I will give you $100 if you can find me a comedian funnier than John Oliver. Well, I just graduated from college and my most valuable possession is my toothbrush, so… I will give you a high-five. Oliver has torn up the comedy scene and stolen all the Emmys for “Best Variety Talk Series” in the process. He has spent seven seasons hosting what I’d argue is the funniest political talk show on TV. He teaches his audience about subjects other late-night shows won’t dare touch because they’re not mainstream enough or too boring to make funny. Yet, Oliver always manages to make his show not just funny but laugh out loud hysterical. Whether he’s talking about net neutrality, local sheriffs, or doghouse foreclosures, he always manages to make every segment not only bearable but must-watch TV. I know it sounds like a drag to listen to a thirty-minute lecture from the personification of the tortoise from “The Tortoise and the Hare” with a Masters in political science, but trust me, it’s a lot more entertaining than it sounds.
#1- John Oliver’s parents were both in the field of education.
Oliver was born in Birmingham, England to a school headmaster and a music teacher. I suppose this might explain why his appearance and demeanor both match the nerdy kid in every high school movie ever. In fact, as he left the womb, he was quoted as saying, “Look out McLovin’ and Brian from The Breakfast Club, there’s a new nerd in town.” And I say that with a lot of love.
#2- He’s a huge fan of Liverpool FC.
As an American, It took me a while to realize that in Britain, a football team actually uses their feet extensively throughout the game. If life made sense, American football would be called handball with occasional foot usage, but alas, Americans have been doomed to be confused by the rest of the world for all eternity. In Americanese, Liverpool FC is a soccer team. In rest-of-the-world-ese, they’re a football club. Oliver was born into a family of Liverpool fans and he himself has been a fan since birth.
#3- A kid can dream.
In fact, Oliver was so into football as a kid he wanted to be a professional football player. Unfortunately, his dreams of being Messi were crushed when he became a world-famous comedian. Poor kid.
#4- His role in his first post-college performance was really weird.
In 2001, Oliver acted in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in which he played an “oleaginous journalist.” Save yourself a Google search, I looked up the meaning of “oleaginous” for you even though I totally 100% already knew it: “rich in, covered with, or producing oil; oily or greasy.” Um… what? I have so many questions. How did this journalist get oily? Why did he not shower before going to work? Was the word “oleaginous” specifically in his job description? Regardless, I’m sure it was funny because this sketch helped to launch Oliver’s career, so Last Week Tonight wouldn’t be a thing if the oleaginous journalist hadn’t come first.
#5- His comedy group in the early days of his career was full of future comedy legends.
“The Chocolate Milk Gang” seems like a rejected name for the Goonies that the director deemed too immature for the kids in the movie, but John Oliver’s old adult filled comedy troupe proudly wore this name for years. The group was filled with comedians who would become future icons including Russell Howard, Daniel Kitson, and Alun Cochrane.
#6- His dog is named after his favorite sandwich.
Before his dog, Oliver’s previous pet was a goldfish bought when he was 7 years old, but it wasn’t a huge responsibility. Oliver wasn’t sure he could take on caring for another life when he adopted his dog. I get it. Fish just swim around in their own pee all day, so aren’t necessarily the biggest burden on a person’s life. But Oliver upgraded his pet game when he and his wife welcomed Hoagie into the family.
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#7- His wife on Last Week Tonight isn’t his wife in real life.
Yes, I cried too when I learned that the traveling preacher for Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption tax-exempt church, Wanda Jo, wasn’t Oliver’s real wife. She was played by comedian and actress Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live fame. Oliver is really married to Kate Norley, which still means tragedy for all the women who dreamed of dating the love child of Owl from Winnie the Pooh and Harry Potter.
#8- He has no desire to be famous.
Perhaps he didn’t knock on wood hard enough; Oliver never wanted to be famous. I think we all can understand the urge not to have a billboard of your high school yearbook photo in Times Square, but we all have our crosses to bear. Unfortunately for Oliver, his cross is having to constantly remind his audience of the horrendous bowl haircut of his former self.
