John Oliver

John William Oliver (born 23 April 1977)[1] is a British comedian, writer, producer, political commentator, actor, and television host. Oliver started his career as a stand-up comedian in the United Kingdom. He came to wider attention for his work in the United States on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as its senior British correspondent from 2006 to 2013. Oliver won three Primetime Emmy Awards for writing for The Daily Show and was its guest host for an eight-week period in 2013. In addition, Oliver co-hosted the satirical comedy podcast The Bugle (2007–2015) with Andy Zaltzman, with whom Oliver had previously co-hosted the radio series Political Animal, and hosted John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show on Comedy Central from 2010 to 2013. He has also acted on television, most notably in a recurring role as Dr Ian Duncan on the NBC sitcom Community, and in films, notably voice-over work in The Smurfs (2011), The Smurfs 2 (2013), and the 2019 remake of The Lion King. He became a U.S. citizen in 2019.

John Oliver
John Oliver November 2016.jpg
Oliver in November 2016
Birth nameJohn William Oliver
Born (1977-04-23) 23 April 1977 (age 43)
Erdington, Birmingham, England
CitizenshipBritish (1977–present)
United States (2019–present)
Medium
  • Stand-up
  • television
  • film
  • books
EducationMark Rutherford School
Alma materChrist's College, Cambridge
Years active1998–present
Genres
Subject(s)
Spouse
Kate Norley
(m. 2011)
Children2
Websiteiamjohnoliver.com

Since 2014, Oliver has been the host of the HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. He has received widespread critical and popular recognition for his work on the series, whose influence over US culture, legislation, and policymaking has been dubbed the "John Oliver effect".[2][3] For his work on Last Week Tonight, Oliver has won thirteen Emmy Awards and two Peabody Awards and was included in the 2015 Time 100, being described as a "comedic agent of change...powerful because he isn't afraid to tackle important issues thoughtfully, without fear or apology".[4][5] Many have described Oliver's work as journalism or investigative journalism,[6][7] a claim Oliver rejects.[8]

Early life and educationEdit

Oliver was born on 23 April 1977 in Erdington, Birmingham, West Midlands, England,[9] to Carole and Jim Oliver. His father was both a school headmaster and social worker, and his mother was a music teacher. Both of his parents are originally from Liverpool, Merseyside. His uncle was the composer Stephen Oliver. William Boyd Carpenter, Bishop of Ripon and court chaplain to Queen Victoria, was his paternal great-great-grandfather.[4][10] Oliver learned to play the viola as a child.[11]

Since childhood, he has been a fan of Liverpool FC, noting in interviews that "my mum's family are from Knotty Ash and my dad's family are from the Wirral, so supporting Liverpool was very much not a choice".[12] Oliver was educated in Bedford at the Mark Rutherford School.[4][13][14]

Following secondary school, he studied at Christ's College, Cambridge. While a student there in the mid-to-late 1990s, Oliver was a member of the Cambridge Footlights, the university theatrical club run by students of Cambridge University. Oliver's contemporaries included David Mitchell and Richard Ayoade. In 1997, he became the club's vice president.[15][16] In 1998, Oliver graduated from Christ's College with a degree in English.[17][18]

CareerEdit

Stand-upEdit

 
Wyatt Cenac, John Oliver, and Rory Albanese after performing comedy at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in April 2009

Oliver first appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2001 as part of The Comedy Zone, a late-night showcase of newer acts, where he played the character of an "oleaginous journalist".[19] Oliver frequently worked with other members of the Chocolate Milk Gang, a group of comedians who often collaborated and performed with one another, including Daniel Kitson, Russell Howard, David O’Doherty, and Alun Cochrane.[20][21][22] He performed his debut solo show at the 2002 Edinburgh Festival Fringe and returned in 2003. In 2004 and 2005, he collaborated with Andy Zaltzman on a double act and co-hosting Political Animal, with various acts performing political material.

