John Oliver: 15 Now-You-Know-Facts
He might be the worst professor on Community. He's the unlikeliest of comedy revolutionaries. We tune in every week, even the times when it makes us feel way worse about the world. We may or may not have donated to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Here's 15 facts about John Oliver, America's British comedian:
Co-host of The Bugle
He might be known for The Daily Show and Last Week Tonight, but fans of political comedy are missing out if they don't know about The Bugle, the podcast Oliver co-hosted with Andy Zaltzman from 2007-2015. If ComedyNerd can editorialize, this may be one of the most side-splittingly funny podcasts in the history of political podcasts. A must-listen for any Oliver fan.
John Oliver is not an investigative journalist
Despite lengthy, well-sourced, and thorough examinations of serious issues that often go underreported in mainstream media done in an easily digestible way in the service of educating the public, John Oliver claims to not do journalism. Well, maybe 60 Minutes better shape the hell up, then, ‘cause we aren’t listening to that irritating stopwatch anymore. The stories that Oliver, uh…talks at us about matter. Everybody else is playing catchup.
A “Meh” In Britain
In a 2007 interview, The Guardian said of Oliver: “his style leans toward the kind that Americans like best from the British.” Since we've recently learned those beans-on-toast-chomping monarchists apparently hate freedom, we assume this was not a compliment from The Guardian.
A piece of information we simply cannot do without when it comes to British celebrities. The bloke with family from Knotty Ash and the Wirral supports Liverpool FC. Man, British town names rule.
John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show
John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show is an important reminder of Oliver's stand-up chops. The man may never have made a career-defining comedy special, but giving TV space to comedians like Paul F. Tompkins, Hannibal Buress, and Ali Wong make that show rock in our book.
His Wife Is A Former U.S. Army Combat Medic…
Whenever you see Oliver advocating for veterans' rights, know that he's not cynically trying to score political points. His wife, Kate Norley, enlisted in the military in direct response to 9/11 and now is an activist.
…Who Helped Him Hide From Republican National Convention Security
Oliver and Norley met at the 2008 Republican National Convention. He was there with The Daily Show, she was there with Vets For Freedom. You know how that Avril Lavigne song about meet-cutes goes. Oliver and crew got chased by security for entering a restricted section, so Norley helped them hide. If your partner won't agitate the RNC or help you hide when you do, sorry, they're not the one.
Initially Terrified of Moving Past The Daily Show
After a substitute run hosting The Daily Show while Jon Stewart directed a movie, it became clear Oliver had outgrown his correspondent role. This was, of course, terrifying. When CBS came calling in anticipation of David Letterman's retirement, Oliver couldn't comprehend it: “I went, ‘No, what are you talking about? No, no, no, no, no!’ It was terrifying. That was my dream job.”
Cambridge With David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade
Oliver was a member of the Cambridge Footlights (The Fightin' Footlights, as former colleague Stephen Colbert might say), a theatrical club at some university in Britain we've forgotten the name of. His star-studded contemporaries include fellow patterned shirt enthusiast Richard Ayoade and “our US audiences know him as the ‘are we the baddies’ guy" David Mitchell.
John Oliver Hates Massages
“The idea is horrifying to me,” he told Vanity Fair. “That a stranger would physically force you to relax.” So no Robert Kraft-shaped skeletons in John Oliver's closet, we guess.
Everyone needs a first writing gig, and Oliver's was writing for The Big Breakfast. He describes the show as “a morning zoo radio show, on TV, that looks like, kind of…Pee Wee's Playhouse.” He says the gig was fun, but also describes it as “at least comedy-adjacent,” so clearly not the same demands of Comedy Central or HBO.
It's not uncommon for kids to learn to odd musical instruments and never play them later in life. What's fun, though, is learning what people's instruments were. John Oliver was ‘infuriated’ by viola. Tell us your embarrassing instrument in the comments.
Music In The Family
John came by viola honestly, though: his mother was a music teacher. His uncle, Stephen Oliver, composed opera—including the score to a 13-hour Lord of the Rings radio show.
He Basically Parachuted Onto the Daily Show Set
Oliver interviewed for his Daily Show gig, got the job a few weeks later, flew coach London→New York, then appeared on Comedy Central the next night. What a whirlwind way to launch an ultimately life-altering project.
An Eight-Week Audition For Last Week Tonight
Oliver hosted The Daily Show for eight weeks in 2013, after which Jon Stewart told him, “Once you do this, once you fly the plane, you cannot go back.” Prophetic words that turned out to be true, as John Oliver has gone on to have his own unique effect on political discourse in the United Sates.
Chris Corlew can be found on Twitter.