#9- Trouble in Minnesota.
When Oliver was covering the 2008 Republican Convention for The Daily Show, he was afraid of getting into any legal issues because he was only on a temporary work visa. One wrong move and he would be shipped back to England. Oliver and his crew at one point passed into a restricted territory, but he ran out of there as fast as his little feet could take him, which wasn’t very fast, I’m assuming. Fortunately, the guards must’ve been fans of political comedy, because they helped protect him from guards who were more buzzkill-ish.
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#10- He hosted The Daily Show for 8-weeks.
Jon Stewart was working on the set of his directorial debut Rosewater during the summer of 2013. He needed a replacement host for The Daily Show and you can probably guess who he picked. (Hint: It’s the dude who this article’s about.)
#11- But he didn’t want to at first.
According to Last Week Tonight showrunner Tim Carvell, Oliver was incredibly nervous when he started subbing for Jon Stewart. But the crew at The Daily Show knew that Oliver was the best fit to replace the late-night legend.
#12- And it’s a good thing he did.
The reviews for the eight weeks Oliver hosted were so overwhelmingly positive, HBO offered him his own show shortly after.
#13- He had a recurring role on Community.
While he was sporting his haircut that would qualify him to be a member of The Beatles, Oliver played Ian Duncan, a professor with an unfortunately low level of oleaginousness, on Community. Oliver played this recurring role throughout the series, but he only made occasional appearances because of his commitment to The Daily Show. But if you need some extra Oliver in your life, Community is the way to go.
#14- He’s a workaholic.
According to Jon Stewart, it may take copious amounts of weed, a meditation coach, and perhaps a straightjacket to get Oliver to chill. While at The Daily Show, Oliver would happily attend 3 AM shoots and arrive at work early when the sun came up to write, and this is in addition to editing his own segments on weekends. There’s a fine line between being a workaholic and needing to be admitted to a mental hospital, but Oliver seems happy with his decision to commit to work.
#15- He met his wife while hiding out from scary Republicans.
During the 2008 Republican National Convention, Oliver had to cover the event for The Daily Show. Unfortunately, Republicans are not known to be kind to progressive comedians so Oliver needed to keep a low profile. His profile couldn’t have been too low, though, because he met his future wife Kate Norley at this event. The two hit it off and ended up getting married in 2011.
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#16- He thought Last Week Tonight would be easier to produce than The Daily Show.
It really shouldn’t be surprising that taking on a hosting gig would be more difficult than his correspondent role on The Daily Show. Unfortunately, Oliver was sorely mistaken and Last Week Tonight requires quite a lot of work.
#17- If Oliver wanted to make Last Week Tonight more than once a week, he could.
Mike Lombardo, HBO Chief of programming has said, “If John came to me tomorrow and said, ‘I think we’re ready to do more than once a week,’ I’m with him.” Unfortunately, this change has not yet happened, but perhaps it’s for the better. The show is gold as it is and why mess with a formula that’s working?
#18- Oliver really wanted to separate his show from his former employer.
The reason Last Week Tonight has no correspondents and no interviews is because Oliver didn’t want his show to just be a clone of The Daily Show.
#19- The show could’ve been named Breaking News on a Weekly Basis.
It’s not quite as catchy as Last Week Tonight, but if we all could tell our friends we watched Breaking News on a Weekly Basis, we comedy fans could sound like the type of people who don’t just get our news from late-night shows, but watch C-Span for fun! Granted, we’d be more capable of commenting on the size of Ajit Pai’s Reese’s coffee mug and the fact that Boris Johnson looks like a deflated version of Trump than anything actually substantial, but we’d have the appearance of political savvy and that’s what counts.
#20- He was a Smurf.
Apparently, in his off time from The Daily Show, Oliver wore a blue face. He played the very creatively named Vanity Smurf in 2011’s The Smurfs and it’s sequel.
#21- Some coal tycoons are such snowflakes.