After moving to New York City for The Daily Show, Oliver began performing stand-up in small clubs around the city and later headlined shows in larger venues.[23] Oliver's first stand-up special, titled John Oliver: Terrifying Times, debuted on Comedy Central in 2008 and was later released on DVD.[24] Since 2010, Oliver has hosted four seasons of John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show.[25] In 2013, he went to Afghanistan on a USO tour to perform stand-up for the troops there.[26][27][28]

According to Edward Helmore in The Guardian, "His style leans toward the kind that Americans like best from the British – exaggerated, full of odd accents and mannerisms, in the vein of Monty Python."[13] Oliver has used his British culture as a primary subject of his jokes.[29][30] Oliver describes his own accent as a "mongrel" of Brummie, Scouse, and Bedford influences.[31]

Oliver continues to perform stand-up.[32]

Mock the WeekEdit

Prior to joining The Daily Show, Oliver was making appearances on British television as a panellist on the satirical news quiz Mock the Week.[19] He was a frequent guest on the first two series in 2005 and 2006, appearing in seven out of eleven episodes.[19]

The Daily Show with Jon StewartEdit

 
Oliver and Wyatt Cenac at the launch of Earth

Oliver joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as its Senior British Correspondent in July 2006. He says he was interviewed for the show on the recommendation of comedian Ricky Gervais, who had never met Oliver, but was familiar with his work.[9] Two weeks after the interview, he got the job, flying from London to New York on a Sunday and unexpectedly appearing on camera the next day.[33][34] Oliver received Emmy Awards for outstanding writing in 2009, 2011, and 2012.[citation needed]

During the summer of 2013, Oliver guest-hosted The Daily Show for eight weeks while Stewart directed his film Rosewater.[35] Oliver's performance received positive reviews,[36][37][38][39] with some critics suggesting that he should eventually succeed Stewart as the host, or receive his own show.[40][41][42] CBS discussed the possibility of Oliver replacing Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show.[33] Three months after his Daily Show hosting, HBO announced it was giving Oliver his own late-night show.[43]

The BugleEdit

From October 2007 to May 2015, Oliver co-hosted The Bugle, a weekly satirical comedy podcast, with Andy Zaltzman. Originally produced by The Times of London, it became an independent project in 2012. Its 200th episode aired on 13 July 2012.[44] The show reached a download count of 500,000 a month.[45]

John Oliver's New York Stand-Up ShowEdit

In 2009, Comedy Central announced that it would be ordering six episodes of the Oliver-hosted John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, a stand-up series on Comedy Central that featured sets from himself and other stand-up comedians, including Janeane Garofalo, Brian Posehn, Paul F. Tompkins and Marc Maron.[46][47] Oliver executive-produced the show along with Avalon Television's Richard Allen-Turner, David Martin, James Taylor and Jon Thoday.[46] Each episode featured four comics.[46] From 2010 to 2013, four seasons of the show were produced, the final season lasting eight episodes.[48]

Last Week TonightEdit

Oliver began hosting Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a late-night talk show that takes a satirical look at politics and current events, on 27 April 2014.[49] His initial two-year contract with HBO was extended through 2017 in February 2015,[50][51] and through 2020 in September 2017.[52] Oliver says he has full creative freedom, including free rein to criticise corporations, given HBO's ad-free subscription model.[33] His work on the show led to Oliver being named on the list of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People" in 2015.[53]

In 2018, Last Week Tonight was honoured with a Peabody Award in the "Entertainment" category for "bringing satire and journalism even closer together",[54] at the 77th Annual Peabody Awards.

On 14 September 2020, HBO renewed Last Week Tonight for three years, through 2023.[55]

Television actingEdit

As a boy, Oliver played Felix Pardiggle, a minor role in the BBC drama Bleak House in 1985.[56]

Oliver had a recurring role on the NBC comedy Community as psychology professor Ian Duncan.[57] However, he declined to become a regular cast member because he did not want to leave The Daily Show. He did not appear in the third and fourth seasons, but returned in season five, appearing in seven of its thirteen episodes. He was not in season six which aired on Yahoo![58][59]

Oliver has also worked on Gravity Falls as the voice of Sherlock Holmes (season 1, episode 3), Rick and Morty as an amoeba named Dr Xenon Bloom (season 1, episode 3), People Like Us as a bank manager (season 2, episode 5), Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja as the voice of Coach Green (season 1, episode 9), My Hero as a man from the BBC (season 2, episode 5), Green Wing as a car salesman (season 1, episode 1), and Bob's Burgers as a cat agent (season 7, episode 10). Oliver voiced the camp counsellor Harry on season four on the Netflix series Big Mouth (TV series).

Oliver guest-starred as Booth Wilkes-John[60] in the episode "Pay Pal" of the FOX animated television series The Simpsons.

