Over the last few years John Oliver has become one of the most important voices in Late Night television.
That’s despite the fact that his show comes right at the end of the week, airing on Sundays at 11pm on HBO, and that he is English. I recently had the chance to catch up with Armando Iannucci, a legendary Scottish writer and director in his own regard, who also was something of a comedic mentor to Oliver, and he opened up about why the comedian has been so successful.
While we started by discussing Iannucci’s work on “The Death Of Stalin,” the topic soon turned to his past collaborations with Oliver. I broached the subject by asking Iannucci for his original thoughts on the comedian and whether he was surprised by the success that Oliver has since achieved.
“He was great. I was impressed by him as a stand-up. He was sharp, funny and instantaneous and clever and all those things. It was no surprise where he has ended up where he is.”
Iannucci believes that Oliver is in the exact right country for his talents, too, because he doesn’t think that he would have reached this level of fame, or honed his comedic voice in such a probing and hilarious fashion if he had remained in the UK.
“I think strong political commentary like that on UK shows tend to not come from one angle. They try to make it look neutral. There are more outlets in the US. Because there is a bigger audience. Which means they can try out new things. In the UK there is a much smaller audience, so everything is a bit more of a risk.”
I then asked Iannucci whether his legendary political comedy “The Thick Of It” would work in the current political climate, but this only provoked him to explain exactly why shows like “Last Week Tonight” have had such great success skewering Trump.
“Trying to do a fictional version of what is happening now would never be as absurd as what is happening now.”
“The comedians who seem to have a greater impact are the ones that are like journalists, like John Oliver, Samantha Bee, and Bill Maher, they have a team of researchers and just lay out the story. Viewers then just see the absurdity and laugh. It is a stranger topsy-turvy world that we live in.”
John Oliver has previously spoken at length about the impact that Armando Iannucci has made on his career, something that came to a head when the duo finally worked alongside each other on the radio show “Gash,” which covered the local U.K. elections back in 2003.
Their careers have gone from strength to strength since then. So much so that as well as watching Oliver on a weekly basis on HBO, you can now see Iannucci’s new film “The Death Of Stalin” in cinemas, too.