Gazillionaire Bob Murray got his feelings hurt and sued when Oliver slammed him and the rest of the oil industry on Last Week Tonight. The suit was over an episode of Last Week Tonight in which Oliver claimed Murray looked like a geriatric Dr. Evil, which I choose not to comment on because my parents taught me if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all… but Oliver was right. Bullying someone’s appearance may be mean, but if that person refuses to acknowledge that the collapse of a coal mine his company built which caused nine deaths is his fault, then all I can say is “Eat sh*t, Bob!”
#22- The UK Parliament is also a snowflake.
In Britain, it’s illegal to make fun of parliament on TV using videos from parliament. It is also not the easiest thing to avoid if you host a political talk show. So when videos of Parliament play during the show, you don’t see them in the UK. Instead, on UK TVs you will see a number of different things depending on the episode. Originally, the screen just cut to black but later on, the show showed Gilbert Gottfried reading lukewarm reviews of a restaurant in the US instead. It’s the only possible and natural replacement for parliamentary footage.
#23- He’s the man in charge at Last Week Tonight.
Oliver insisted on taking 100% creative and editorial control before accepting the hosting position.
#24 – If you need more Last Week Tonight in the show’s off weeks…
Like all fans, when there’s no new episode in a week, there is a big John Oliver shaped void in my life. Luckily, I’ve found the ultimate life hack to solve the no Last Week Tonight blues. A mini segment is posted to the show’s YouTube channel most weeks when no new episode comes on the air.
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#25- In case you didn’t think he passed the progressive litmus test…
Oliver faced down Dustin Hoffman during what was supposed to be a lighthearted event about Hoffman’s work. “Why,” you ask? Dustin Hoffman groped a 17-year-old on the set of a TV movie, and Oliver couldn’t stand by and make light chat with a man who had done such a detestable thing. This isn’t the only time Oliver stood up for the #MeToo movement, as he brings up the issue frequently on his show.
#26- Craving more Last Week Tonight?
#27- What does it say in the theme song?
If you studied Latin, you might be a bit confused by the subheadings that come along with each picture in the theme song of Last Week Tonight. Don’t worry, you haven’t selectively forgotten your Latin training. The words that label each picture are gibberish made to look like Latin. So, unfortunately, using the language in the Last Week Tonight theme song will only get you weird looks if you happen to be traveling back in time to Ancient Rome.
#28- The prank call heard around the US.
Everyone hates robocalls. If I had to destroy my phone and throw it to a group of wild bears to do what they wish to it to avoid getting another robocall, I would. And once the bears finish, I’d grab the shattered remains of my phone and take it to the Apple Store. I’m Gen Z, I can’t live without a phone. But John Oliver attempted to make it so we won’t have to throw our phones to feral Winnie the Poohs to stop the robocalls. The FCC is in charge of regulating robocalls. Oliver sent a robocall to the FCC with a ridiculous script and bagpipes playing afterward just to really hammer the point in that robocalls are unbearable.
#29- The UK and Ireland classify shows weirdly!
In the UK and Ireland, Last Week Tonight has been classified under the label “documentary” since season 7. Umm… okay. Just saying, I wouldn’t have started watching the show if it was listed next to An Inconvenient Truth and Blackfish, but you do you, European people.
#30- You might not know the official taglines for Last Week Tonight.
Some of them include “Just like the nightly news, only weeklier” and “Back despite popular demand.” Golf claps.
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#31- Who does the “And Now This” voice?
Occasionally, Oliver’s monologue will cut to mini segments called “And Now This.” The segments are always announced by someone who sounds like they were born to narrate MLB games. The voice is done by David Kaye, who also did voice work in Pixar’s Up and Fido.
#32- He doesn’t want his kids to speak in an American accent.
Fair enough. Nowadays, Americans tend to be like the drunk uncle who shows up at every kid’s birthday party. Oliver realizes this American stereotype and consequently forbids his two sons from learning to speak Americanese.
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