John Oliver On the Gig of a Lifetime

The “Daily Show” star talks subbing in for Jon Stewart on late night’s buzziest show.

By: Sophie Gilbert

British comedian John Oliver got the gig of a lifetime this summer when the Daily Show correspondent anchored the Comedy Central hit while Jon Stewart took a 12-week break to direct a film. Oliver got overwhelmingly positive reviews, with New York magazine’s Vulture blog naming him the “heir apparent” and the New York Observer calling him “the best thing to happen to late night since Colbert.” Oliver brings his standup show to the Warner Theatre November 8. Here’s a conversation with him.

Was it difficult handing the baton back to Jon Stewart after such a successful summer?

Not really. That’s like asking, “Is it difficult handing over the keys to a rental car?” The Daily Show is Jon’s racecar. I was just trying not to drive it off a cliff or cause too many scratches during my joy ride.

What were the high and low points?

There’s nothing about the show I didn’t enjoy—it’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had. Dealing with the George Zimmerman verdict was a difficult day, but I’m proud of what we managed to come up with. And I’m very grateful to Anthony Weiner for his antics. He was a gift who seemed incapable of not giving.

Can you give some idea of what the “John Oliver live” experience is like?

It’s me, onstage, talking into a microphone and leaving pauses where I hope the laughter will be. I wish I could promise a more spectacular live experience than that. I could promise 16 costume changes, but I would be lying about at least 15 of those.

How do you prepare for a tour like this?

In the same way Lance Armstrong prepared for the Tour de France—with a cocktail of EPO and testosterone injections, then an elaborate series of lies.

What do you miss most about England?

Seeing the queen’s face whenever you try to pay for your groceries. That’s because her face is on our money, not because she works at a supermarket cash register.

John Oliver. November 8 at Warner Theater. Tickets ($39.75) are available online.

This article appears in the November 2013 issue of The Washingtonian.