John Oliver sees the endless U.S. election coverage as the gift that keeps on giving. The host of Last Week T0night with John Oliver also says the Trump and Cruz circuses and all the other primary concerns bring their own unique challenges for a TV satirist.
“Sometimes it’s hard to joke a joke,” says Oliver. “If people are already laughing off the back of the clip, the joke has kind of been told.”
Along with five other journalists from abroad, I spoke with the 38-year-old comedian about a week ago in New York. We gathered around an oval table in a boardroom on the 10th floor of HBO’s offices near Times Square.
Oliver being an outsider from The UK, his show does seem more international than most American late night offerings. It was interesting sitting around the table and hearing the foreign journalists each remark specifically on topics Oliver had touched on that directly impacted their own homelands.
The fellow who wrote for a French magazine handed Oliver the cover of his TV insert and thanked him for allowing him to use the F-word 13 times in one story–including on the cover.
Oliver is beloved in France, according to the reporter, for his profanity-laced screed against the terrorists who launched a murderous attack in Paris last November.
Oliver says he was “particularly happy that resonated in France because that’s the most delicate place for it to resonate. It’s hard to get people to relate to your point of view when you clearly are not from that country and do not speak that language.”
That episode of Last Week Tonight aired just 48 hours after the attacks. “We realized there would be something cathartic,” he said, “just in calling an asshole an asshole.”
Oliver says his sister worked in Paris for awhile, “so I did want French people to laugh at it. And its very very rare that I’ve ever wanted a French person to laugh at anything.”
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver returns Sunday for a third season. Read more about Oliver and the series here in a feature I wrote for The Saturday Star.