After what he did guest hosting The Daily Show over the summer, this was only a matter of time: John Oliver has landed his own TV show. Well, technically, he already has one of those, the stand-up comedy series John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show on Comedy Central, which has aired four 6-episode seasons since 2010. However, this is a new one, and it basically sounds like The Daily Show but on HBO.
Let’s back up first. A strange thing happened this summer: Jon Stewart took two months off from The Daily Show to direct his first movie, and the ratings for the show didn’t really go down in his absence. It’s average rating among the most important demographics, specifically 18-34 year-olds, held steady. The show is supposed to be so uniquely tailored to Stewart’s comedic sensibilities and writing that it would surely suffer without him. However, longtime correspondent on the show John Oliver made for a refreshing change of pace, and the quality of the show’s writing remaining mostly on par with where it was before Stewart left. The transition wasn’t utterly seamless. Oliver was an initially more awkward interviewer than Stewart, and he had not the years of stored audience good will to easily move past jokes which fail to get a laugh as easily as Stewart does. However, it seemed apparent that in Oliver Comedy Central had discovered their heir apparent to Stewart. Perhaps an increasingly weary Stewart would begin taking more time off with Oliver guest-hosting on such occasions, ala Johnny Carson and his rotating roster of guest hosts (most notably Joan Rivers) on The Tonight Show. Or perhaps Oliver would just get his own show entirely.
Well, that’s exactly what happened. It’s just that his new show will be on a different network, specifically HBO. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Oliver’s weekly show “will present a satirical look at the week in news, politics and current events.” It will premiere some time in 2014 at which time it will air on Sunday nights. It will somewhat serve as a companion piece to HBO’s other political talk show, Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. However, it’s description so far makes it sound more like a version of The Daily Show that will simply air new episodes once a week on Sundays instead of four times a week from Monday-Thursday.
Oliver is uniquely positioned to excel in this deal with HBO. He brings with him over 7 years of experience both performing on and writing for The Daily Show, having thus learned under the best, i.e., Stewart. Beyond that, he already hosts his own weekly satirical political news show. This one just happens to be a podcast, The Bugle, which he writes and produces with comedy partner Andy Zaltzman. They’ve been doing it since 2007. With its slogan of “An Audio Newspaper for a Visual World”, The Bugle sees the two comedians discussing the topical stories from around the world and attempting to find humor where others may have failed. Occasionally, Oliver will discuss details of his life on the show, such as recounting performing at a free stand-up concert in Central Park and hearing the literal chirping of crickets in response to a bad joke he had delivered. You can also check out his interview with Marc Maron on the WTF podcast, which true to the reputation of WTF is a more serious-minded discussion of his life and career.
He also has a recurring role on NBC’s Community as the alcoholic psychology Professor Ian Duncan:
Of his new show on HBO, Oliver had this to say (also from THR):
“I’m incredibly excited to be joining HBO, especially as I presume this means I get free HBO now. I want to thank Comedy Central, and everyone at The Daily Show for the best seven and a half years of my life. But most of all, I’d like to thank Jon Stewart. He taught me everything I know. In fact, if I fail in the future, it’s entirely his fault.”
This is both awesome as well as a tall glass of suck. Oliver’s show will likely be fantastic, but his departure weakens The Daily Show. It also means many of us might finally have to get HBO. Yay-dangit? So conflicted.