A few years ago, a producer friend was developing a movie project that required a British comedian for the lead role. He asked if I had any suggestion. I said that there was this one guy I thought was absolutely wonderful, though he wasn't well-known, and I didn't know if he'd done any acting. But I thought he was so funny and terrific that it was worth passing along. He was the brand new "correspondent" on The Daily Show, by the name of John Oliver.
My producer friend hadn't heard of him, though in fairness most people hadn't. So, I contacted another friend who was then a writer on The Daily Show, Rob Kutner (now a writer on Conan) and asked if he had any footage on John Oliver he could send, and Rob tracked down a demo reel.
I sent it to the producer who thought it was wonderful, though wasn't sure if Oliver was right for the role (it was about an athlete), and ultimately the movie hasn't gone forward yet.
I mention all this to make clear what a huge fan I am on John Oliver, and have been ever since he started in the United States. So, it's not surprising to me how successful he was when he filled in for Jon Stewart during Stewart's "sabbatical" to film Rosewater, or now with his own show on HBO, Last Week Tonight.
And I mention all this because of last night's episode, that had to no with government surveillance, the Patriot Act and culminating with an interview in Russia with Edward Snowden.
For anyone who dismissed John Oliver as "just" a comedian, it was done at your own peril. Over all, the interview was light-hearted -- as well it should be, since Last Week Tonight is basically a comedy show. But at times the interview also became very pointed -- as well it should be since Last Week Tonight is also a look at the news -- to the extent that news shows were reporting on the interview. MSNBC's Morning Joe in particularly did a long segment on it, and praising Oliver, and his ability to mix humor and seriousness to clarify complex social and political issues.
If you didn't see the show, here the thing is in its entirety. If you just want to see the interview with Edward Snowden, just jump to the 13:30 mark.
And if you're an executive of Comedy Central, you'll probably want to skip the whole thing, rather than remind yourself that if Jon Stewart had let you know a year earlier that he was thinking of leaving, this guy below might be your new host now...
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor