John Oliver talks llamas, Ray Lewis and the greatness that is Herman Cain
The first time John Oliver agreed to do an interview with Westword, Michael Roberts noted the utter futility of pointing out when either party -- but mostly the "humble scribe" -- laughed due to the ubiquitous chortles throughout. Five years later, Humble Scribe No. 2 (aka, yours truly), could have easily written the exact same thing. John Oliver is that funny: Everything you ask, he'll answer with a hilarious response.
The Daily Show's British correspondent is in town this Friday and Saturday at Comedy Works South. In advance of his visit to the Mile High City, Westword caught up with Oliver to talk about the intrinsic problem of Denver being so high, why a Joe Biden presidency is scarier than you think and everything in between.
Westword: I just have to ask: Do you have the best job in the world?
John Oliver: You know, I couldn't really make a coherent case against it. It is amazing that I've gotten paid to act pretty childish for most of my life, which has always been a dream of mine. Ever since I was a child I remember thinking, "If I could behave this badly and somehow monetize it, everything will be fine." So yeah, I guess. It's gotta be up there.
What's something people don't know about Jon Stewart that might come as a surprise to find out?
He's been doing this for over a decade now, so they probably know a lot about him as a TV person -- but there's a lot they don't know about him, too. But nothing bad. There's no skeletons in his closest that would make you completely change your mind about him. He's as great as people imagine him to be.
Wyatt Cenac recently departed The Daily Show. What was his best attribute as a comedian, specifically in regards to what he brought to the show?
Well, his best attribute as a comedian is that he's extremely funny. You definitely want that to be in your top five attributes when you're a comedian. Your best attribute can't be that you're a really nice human being. He's an amazingly funny guy. He works really hard. So yeah, it was very sad seeing him go. We've only been back for a few weeks now without him and I already miss him badly. But we're gonna watch the Super Bowl together Sunday.
What's your Super Bowl prediction?
I think the 49ers are gonna win, but I would like the Ravens to win.
Because I really want to see what Ray Lewis would do if he won. Tears are only going to be the beginning of what will end up being a complete emotional breakdown.
And there would have to be some kind of dance that would accompany that, right?
Oh, I'm sure there will be a dance. That goes without saying. I think it might be an interpretive dance, though. Something really esoteric. [Laughs.]
Yeah, the mayor of Denver recently lost a bet with the mayor of Baltimore over the Broncos-Ravens game and as punishment had to do the Ray Lewis pregame dance, but I guess he ended up seriously injuring himself before he could do it. Did you hear about this?
Yeah, that's probably a good thing. He's not a pro athlete. He hasn't been playing in the NFL for over ten years. He can't just do that dance. Nobody can.
Moving on.... You mention in your act how you're incredibly thankful for conservatives, that they can be kind of crazy and seem to perpetually provide you with material. But recently some politicians on the right, like Bobby Jindal, for example, have spoken up saying their party needs to be less extreme and less "stupid." My question is: Are you concerned that conservatives could become more sane and therefore give you less material to work with?
I'm not concerned about that. I still think they don't quite see it. I still think there are going to be enough snafus from them over the next few years. I don't think it's a concern that either side is going to suddenly not provide anything worth comically commenting on.
One of the politicians you specifically cite as a good outlet for your material is Herman Cain, who's also one of my favorites as well....
Yep. Not just as a politician, as a human being. That man is a sensational human being. He's the greatest person to ever run for president and maybe desperately not want to be president at the same time.
Well, I think what disappointed me most when he suspended his campaign was the fact we weren't going to be able to hear any more post-alien apocalyptic addresses to the United States. That was one of my all-time favorite Daily Show moments. Was it one of yours as well?
Yeah, it was phenomenal. When he looked into the camera and said "citizens of Earth," that is the closest I've been in six years of working here of just laughing out loud. I was having to bite the inside of my cheek not to ruin that moment. I couldn't believe what was happening in front of my face. It was incredible. In fact, we went straight back to the office and were loading the tapes in and I just had to check that the thing that happened was the thing I thought had just happened, which was that he actually looked straight into the camera and addressed an alien invasion. He is an amazing man.
He truly is. Anytime you can do that and intertwine Pokemon in your speeches as a politician running for presidency of the United State of America, it immediately places you in the elite company of amazing people.
He just loves attention. But unfortunately attention is both his oxygen and his Kryptonite. So, it's difficult. It's difficult for him. It's both your greatest laugh and the thing that is going to ultimately destroy him.
