Oliver & Company


Jon Stewart will return to The Daily Show next week following a summer sabbatical. He was in the Middle East directing a film called Rosewater. For the eight weeks out of twelve after Stewart's departure that The Daily Show was not on hiatus, writer/performer John Oliver stepped in to host in his stead.

John Oliver at the desk
Screencap © 2013 Comedy Partners and Busboy Productions.

If you don't already know that, you may not be interested in the Hulu video I'm sharing of John Oliver's appearance on Charlie Rose from Monday, Aug. 8th, just as John-with-an-h was starting his final week as Jon-without's substitute.

Me, I love process talk like this. I've been reading behind-the-scenes stuff about how comics, music, film, and television are crafted (prose and stage plays, to a lesser extent, too) since I was a kid. It's not really the gossip, which in on-air conversations like this one is incidental to nonexistent, so much as it is the plain old nuts-and-bolts of how creative work and in particular collaborative creative work is made that fascinates.

As discussed here on the blog several years ago, Jon Stewart is essentially the only performer in the hour-long Daily Show / Colbert Report block not playing a character as he reports the news, reports on how the news is being reported, and welcomes authors, directors, politicians, et al. visiting to talk about their new projects and/or the issues of the day. Stephen Colbert plays a character, as do The Daily Show's correspondents. The nature of the character may vary as necessitated by the segment at hand, but it's usually a clueless, obnoxious persona opposed to the thrust of whatever altruism or common sense is to be found within the story. In contrast to that, Jon is Jon. He offers up the exaggerated spit-take or other schtick on occasion, and sometimes engages correspondents in nearly sketch-like fashion, but where The Daily Show really sings is Jon calling the world on its bullshit in totally relatable fashion.

My reaction to the announcement of John Oliver as Stewart's summer substitute was tentative, as it remained to be seen whether he'd bring a potentially alienating correspondent's perspective to the hosting gig or, like Jon, be himself, himself being an unknown quantity. He was himself, and he won me over almost instantly, which made his conversation with Charlie Rose all the more enjoyable.

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