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John Oliver

Carry on, Correspondent

By Robert Faires, Fri., Nov. 19, 2010

John Oliver

After the whirlwind fall that John Oliver's had – getting engaged to his girlfriend of two years, former Army medic and Iraq War veteran Kate Norley; appearing at Jon Stewart's Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear as Peter Pan; covering the midterm elections during a live edition of The Daily Show; filming episodes of the sitcom Community, on which his recurring role has been expanded; signing on to star in the film Absolutely Anything, directed by Monty Python's Terry Jones; headlining Florida State University's Homecoming Pow Wow – doing a couple of stand-up sets in Austin must be a stroll on the village green for the British-born comedian. Then again, when he hits the stage at the Paramount Theatre on Saturday, it's just him and his searingly funny takes on current politics in front of 1,300 fans a show. (Note: The 8pm performance is sold-out.) So how hard has this autumn been for Oliver? Somewhere between New York City; Tallahassee, Fla.; and Greendale Community College, he found time to answer an e-mail from the Chronicle and tell us.

Austin Chronicle: Regarding the rally, what about it surprised you the most?

John Oliver: I think the most surprising thing was probably the amount of people that actually turned up. We certainly weren't expecting that many. And Jon managing to get Yusuf Islam, Ozzy Osbourne, and the O'Jays into the same place to perform together defied the odds in a way that is almost superhuman.

AC: I felt a great empathy toward you when you appeared as Peter Pan, having played the role myself. But when I wore those green tights, I was 13 in a little community theatre in Southeast Texas. What did it feel like for a 33-year-old on the National Mall?

JO: I always said that I would never play Peter Pan until it was in front of 250,000 people on the National Mall. Unfortunately, that day unexpectedly arrived. I have to say that standing in front of that many people in thin, green tights, and with the wind whipping off the Washington Monument, my testicles realized for the first time what true freedom really feels like.

AC: So many pundits seemed to be tying themselves in knots analyzing the event and its purpose, before and afterward. Did you feel like anyone in the media got it, and did you have a favorite reaction from a pundit after it was over?

JO: We could only ever control what we did, not how it was received. I just hope the people that turned up had fun. I tried to pay as little attention to the ensuing echo chamber as possible.

AC: Was there anything about this election that stood out for you? How do you feel the American media distinguished itself?

JO: I think the American media distinguished themselves with their usual class and lightness of touch. Watching them analyze current affairs is like watching scientists dissect a rat's brain with a sledgehammer.

AC: If you could have resurrected one great journalist from the past to have covered the election, to have kicked the media in the ass and shown 'em how it's done, who would it have been?

JO: I'd resurrect Walter Cronkite, not in the peak of his career but when he was a 12-year-old boy. I think you'd find that 12-year-old Walter would still have done a better job than 90% of the journalists on television today.

AC: Does the turnout – swapping Pelosi for Boehner, having more puffed-up Republicans for targets – make your job at The Daily Show any easier, or is the buffoonery so evenly spread between parties that it makes no difference?

JO: We have never yet found ourselves lacking for buffoonery of every persuasion, and I can't see that well running dry any time soon.

AC: Which feels more like home to you now, England or the U.S.?

JO: I don't see the two as being any different. To make sense of that answer, do bear in mind that I live my life in the firm belief that the Revolutionary War never happened.

AC: If you could move The Daily Show to any place and period in history and do essentially what you do with it today, what would it be?

JO: That is a great question. Caligula would have given us some pretty good material. And doing the show during Stalin's Russia would have been good fun, too, but for the fact that we'd have only been able to do one show before we were all arrested and sent to Siberian labor camps.

AC: Fantasy scenario: You, John Boehner, and Rand Paul are having drinks together. Who pays?

JO: Well, I assume that in that fantasy/nightmare scenario, I'd have been kidnapped and held at gunpoint, so the very least they could do is pay.


John Oliver appears Saturday, Nov. 20, 8 & 10:30pm, at the Paramount Theatre, 713 Congress. For more information, call 474-1221 or visit www.austintheatre.org.

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