “fujoshi” girl group, and Nakagawa appears as a “regular” celebrity in shampoo ads as opposed to a manga reading nerd who sticks her cat’s head in her mouth. Unlike her Japanese counterparts, Munn’s shtick is crasser, with the young actress peppering her bits with sexual innuendo. Blame American cable television for that?
Without the internet, this wouldn’t be possible. In many ways, the internet created and bred these celebrities, and since the internet is global, the trend is as well. In year’s past, celebrities like Munn might have played up their love of sports or fashion in their hopes appealing to fans. Those were the days before we were all online. These days, it’s about hitting that geek nerve before hitting the mainstream. Munn did it, and good for her.
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