October 31, 2013 [comment on this write-up]
This is going to be a short one -- my exposure to this week's Boyfriend is limited to a single primary source and only recently did my crush on him fully blossom, so what could I possibly have to say about John Oliver? Not a whole lot, you got me there. But let's start with this:
Remember last summer when Jon Stewart left The Daily Show for eight weeks to make a movie and John Oliver took over? And we were all like, "Seriously? It's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, not The Daily Show with Jon Stewart with John Oliver!"
Yeah, well, it only took about two episodes with Oliver at the helm for me to start thinking I was going to be juuuust fine without Cap'n Stewart. And, frankly, now that Jon S. has returned, I sort of miss the days when he was gone. Because you know what? John O. was awesome in that gig, and I, for one, want him back.
Ironically enough, my husband had been trying to convince me for years that Stewart was losing his touch. It was all the more noticeable, the spouse said, when The Colbert Report started and it became so easy to compare Stephen with his former boss -- and find that boss lacking.
I rejected this premise wholeheartedly, of course. Nonsense! Stewart is a genius! Stewart is hilarious! Stewart is amazing! Heck, Stewart was a Boyfriend of the Week! Not just ANYBODY gets to be a Boyfriend of the Week! (Okay, okay, admittedly, the standards are fairly low.)
Then John Oliver stepped in, and my conviction fell apart like the flesh on a B-movie zombie. (Happy Halloween!)
Beyond the obvious, which is that Oliver absolutely held his own as the chair of the chair, the most striking difference I noticed was how much better he was at doing interviews with guests than Stewart has been in a long time. Now, it may be true that many of the questions for the interview section are prepared in advance, but a large portion of those segments are winged (wung?) -- there's no predicting exactly how they're going to go. This frequently throws Stewart off course so far he can't get back -- case in point, go watch this Stewart interview of Kathleen Sebelius (about the rocky start to Obamacare). Stewart's interview is just embarrassingly bad -- when Sebelius doesn't directly answer his question about why businesses get an insurance waiver this year but individuals do not, he just keeps asking it over and over, as though he needs the cue of a predicted answer in order to move on with the next joke. And that's despite the fact it's a completely disingenuous question and he knows it. (Stewart knows the answer, the audience knows the answer, Sebelius knows the answer, and the answer is: "Hey, I know, let's just give everybody a waiver forever! Love, Rand Paul." THAT'S WHY.)
Now that you're done with that excruciating video, go watch this John Oliver interview with Rand Paul (why, speak of the devil!), coincidentally also about Obamacare. See the difference? Oliver is funnier, more reactive and attentive, and way, way better at engaging his guests. He is. HE JUST IS, I'M SORRY.
It's more than the interviews, though. Once Stewart came back, I started to notice how often he relies on the same set of about five facial expressions and gestures ("Reallllly?" chin on hand, e.g.) as his punch lines. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying these don't make me laugh -- I laugh with great gusto all the time while I'm watching The Daily Show. But it wasn't until I'd seen Oliver at work that I started to realize how half-assed that kind of thing seems by comparison. Considering the fact both men use the same writing team on the show (i.e., they both use John Oliver), it doesn't come down to someone having stronger material. It comes down to who is fresher, funnier, better. And, much as I love you, Jon Stewart (I do! I do! I really do!), that just ain't you no mo'.
To be fair, I suppose I should at least reference briefly the one "gesture" Oliver himself used repeatedly for comedic effect during his 8 week tenure. Yet, somehow, despite the (constant!) repetition, it never lost its freshness. In fact, it started to become almost Pavlovian -- the moment I heard that music start up, I started laughing before Oliver even had a chance to . . . shall we say, "react." And then I wanted a snack. Ding! (<-- Pavlov joke.)
What am I talking about? Why, I'm talking about DANGER, of course. (Incidentally, this YouTube creation is now in the top 5 of my list of Things That Make the Internet Delightful.) (p.s. Song lyrics probably NSFW.)
Now, Oliver's obvious talent in the gig, as well as his epic dance moves, were certainly two of the things that planted the little seed of Boyfriend-dom in my heart (aw!). Yet despite that talent, none of this über-adoration would've happened without the magical moment when, in his very first episode, he turned to the side to interview his guest and I finally got a really good look at that man's nose. Rapier wit is all well and good, but that is one of the most amazingly wondrous noses of all time. A nose so enormous, so curved, so rugged it can't help but make you think of another handsome devil from television: Mr. Gonzo T. Great. Check it out. It's uncanny!
