The emergence of John Oliver as one of the most prominent and influential voices in Late Night has been rather startling. Mostly because before he joined “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” in July, 2006, Oliver was a relative unknown in both the United States and his home country Great Britain, too.
Oliver has gone from strength to strength since then, though, and he is now the host of HBO’s “Last Week Tonight,” which has been roundly praised for its political impact since it began in 2014. It turns out that we have Ricky Gervais to thank for John Oliver’s tidal wave of success, because the comedian has now admitted that he was the one that originally recommended his fellow countryman to Jon Stewart back in 2006.
Oliver had heard through the grapevine that Gervais was the one that threw his name into the ring for the position, but he didn’t know if it was true. I recently had the opportunity to talk to Gervais ahead of his stand-up show at Madison Square Garden, and I asked him straight out whether he was the one that suggested Oliver for “The Daily Show.”
“Yeah, that’s right. I was aware of him. I’d seen him in a double act. I chose him because I knew he did political stuff. And I knew Jon and I’d done ‘The Daily Show,’ and we had nothing like it in England. And so, yeah he was the top of the list really. “
England’s loss was very much America’s gain, so I decided to ask Gervais why Oliver didn’t have the platform to work his comedic magic in his homeland.
“I don’t know why we haven’t got anything like ‘The Daily Show.’ We’ve tried, it always seems to come out really smug and public school when they do it. It’s sort of dry and Oxbridge and nauseating. When America does it the comedy comes first. Often when a British show tries to do highfalutin satire there’s something too smug about it.”
John Oliver is still strutting his stuff on “Last Week Tonight” on Sunday nights on HBO, with new episodes airing at 11pm ET.