Continue reading for more from John Oliver. You'll be performing at Comedy Works in Denver this weekend. Have you enjoyed your past visits to Colorado, and do you have an all-time favorite Colorado moment?
My all-time favorite moment was when I was there in September for a wedding. We went to the "Shining hotel" in Estes Park. We had a weekend up there. It was fantastic. She had a wedding with llamas -- llamas in the wedding party -- so it was phenomenal.
With... llamas? The animal?
Yes. Llamas. Llamas in formal dress. [Laughs.] Because you know, it's a wedding! You gotta dress a llama up! The least you can do is put a bow tie on a llama. Have some respect!
What do you think the nation's perception of Colorado is outside the state?
Well, I think the perception is probably that it's too high for a place to be, and as was proven in the debates, it's too high for the human brain to function at its optimal capacity. I think that will be the main thing that people will think of: It's just too high.
You mean, both literally and figuratively?
That's right. In light of your recent law in that region, yeah, it is too high.
What aspect of the comedic process do you prefer: writing or performing?
I like writing. But it's all part of the same process, really. It's just with performing you get to see everything right straight through to the end. So yeah, I like all the parts of it. I think I'd be bored if I only did one. I like having the full process.
I recently read that you're a Liverpool F.C. fan. Who's your all-time favorite player?
Probably Kenny Dalglish or Ian Rush. I carry an autograph around in my pocket that Ian Rush gave me when I was twelve years old.
Really? Wow. That's incredible dedication. But that's typical for a soccer fan, right?
Yeah, when you become a fan, you're in for life. You're in for good.
Have you ever been involved in a hooligan brawl?
No, but I've been to matches so you're generally in the middle of a hooligan brawl at matches. You don't have to throw a punch to be in the middle of one.
I also read that you're a Mets fan. Did Jon Stewart convince you to become a Mets fan or is this something you decided to undertake on your own?
No, the Yankees convinced me, of course. The Yankees have this relationship with a football team in England called Manchester United who I hate with a passion I find it hard to articulate. I've grown up seeing fans of Manchester United wearing Yankees hats without knowing what they're wearing. So that very symbol I find nauseating. So no, I was forced into being a Mets fan and through no fault of my own I was channeled into a life of misery. But that's what I associate sports with, anyway. You should support a team that brings you nothing but pain.
Well, I salute you for choosing the Mets over the Yankees.
Yeah, of course. You can't chose to be a Yankees fan and not be a total asshole. If you live in the Bronx or if your family are Yankees fans, that's fine; if you chose to be a Yankees fan, you are a platinum-grade asshole. Life doesn't work that way. You don't get to chose to be a Yankees fan. That's not the way life is. Life is being a Mets fan. It's a series of unending disappointments and misleading moments of hope.
That's a great way to describe it. I'm a Rockies fan, so I can relate.
Yeah, so you know the way of pain.
Let's let this story fully shake out and let's see. I want him to be more involved, but I'm worried he wasn't. I'm waiting for the Tuiasosopo interview -- that's what I'm really waiting for.
What's that even gonna be like?
I don't know. I just don't know. Everything about the story is phenomenal. I can't wait for it.
But the more involved Te'o was, the better his chances of being inducted into the Crazy Sportsman Hall of Fame, correct?
Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. If he says, "I was involved in this the whole time," he will be inducted the next day.
A few days ago Downton Abbeywon Outstanding Ensemble in a Drama Series at the Screen Actor's Guild Awards. Are you a fan?
[Laughs.] I've never seen it. I've never seen it. It strikes too close to home. That's basically the way I grew up, which is why I can't watch it.
You mention in your act how Mitt Romney's favorite period in civilization would have been Victorian London. So, do you think he's a fan of the show? Oh, I'm sure he is! Because that's the way he sees the world. It's a very rigorous class structure that he's on top of.
Lastly, for whatever reason Fox News and other news corporations are already talking about the 2016 election. There's speculation that Hillary Clinton could be a frontrunner for the Democratic Party. Do you think America is ready for its first female president coming off the heels of its first two-term African-American president? And would this be the straw that broke the camel's back for conservatives?
Yeah, I think America is ready. What America is really gonna have to do is come to terms with the idea of a Joe Biden candidacy first. I think that might be more of an emotional leap. America is not ready for that level of fun. America is not ready for old uncle Joe with nuclear missiles at his fingertips. John Oliver will be at the Comedy Works South on Friday, February 1 and Saturday, February 1, with two shows each night. Find more information here.
Get the Arts & Culture Newsletter
Find out about upcoming performances, exhibitions, openings and special events happening in the Denver art and theater scene.