FilmEdit

In 2008, Oliver was given his first film role, playing Dick Pants in The Love Guru.[61] He later voiced Vanity Smurf in The Smurfs film and its sequel.[62][63] He was originally cast in 2010 to star in the Terry Jones film Absolutely Anything as Neil Clarke,[64] but scheduling conflicts due to the debut of Last Week Tonight in 2014 led to the role being recast for Simon Pegg.[65] In 2019, Oliver voiced porcupine Steve in the CGI animation Wonder Park and hornbill Zazu in the remake of Disney's The Lion King.[66]

Other workEdit

Oliver wrote and presented a BBC America campaign to have viewers use subtitles (closed captioning). Shown in brief segments before shows, "The following program contains accents you would have heard a lot more if you hadn't thrown our tea into Boston Harbour", says one. "Not even British people can follow the British accent 100 per cent of the time. Therefore you, like me, might want to use closed-captioning." Oliver used some of these jokes in his stand-up routine.[67]

Oliver frequently appeared on the BBC Radio 5 Live sports show Fighting Talk.

From 2002 to 2003, Oliver worked on the BBC 3 comedy series The State We're In, along with Anita Rani, Jon Holmes, and Robin Ince.[68]

In 2003, Oliver manned the "results desk" on an election night episode of Armando Iannucci's satirical show Gash on Channel 4. He would work with Iannucci again in 2005, as a panellist in the second episode of Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive.

In 2004, Oliver wrote and performed in the satirical radio programme The Department on BBC Radio 4, with frequent comedy partner Andy Zaltzman and Chris Addison. He portrayed the character Victor Gooch for all three series, prior to its cancellation in 2006.

Oliver performed various roles in the 2009 Comedy Central series Important Things with Demetri Martin.

In 2009, Oliver made a cameo appearance as the actor Rip Torn in the music video for the Fiery Furnaces single "Even in the Rain", which is based on the story of the making of the film Easy Rider.[69]

In 2018, Oliver began working as an executive producer for Wyatt Cenac’s Problem Areas.[70]

Influence and "The John Oliver effect"Edit

 
Oliver speaking at the 2014 Crunchies

Oliver has said that among his comedic influences are Armando Iannucci, David Letterman, Monty Python, Peter Cook, Richard Pryor,[71] and Jon Stewart.[72] On Monty Python he states, "citing them as an influence is almost redundant. It’s assumed. I saw Life of Brian in middle school, when a substitute teacher put it on to keep us quiet on a rainy day. I’m not sure he knew exactly what he was showing us, but I’ve always been hugely grateful for the reckless professional mistake he made that day, because I’ve never forgotten how it made me feel."[73]

Oliver's comedic commentary has been credited with helping influence US legislation, regulations, court rulings, and other aspects of US culture; this influence has been dubbed "The John Oliver effect".[2][3] This came from the show's fifth episode, which dealt with net neutrality, a subject that had previously been considered obscure and technical.[74] Oliver documented problems attributed to internet service providers and argued that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) could resolve these concerns with upcoming changes to internet regulation. Oliver then encouraged viewers to submit public comments through the FCC's website. The FCC's website promptly crashed.[75] Internal FCC emails revealed the clip was being watched inside the agency.[76] FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler publicly addressed the video.[77] The FCC was flooded with 3.7 million comments on the subject, by far the most for any issue in the agency's history.[78] Reporters detected a shift in the FCC's stance: Before Oliver's segment, The New York Times described an FCC proposal that would leave net neutrality "all but dead",[79] but the paper later said that chairman Wheeler showed "a steady shift toward stronger regulation".[80] Ultimately, the FCC enacted robust net neutrality rules that classified broadband internet service as a public utility.[81] Oliver was credited with transforming the net neutrality debate.[74]

A Ninth Circuit Court judge cited a Last Week Tonight segment about the lesser constitutional rights of residents of US territories in a ruling in favour of the residents of Guam.[82][83][a] Members of Congress credited Oliver with helping win a vote to enforce protections for chicken farmers who speak out about industry practices after a Last Week Tonight segment aired on the subject.[84][85][b] A Washington, D.C. council member proposed a resolution in Oliver's honour after he aired a segment on the district's struggle to attain statehood.[86][c]

Oliver maintains that he is not a journalist,[87] but reporters have argued that his show does engage in journalism.[7][8][88] The Peabody Awards honoured Oliver, saying his program engages in "investigative reports that 'real' news programs would do well to emulate".[89] One example of Oliver's investigative work is a segment on The Miss America organization, which bills itself as "the world's largest provider of scholarships for women."[90] Oliver's team, which includes four researchers with journalism backgrounds,[91] collected and analysed the organization's state and federal tax forms to find that its scholarship programme only distributes a small fraction of the claimed "$45 million made available annually".[92] Oliver said that at national level, the Miss America Organization and Miss America Foundation together spent only $482,000 in cash scholarships in 2012.[90] Oliver found that at state level, The Miss Alabama Pageant claimed that it had provided $2,592,000 in scholarships to Troy University despite not actually distributing any such scholarships.[93] The official YouTube video of Oliver's Miss America segment has been viewed more than 15 million times.[94] The Society of Women Engineers said Oliver's reference to their scholarship led to $25,000 in donations over the subsequent two days.[95]

