What The Daily Show Taught John Oliver About Covering Politics

john oliver last week tonight season 4

Saturday Night Live and various other programs have been attempting additional political comedy ever since new President Donald Trump was sworn in. However, not everyone thinks that the latest election cycle always makes for the best jokes. For some comedians, including the producers of South Park and Last Week Tonight's John Oliver, the "low-hanging fruit" that is recent political jokes doesn't always translate to intriguing comedy or great TV. In fact, John Oliver revealed that just making fun of "personalities" and "sound bites" doesn't give his work any real satisfaction. He also said this is a lesson he learned from none other than John Stewart.

It's what I liked most about The Daily Show--that Jon would really try and reach beyond just the fun sound bites. You could absolutely have fun with them, but that was the dessert. Those are the things that you could use to get people to listen to the main thrust of what you're saying.

Of course sound bites have come into play on The Daily Show and even HBO's Last Week Tonight before. But really the germ of John Oliver's comment in a lengthy interview over at Rolling Stone indicates that he really did learn a lot during his time on The Daily Show. It's hard to understand the fine line between easy comedy and comedy that is more nuanced, but John Oliver does seem to have a good grasp in regards to what works for him and his weekly show. In fact, it's the weekly format that actually lends itself to fewer sound bites and more "timeless" stories, as John Oliver himself put it. It's challenging to do a show where the host is not on every night and still create quality content that will work when it is aired on Sunday nights. It's a lot harder than it looks, ladies and gentleman.

It's clear from the above quote that John Oliver still thinks a lot about his time on The Daily Show. It was an integral part of the comedian's life, after all, and a successful guest hosting stint on the Comedy Central series while John Stewart was out on a break helped lead to John Oliver landing Last Week Tonight in the first place. When asked whether he felt afraid to somehow still be in Stewart's shadow, Oliver had the following to say:

I don't think that's a fear, and I don't even have a problem with it. I'm happy to be in his shadow. I think that is only appropriate.

This guy and his adorable sound bites, amiright?

Seriously, though, John Oliver's big break came on The Daily Show, where he was both an on-camera personality and a writer. Not every TV show is a happy family or even a respectable one, but it's nice that John Oliver has positive thoughts about his prior work experience and the man at the head of it. If you'd like to hear more about the upcoming season of Last Week Tonight, you can check out the full interview. You can also check out more about Season 4 with the first trailer for the new episodes. Last Week Tonight With John Oliver returns on Sunday, February 12 at 11 p.m. ET. More on upcoming TV dates can be found in our midseason TV premiere schedule.

Jessica Rawden
Managing Editor

Reality TV fan with a pinch of Disney fairy dust thrown in. Theme park junkie. If you’ve created a rom-com I’ve probably watched it.