See, before Stewart gave Oliver the conn, as they say in submarine movies (what, I watch a lot of submarine movies), we only ever saw him talking face-forwardly into the camera as a correspondent. You can't tell as much about a man's nose from the frontal view. That's why, when Oliver finally turned to the side to face and query his first guest, I almost fell out of my chair, I was so stunned by the magnificence.
Sure, I have thing for noses -- see Nathan Fillion write-up -- this is no secret. But even without a thing for noses, one simply could not fail to find something to love about that sniffer.
IT. IS. MAJESTIC.
By the time we hit the end of Oliver's stint as host, I was 99% convinced this whole thing had been a test -- that Jon Stewart was thinking about retiring (dude's been at this a loooong time, after all) and moving on. I'm still, like, 73% convinced that was it. Okay, okay, 64%. And I have my fingers crossed, because as much as I love Jon Stewart (I do! I do! I really do!), I'm ready for a change.
Even if it means letting a limey slam our country. (Down the British! Up the rebels!)
Now, aside from Oliver's work on The Daily Show, I should confess I have seen him in exactly one other role, that of "Pardiggle Boy" in episode 1.2 of Masterpiece Theatre's 1985 Bleak House, a series I have only seen because my love for Diana Rigg outweighs my resounding hatred of all things Charles Dickens (notable exception: Mickey's Christmas Carol). He was lovely in that. I mean, okay, well, maybe not "lovely." Adorable, perhaps? Honestly, I have no idea. I have no memory of him in that role whatsoever. He was "Pardiggle Boy," for pity's sake! That's like being "Security Guard #3," you know what I mean? Not exactly memorable (unless you're Security Guard #3's mom, of course).
Oliver has also done a lot of stand-up comedy, and there are gazillions of clips of him doing this all over the Intertubes (like right herel). Happily, most of the stand-up I've seen him do has also been about politics, and if you squint a little bit, you can almost picture him back at that desk on The Daily Show doing a segment about big dumb Americans. He's the champ of those, and the British accent just makes them seem all the more profound (like those Dyson commercials, you know? So SMART, that Dyson guy -- so smart, in fact, I almost bought a Dyson vacuum without reading the reviews online, which, judging from the reviews online, would've been a VERY bad move. Almost got me that time, Brits! Score one for the colonies!).
A little biographical information, since I don't have anything else to fill this space with (tra la!): Oliver was born in 1977 in Birmingham, England to a pair of teachers. That explains a lot of his nerdiness (note: my entire family is made up of teachers). In the mid-to-late 1990s, he was a member of the Cambridge Footlights, a student comedy troupe, where he comedified alongside such greats as David Mitchell (Peep Show, all the various Mitchell and Webb Whatevers) and Richard Ayoade (better known to computer geeks everywhere as Moss from The IT Crowd).
From there, he landed a few stand-up spots, followed by a recurring role on British TV as a panelist on the satirical news quiz show Mock the Week (foreshadowing!). In July 2006, he joined The Daily Show as its Senior (Only) British Correspondent. Though he has yet to win any awards as the HOST of The Daily Show, he's won 3 Emmys for outstanding writing on the series (2009, 2011, and 2012). Score one (three?) for the imperialists!
Apparently, he also co-hosts a podcast called The Bugle, which I will be checking out with all possible speed over here: http://thebuglepodcast.com/.
As if he weren't already awesome enough, John Oliver also has one of the best "how I met my wife" stories I've ever heard. He and wife Kate Norley, a US Army Medic and veteran of the Iraq War, met at the 2008 Republican National Convention, where Oliver was shooting satirical blows at all the nonsense and Norley was campaigning with Vets for Freedom, NOT an organization whose members are typically big fans of The Daily Show. Nevertheless, she and other vets in the group hid Oliver, the other correspondents, and the camera crew from security, which was awfully nice of them because you know security at those things ain't gonna be messing around.
It was in that fateful moment that their eyes met. Fireworks! Kismet! And two years later, they were married, proving once and for all that opposites attract. Or possibly that Oliver was super desperate for a Green Card, though we all know how that worked out for Gérard Depardieu and Andie McDowell.
Back to my original point, however: Stewart, I have been in love with you since I first saw you in 1989, as one of the hosts of the much-missed-by-me Comedy Central series Short Attention Span Theater. But you've been at this fake news thing for fourteen years now -- FOUR-TEEN-YEARS, man! It's time. Come on now, Stew. Time to cede the chair. Surrender the seat. Throw in the throne. We love you, but we're ready. And your show could not be in better hands. Or noses, for that matter.
MacGyver Factor Score: 96.25%.
Remember how I said at the beginning of this write-up that it would be a short one? HA HA HA! I'm so funny.