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Before he became the most trusted man in satirizing the news on HBO as host of Last Week Tonight, he served as the Senior British Correspondent for The Daily Show, while Jon Stewart still sat behind the desk, from 2006-2013. Of course, the fans who know John Oliver best also recognize the comedian from his various acting roles, many of which have required no more than his unmistakable voice.
Born in the United Kingdom on April 23, 1977, John Oliver has 13 Primetime Emmy Award wins to his name from commenting on serious matters with an impeccably sharp wit for years. His lack of awards from hosting a stand-up comedy showcase for Comedy Central, aptly titled John Oliver’s New York Stand-up Show, or his more recent (and more high-profile) role as Zazu in Disney’s 2019 update of The Lion King, must be why that avenue of his career more often goes largely unnoticed.
In fact, you probably have seen John Oliver in acting mode more often than you may realize. See for yourself by taking a look at the following list of nine characters he has played on the big and small screen alike, starting with his most, arguably, underrated role in one of the most beloved sitcoms in recent memory.
Professor Ian Duncan (Community)
Of the various recurring characters that fans of Dan Harmon’s cult comedy hit would call a fan favorite, Greendale’s Psychology Department head Ian Duncan might just barely make the cut. However, when he was not taking a leave of absence to care for his ill mother, John Oliver’s character played a pivotal role in some of Community’s most defining episodes, such as the 2009 pilot, in which friend and former attorney Jeff Winger (Joel McHale) asked to help him cheat his way to early graduation, or when he attempted to cure Abed (Danny Pudi) of his stop-motion animation delusion in the Season 2 Christmas special.
Dr. Xenon Bloom (Rick And Morty)
John Oliver’s association with Dan Harmon on Community led him to be cast as another character with doctorate (or, at least, we can assume from his official title) on the first season of Rick and Morty. In “Anatomy Park,” Oliver voices Xenon Bloom, an amoeba whose resemblance to Dr. John Hammond in Jurassic Park is no mistake as the titular tourist attraction he creates with Rick Sanchez (co-creator Justin Roiland) inside the body of a homeless man is a clear homage of the 1993 blockbuster and a profound example of the animated Adult Swim mega-hit’s parodic tone.
Dick Pants (The Love Guru)
A “hit,” either critically or commercially, certainly does not describe this 2008 comedy which stars John Oliver as Richard Pants (more often referred to as “Dick”), the Oprah-obsessed manager of American-born, but Indian-raised, romance expert, Pitka (Mike Myers). You may not remember that Oliver even had a role in The Love Guru, which was also co-written and co-produced by Myers, most likely because you probably forgot the movie existed altogether.
Vanity (The Smurfs)
You probably do have some recollection of the big screen, live-action/CGI hybrid adaptation of The Smurfs, particularly for casting Neil Patrick Harris as the human lead, Katy Perry as the voice of Smurfette, and the fact that there were two of them (one in 2011 and The Smurfs 2 in 2013). However, you may not have realized that it was John Oliver as the voice of Vanity, the blue forest-dweller’s boisterous, self-centered beautician.
Wax Sherlock Holmes (Gravity Falls)
John Oliver had the opportunity to voice a more inventive iteration of a pop culture icon, in this case Sherlock Holmes, on Gravity Falls: an animated, more kid-friendly answer to Supernatural that aired on Disney XD from 2012-2016. The Season 1 episode “Headhunters” sees siblings Dipper (Jason Ritter) and Mable (Kristen Schaal) take on a band of sentient wax sculptures of historical and fictional people, such as Larry King or rapper Coolio (voiced by themselves), and are led by Oliver as a statue based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s mystery character.
Ian Amberson (Bob’s Burgers)
John Oliver would later reunite with Gravity Falls star Kristen Schaal on her less kid-friendly cult favorite animated series Bob’s Burgers in 2017. His character, Ian Amberson (who is very close to the spitting image of the actor in the Fox series’ animation style), works for the Pets Pawsitive Pet Agency and wants to represent the Belchers’ cat Mr. Business as a spokes-animal for a popular pet food brand, but the cat turns out to take an immediate dislike of him.
Various (Important Things With Demetri Martin)
Speaking of reunions, John Oliver also got to share the screen with fellow The Daily Show veteran Demetri Martin on Important Things, a quasi-sketch comedy that explored various mundane topics through the lens of the quirky comic’s irreverent style. Oliver appeared in two episodes of the short-lived, but quite amusing, Comedy Central original series to play a total of three characters (all of which British, naturally) including a king, a prince, and William Shakespeare himself.
Fitz (The Detour)
Another former The Daily Show correspondent who has since gone on to achieve notable success as an actor is Jason Jones, whose dark family sitcom The Detour featured a guest appearance by his buddy John Oliver. In the TBS original’s explosive Season 2 finale reveals that Nate Parker’s felonious father-in-law (James Cromwell) was able to smuggle a dismantled sculpture of Saddam Hussein out of Iraq with help from a British military officer named Fitz, played by Oliver, in a funny flashback to 2003 perfected by the comedian’s signature politically-charged humor.
Booth Wilkes-John (The Simpsons)
The humor was far less political, but still somewhat rooted in cultural dissonance, when John Oliver made a guest voice appearance on Fox’s long-running animated series The Simpsons. In fact, the most overt political reference throughout the 2014 episode, in which Homer and Marge butt heads with their British neighbors over game night, is his character’s name: Booth Wilkes-John, which is the name of Abraham Lincoln’s assassin in reverse.
What do you think? Do you feel you have some major binging to do of the aforementioned programs before you can justifiably call yourself a John Oliver fan, or do you think you will continue to keep your distance from The Love Guru, at least? Let us know in the comments and be sure to check back for additional information and updates on the Last Week Tonight host, as well as even more insight into the lesser-known movie and TV roles of your favorite celebrities, here on CinemaBlend.