John Oliver Is Furious He Couldn’t Get Raise From HBO

Just ask his former agents
John Oliver Is Furious He Couldn’t Get Raise From HBO

John Oliver already makes bank. For hosting his weekly HBO half-hour (okay, 40-ish minutes) Last Week Tonight, Oliver takes home about $1 million per episode — or $30 million for the 30 episodes he produces annually. In addition to the salary, note that he also gets 22 weeks off per year, another nice perk of the job. 

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver is, at the very least, a critical success, taking home 28 Emmy Awards since its debut in 2014. HBO appears to believe the show is a key driver to Max subscriptions, holding back YouTube clips for a few days after each Sunday night broadcast to entice viewers to pay a monthly fee for the latest outraged funny. 

Given that success, it makes sense that Oliver would believe he deserved a raise. Unfortunately, HBO didn’t pony up any extra cash, according to Puck’s Matt Belloni in his What I’m Hearing newsletter. Oliver sacked his agents after he didn’t get a big pay bump — or any raise at all — in his latest contract negotiation. “The new Oliver deal actually penciled out to about the same salary or even a slight reduction, depending on how you look at it,” Belloni reported.

Did Oliver’s agents do a lousy job? Or is Oliver, like Judd Apatow and others, just the latest funny guy forced to reckon with the changing economics of comedy? Apatow recently fired his agents after they couldn’t find landing spots for his high-budget comedies, including a Zach Galifianakis project about a canceled comedian. With the DVD market dried up — movies like Apatow’s Bridesmaids made millions at Target and Best Buy after their theatrical run — big-budget comedies no longer make fiscal sense. Apatow has a new agency, but so far, no new projects. 

Oliver, like Apatow, blamed his agents rather than the shifting realities of television comedy. (Notice the dearth of new sitcoms these days?) But watch what happens when the Jimmys, Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers come up for their next contracts. There’s a reason James Corden was replaced with After Midnight’s rotating panel of comics — cheaper is shaping up to be the new norm in late night. 

And if “cheaper” still means a paycheck in the $30 million a year neighborhood for guys like Oliver, no one should shed any tears. “There’s probably a good joke to be made about a TV host who positions himself as a man of the people yet privately throws a tantrum when his own insanely high salary isn’t quite high enough for his liking,” writes Belloni. “But John would do that joke way better, so I’ll pass.” 


Scroll down for the next article
Forgot Password?