Oliver has also founded and legally incorporated a church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, to demonstrate how easy it is to qualify as a church and receive tax exempt status in the United States.[96][97] The church was created in conjunction with a segment on televangelists who have tax-free mansions and private jets funded by millions of dollars in donations, which are sent in the belief that money given to televangelists can result in God rewarding donors with money, blessings, and cured diseases.[98][d] The next week, Oliver showed off the large quantity of unsolicited donations posted to him, which included $70,000 in cash, a large cheque, and other gifts.[99] The church's website stated that donations would go to Doctors Without Borders upon the church's dissolution.[100]

Oliver's February 2016 segment on presidential candidate Donald Trump received over 85 million views on Facebook and YouTube within a month, and was reportedly the "most watched piece of HBO content ever".[101] A network spokesperson said that this was "a record for any piece of HBO content".[102] In 2018 on Last Week Tonight, Oliver presented A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a gay parody of Marlon Bundo's A Day in the Life of the Vice President with Marlon Bundo as protagonist.[103]

In August 2020, Mayor Mark Boughton announced plans to rename the City of Danbury Sewer Treatment Plant as the “John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant” in retaliation for remarks Oliver had previously made mocking Danbury.[104]

Personal lifeEdit

 
Oliver and Norley in 2016

Oliver lives in New York City with his wife Kate Norley, an Iraq War veteran who served as a United States Army medic.[105] Oliver has said that they met at the 2008 Republican National Convention; he was doing a piece for The Daily Show and Norley was campaigning with Vets for Freedom. She and other veterans hid Oliver, the other correspondents, and the camera crew from security.[106][107] The two married in October 2011,[1] and have two sons, one born prematurely[108] in 2015[109][110] and one born in 2018.[111] Oliver occasionally wears a 1st Cavalry Division lapel pin – his wife's unit in Iraq.[112] He has a younger sister who lives in Australia.[113]

Oliver's immigration status placed certain constraints on what he could do in his adopted country, but also provided him with comedy material as he poked fun at the opacity and occasional absurdity of the process of obtaining US residency. Oliver was one of the many writers on the picket lines during the Writers' Guild strike, which brought The Daily Show to a halt;[114] he appeared on the show upon its resuming production on 7 January 2008. During a sketch, he pointed out that he was then in America on a visitors' visa that requires him not to strike while the show is in production, as violation of the terms of the visa would be grounds for deportation.[115] When asked about his residency status in early 2009, Oliver said, "It's an ongoing, and slightly unsettling, battle to be honest. I tried engraving 'Give me your tired, your poor, and your aspiring comic performers' into the base of the Statue of Liberty, but apparently that's not legally binding."[116]

In an episode of The Bugle released 2 November 2009, and recorded on 30 October 2009, Oliver announced he "finally got approved for [his] green card" (for US residency), noting that now he can "get arrested filming bits for The Daily Show".[117] Oliver says he was given a scare when applying at the United States embassy in London, when an immigration officer asked, "Give me one good reason I should let you back in to insult my country?" which the officer followed up with, "Oh, I'm just kidding, I love the show". Since then, he has referred to Americans as "us" or "you" based on what each segment has demanded.[118] Oliver became a U.S. citizen on 13 December 2019.[119][120][121]

Oliver's philanthropy includes an on-air giveaway in which he forgave over $15 million of medical debt owed by over 9,000 people. He purchased the debt for $60,000 and forgave it on his show of 4 June in 2016.[122]

Since moving to the United States, Oliver has been a fan of the New York Mets.[123] Oliver has said that being a New York Yankees fan would be the "wrong thing to do morally".[124] Oliver is a fan of Liverpool FC.[125]

Oliver was raised in the Church of England. His Anglicanism lapsed when he was aged 12 because of the death of a school friend and an uncle, and a feeling of not having received any useful answers from his church.[126]

