John Oliver proves the right Brit for the job, nailing his first night as Daily Show guest host
Even John Oliver had to admit it was an odd situation, in his first line to viewers after taking over comedy news institution The Daily Show from host Jon Stewart.
“Let’s all just acknowledge for a moment that this is weird,” the jumpy British comic noted Monday night, kicking off the first show in a months-long stand. “This looks weird, it feels weird, it even sounds weird. It sounds weird to me and this is my actual voice.”
But as is turns out, it wasn't that weird after all, following a debut Monday in which Oliver nailed his duties as substitute host, proving Stewart left his baby in pretty good hands.
Viewers seemingly agreed, handing Monday's show the same average ratings Stewart has earned this year. (or, as Oliver himself would probably crack, the show's fans were too sleepy to realize it had a new host until they were halfway through the program, already.)
Oliver, a 36-year-old British born comic who joined the Daily Show as a writer and performer seven years ago, took over as substitute host so Stewart could direct a movie over the summer. Or, as the new host put it, his boss had “gone to a small Italian village to learn how to cobble shoes.”
When announced, it seemed an odd move; late night shows have gotten out of the old school habit of using substitute hosts to give stars a break (it’s too easy to develop rivals who might later take your job, as Tonight Show host Johnny Carson found out with longtime substitute Jay Leno).
But the Daily Show has always taken a fair amount of vacation time, and Stewart seems wary of working to the point of burnout – heading out for standup shows reguarly to keep his comedy instincts sharp.
Still, no other host has led this comedy institution since Stewart took over from Craig Kilborn in 1999, leaving open the question: What would The Daily Show with Jon Stewart look like without Jon Stewart?
As it turns out, it looks pretty much like any Daily Show, with sidesplitting takes on the NSA phone/internet records scandal, a great bit allowing very other correspondent to gripe about Oliver getting the guest hosting gig and an interview with gust Seth Rogen featuring “hidden” backstage video showing the star griping about having to appear with somebody who isn’t Stewart. (They didn’t even change the opening announcement, welcoming viewers to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”)
“BuzzFeed just posted the 27 worst moments of John Oliver’s first six minutes,” correspondent Aasif Mandvi cracked to Oliver, just before telling his fellow castmember to, um, get lost. But with the f-word involved. (To get a look at Oliver's comedy philosophy, click here for my interview with him from 2011).
Monday’s show proved the Daily’s Show’s hidden strength is its writing, which remains intact, even when the host is gone. Here’s hoping they allow the show to adapt a bit more to Oliver – who still fell a bit into the comic’s habit of cracking jokes instead of interviewing his guest – taking the satire to new places.
So far, Oliver’s off to a wonderful, seamless start. So Stewart can rest easy; his baby might even have a few new moves when he gets back to the host’s chair three months from now. And that's a win-in for everybody; especially viewers.
Decide what you think by checking out a few segments below. Or see the whole show by clicking here.