Brit Wit

Comedian John Oliver takes on America — Sarah Palin, drum circles and all

October 27, 2011

Whether he’s chasing Sarah Palin’s “flag-dipped liberty coach” bus tour for “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” or revealing Hugh Grant’s heroic role in cracking the News of the World phone-hacking scandal (“I’m about to give you a schadenfreude-gasm, Jon”), John Oliver always gets his story. And it’s usually a ridiculous one.

Since 2006, Oliver has held the post of Senior British Person on satire’s grandest soundstage. And though his tenure has reached the point at which former correspondents Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert left to pursue other opportunities, Oliver is staying put.

“I love it here,” the 34-year-old Liverpool native writes in an email exchange ahead of his appearance at the Warner Theatre on Saturday. “And I’m not only saying that because Jon Stewart is standing over my shoulder, holding a gun to my head.”

Though Oliver’s bone-dry delivery has made him a fan favorite on the Emmy-winning show, he’s branched out in recent years. He snagged his own Comedy Central series, “John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show,” in 2010. He voiced Vanity Smurf in this summer’s big-screen adaptation of “The Smurfs.” And he pops up regularly (occasionally rapping) on NBC’s “Community” as professor Ian Duncan.

But Oliver still knows how to work the stand-up stage, and he shared with us some new bits we hope to hear more about this Saturday.

On which country, America or England, he identifies with more: I guess neither. I don’t feel like I truly belong in either country anymore, and I mean that in a good way. I feel more at home knowing that I’m not really at home. It takes all the pressure off trying to fit in.

On what Americans lost by winning the Revolutionary War: Well, first, you’re assuming the Revolutionary War is over. My people view that conflict as very much in the midst of a 250-year lull. There are so many things that you’re missing out on by not being British. The queen. Over-boiled carrots. And soccer hooliganism. Sorry, did I say that there were “so many things” that you’re missing out on? I meant to say that there are three.

On who has it worse now, Britain or America: That is a very depressing contest. Both sides make such strong cases. To win that particular competition is about as hollow a victory as you can imagine. In terms of debt, it’s very hard to beat your $14.3 trillion. It shames me to say that I don’t think it’s in Britain to run that kind of tab up anymore.

On Occupy Wall Street: I think the vast majority of people in America fundamentally agree with their concerns over the financial system and over the increasing wealth gap. And I think the vast majority of people in America also have serious reservations over drum circles. So, it’s complicated.

The best piece of advice Jon Stewart ever gave: Provolone cheese can really take a sandwich to the next level.

On the Republican presidential field: I think all the candidates [are] very gifted at inspiring comedy from abject despair. Michele Bachmann certainly has a special quality to her. Her speeches are like semantic palindromes; they make exactly as much sense when you read them backward as when you read them forward.

On why he was cast as Vanity Smurf in “The Smurfs”: The British accent is clearly still the sonic embodiment of narcissism. And that is never better represented than through a tiny, blue Belgian creature.

Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. NW; Sat., 7:30 p.m., $35; 202-783-4000. (Metro Center)
Rudi Greenberg is Express' Weekend Pass editor and comedy columnist.
SECTION: {section=express, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=express, subsection=null}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: !!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=bg52e9xhqr, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, childrenitemsperpage=3, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, includesorts=true, includeheader=true, defaulttab=all, includeverifiedcommenters=true, includerecommend=true, maxitemstop=2, includereport=true, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=7, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments
Next Story
Out of his element, Billy Bob Thornton lends a villain his voice in ‘Puss in Boots’
Kristen Page-Kirby | October 27, 2011