LegacyEdit

John Oliver Koala Chlamydia WardEdit

In May 2018, Australian actor Russell Crowe donated approximately $80,000 to the Australia Zoo wildlife hospital for the creation and naming of "The John Oliver Koala Chlamydia Ward".[127] Oliver had previously bought several movie props screen-used by Crowe in an auction, including his jockstrap from the movie Cinderella Man, which he sent to the last Alaskan Blockbuster Video store for exhibition.[128] Crowe then donated the proceeds from the auction towards the establishment of the Chlamydia Ward named after Oliver, calling it "a cool way" to honor him.[129] Crowe visited the ward in early 2020, posing with the nameplate bearing Oliver's name.[130]

John Oliver Memorial Sewer PlantEdit

 
Sign at the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant

In August 2020, Danbury, Connecticut mayor Mark Boughton announced in a Facebook video his intention to rename the Danbury Water Pollution Control Plant as the "John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant" as a comedic symbol of his displeasure at Oliver's hyperbolic insult to the city during a segment concerning alleged racial disparities in a jury selection process. After reporting that Connecticut jury rolls had excluded two entire towns, Oliver said, "If you’re going to forget a town in Connecticut, why not forget Danbury?" Oliver then humorously offered to "thrash" the entire town, including its children.

As a response to mayor Boughton's sardonic video, Oliver embraced the idea enthusiastically, promising to donate $55,000 to Danbury's charities if the town renamed the sewage plant after him.[131][132][133][134]

After the city council voted 18–1 in favour of naming the plant after him, Oliver secretly visited Danbury on 8 October 2020 to attend the unveiling ceremony in person, wearing a Hazmat suit.[135] Mayor Boughton had made Oliver's personal attendance a condition for the renaming, and Oliver complied, revealing footage of his trip on Last Week Tonight the following week.[136]

FilmographyEdit

FilmEdit

Year Title Role Notes
2008 The Love Guru Dick Pants
2011 Moves: The Rise and Rise of the New Pornographers Protest Leader Short film
The Smurfs Vanity Smurf (voice)
2013 The Smurfs 2
The Smurfs: The Legend of Smurfy Hollow Short film
2019 Wonder Park Steve (voice)
The Lion King Zazu (voice)

TelevisionEdit

Year Title Role Notes
1985 Bleak House Felix Pardiggle Episode: "1.2"
2001 People Like Us Bank Manager Episode: "The Bank Manager"
My Hero Man from BBC Episode: "Pregnant"
2003 Gash Himself Episode: "1.4"
2004 Green Wing Car Salesman Episode: "Caroline's First Day"
2005 The Comic Side of 7 Days Himself 6 episodes
2005–2006 Mock the Week Panelist 7 episodes
2006–2017 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Himself Correspondent: 2006–2013 (356 episodes)
Host: 2013 (32 episodes)
Also writer: 2007–2013 (962 episodes)
2008 John Oliver: Terrifying Times Himself Stand-up special
2009 Important Things with Demetri Martin Various Roles 2 episodes
2009–2011; 2014 Community Ian Duncan 19 episodes
2010 Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear Peter Pan TV special; also writer
2010–2013 John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show Himself (host) 26 episodes; also creator, writer, executive producer
2012 Gravity Falls Wax Sherlock Holmes (voice) Episode: "Headhunters"
2012–2013 Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja Coach Green (voice) 4 episodes
2013 Rick and Morty Xenon Bloom (voice) Episode: "Anatomy Park"
2014–present Last Week Tonight with John Oliver Himself / Host Also creator, writer, executive producer
2014 The Simpsons Booth Wilkes-John[60] (voice) Episode: "Pay Pal"
Robot Chicken Serpentor, British Gentleman (voice) Episode: "G.I. Jogurt"
2016 Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee Himself (guest) Episode: What Kind of Human Animal Would Do This?
2016–2017 Danger Mouse Augustus P. Crumhorn IV (voice) 4 episodes
2017 Bob's Burgers Ian Amberson (voice) Episode: "There's No Business Like Mr. Business Business"
The Detour Fitz Episode: "The Ass"
2018–2019 Wyatt Cenac's Problem Areas none 20 episodes; executive producer
2020 Big Mouth Harry (voice) 3 Episodes

Awards and nominationsEdit

Published worksEdit

  • Earth (The Book): A Visitor's Guide to the Human Race (Grand Central Publishing, 2010) ISBN 978-0-446-57922-3

NotesEdit

  1. ^ See: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: U.S. Territories (HBO)". YouTube.com. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  2. ^ See: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Chickens (HBO)". YouTube.com. 17 May 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  3. ^ See: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Washington DC Statehood (HBO)". YouTube. 2 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.
  4. ^ See: "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Televangelists (HBO)". YouTube. 16 August 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2015.

ReferencesEdit

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External linksEdit