Patton Oswalt is many things. Grammy and Emmy-winning stand-up, Twitter legend, beleaguered principal, giant supervillain head, imaginary flying horse, the occasional hive-mind, a rat—the guy’s versatile. But fans know that Oswalt is, above all things, an omni-purpose geek. From comics, to music, to good movies and TV, to so-bad-they’re-good movies and TV, Oswalt’s your guy. So he was left gobsmacked on Thursday’s Late Show when fellow nerd (especially of the J.R.R. Tolkien variety) Stephen Colbert responded to Oswalt’s suggestion that the next book he read aloud to beloved 10-year-old daughter Alice be The Hobbit. (The father-daughter duo just finished their years-long read-aloud of the entire Harry Potter series, an event captured in adorable detail on film by Oswalt’s wife, Meredith Salenger.) “Eh,” interjected Colbert in passing, not that Oswalt was about to let that middling assessment from late-night television’s most noted (not to say braggy) Tolkien expert just pass by unnoticed like Bilbo and the Dwarves sailing along in barrels on the river to Lake Town.
“Your Twitter mentions are going to go into the toilet,” exclaimed Oswalt, as soon as he regained the power of speech. Colbert was unbending, though, telling his incredulous guest that, while The Hobbit is cute and all (actually, he mentioned a half dozen suitably obscure things he likes about it), it doesn’t have “the high style and language” of Colbert’s beloved Lord Of The Rings. Citing that time Colbert (or “Colbert”) turned guest James Franco into petrified troll dust for daring to come into Colbert’s house talking Silmarillion smack, Oswalt (technically there in support of his new stand-up tour) wasn’t about to throw down for real, but he at least got the host to concede that Alice is just the right age to enjoy The Hobbit’s more homely charms. Plus, Stephen King is totally out for Alice at this point, as Oswalt explained how his parents allowed him to read Cujo and The Stand way, way too young. Eh, he’s doin’ fine.