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article imageThe Daily Show's Hilarious British Invasion

By David Silverberg     Jul 5, 2008 in Entertainment
John Oliver gives The Daily Show with Jon Stewart a generous dose of British sauciness. In an interview with DigitalJournal.com, Oliver reveals what he loves about his dream job and why an upcoming stand-up gig will appeal to Daily Show fans.
Digital Journal — The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been invaded by the British. Well, one Brit to be precise. John Oliver is the satirical talk show’s foreign correspondent, literally: born in England, Oliver is the outsider looking into American politics and culture, offering Daily Show viewers an intriguing perspective to U.S. events. As a comedian, he’s gut-busting funny. He uses physical comedy whenever possible. As a journalist, he’s as hapless as his fellow Daily Show correspondents baring their silly bone to the world.
In an interview with DigitalJournal.com, Oliver, 29, explained what got him interested in comedy and how The Daily Show is feeding his creativity. He is also bringing his stand-up act to fans, arriving in Toronto on July 26 for a Just for Laughs gala special. Since he joined The Daily Show two years ago, Oliver has been incredibly busy in the comedy business, and he doesn’t want this dream job to float away.
“I don’t know if I’m come to terms with this job,” Oliver says. “I still catch myself walking away from the studio wondering if this fantasy will end. But I don’t want tempt fate by thinking too much about it.”
Just as well, because Oliver brings a bubbly and flippant personality to The Daily Show’s stable of funny men. One video will show him seriously interviewing drunk fans at a New York Giants parade, looking nonplussed as kids puke next to him. Another segment takes advantage of Oliver’s roots as he humourously discusses a London flood and rescue efforts relating to donated scones. There’s a blend of sharp writing, acerbic commentary and blatant silliness in Oliver’s work.
As a writer on the show, Oliver enjoys mixing it up as often as possible. “We don’t want to create dense polemic every day because that would be boring to watch,” he notes. “Politics should always be treated with a form of comedy.”
Oliver says he contributes to the show by giving a unique British perspective to American news. “In comedy, it always helps to be an outsider. And we used to run the world, so there’s some respect for the British.” As expected, his wily humour leaks out in supposedly honest statements. Oliver doesn’t like playing the straight man for too long.
It’s a trademark trait he picked up in Cambridge University, where he was studying English but soon found himself immersed in a sketch troupe that gave birth to the careers of some Monty Python members. Even before academia Oliver was “the wisecracking kid in the classroom” and admitted he must’ve been an irritating teen who spent his energies on making everyone laugh.
John Oliver also does stand-up routines
On his role as part of the team of writers at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: “We don’t want to create dense polemic every day because that would be boring to watch.”
Courtesy Just for Laughs
Oliver isn’t sure how his meteoric rise to Comedy Central fame came about; after all, he didn’t audition for The Daily Show but instead got the phone call suddenly. “I was floored, I didn’t see it coming,” Oliver remembers. He is certain his partner in comedic crime Ricky Gervais (of The Office fame) recommended him to Jon Stewart.
His popularity on The Daily Show has attracted Hollywood’s interest. He was recently cast in Mike Myer’s latest vehicle, The Love Guru, but Oliver deflects any ideas that more producers will come calling. “It was a one-time booty call,” he says. “I’m certainly not an actor.”
But Oliver is likeable. It’s a quality that becomes apparent when he cracks up slightly during live interview with Stewart. And his personality comes through in his stand-up routines, most recently showcased in his Comedy Central special Terrifying Times. He also bringing his routine to Toronto’s Just for Laughs festival, but Oliver admits he has written material yet for his solo act.
So what can audiences expect? “The subject matter will be similar to what I don The Daily Show,” he hints. “I call it an infantile oversimplification of important issues.” He adds a small warning: “If you hate The Daily Show, you’ll hate my stand-up.”
For a good sense of Oliver’s casual style of comedy, it’s worth hearing his weekly podcasts with friend Andy Zaltzman. The Bugle is available on the Times website and features the headlines of the week sidekicked with off-the-cuff commentary. Oliver and Zaltzman try to make each other laugh, and the result is a charming duet of silly repartee.
Oliver is enjoying two weeks off The Daily Show but when to New York, he expects the work to come fast and heavy. He and the Daily Show team will be covering both Democratic and Republican conventions in the summer, dishing out live coverage and interviews nightly. “It will be intense but it’ll be good stuff,” he says.
In light of Stephen Colbert ascending from Daily Show correspondent to talk show giant, is a John Oliver spinoff in the cards? He laughs. “Outside of the cards from a tarot card woman? No. To pull off something like The Colbert Report requires a lot more time and work at The Daily Show.” He pauses. “And I’ll need to understand the production side a lot better and right now I’m loving the process of creating The Daily Show every day.”
John Oliver will perform his stand-up routine on Saturday July 26 at Massey Hall in Toronto. Other acts on the bill include Jimmy Fallon and Larry Miller. For information, visit ticketmaster.ca
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