"My ideal groupie would be quite emotionally distant…"
by Carrie Dennis
John Oliver, best known as that British correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, is entering the third season of his own stand-up comedy television series, John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show. The show premieres on Comedy Central this Friday, July 20 at 11:00 P.M.
How did your stand-up series get off the ground?
I liked the idea of doing a stand-up series that was a little bit different from the stuff Comedy Central already had, something that was a bit more cohesive in tone. And I just thought that on a personal level it would be fun, because doing standup can be extremely lonely. Shooting a special is even lonelier. So it's just nice to have people who you like and admire hanging around backstage.
You met your wife while she was campaigning with Vets For Freedom at the 2008 Republican National Convention. How did you get together? Did you use comedy to reel her in?
I was shooting for The Daily Show at the convention. There was an area that we weren't allowed to film in, and we were filming there. So I was being chased by security, and she hid us in the little room that they had until security ran past. So it wasn't so much through comedy; it was through the consequences of doing comedy.
Have you always been attracted to politically active women? How similar do you think political views need to be in a relationship?
I don't know if I would say that was my type, so to speak, because I was only attracted to this pretty one. But she's not really interested in politics. I mean, she was in the Army, so she's pretty much apolitical. She just likes the idea of service. I think she finds politics pretty repellent. James Carville and Mary Matalin seem to do all right, but I generally haven't been with people with wildly different political views, so I don't really know. I have to believe it's possible.
In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court ruled to uphold the rights of corporations to make political expenditures under the First Amendment. Considering that corporations are now treated as people, which global —
This already sounds like a high-school exam question. I think it was the pivot with "considering." I feel like I should be writing this down.
Just wait for the kicker on this one.
Okay, well, "Considering…"
Considering that corporations are treated as people, which global corporation would you most like to fuck?
[laughs] You were right! I did not see that coming. That is a question, you won't be surprised, I have not been asked before. Well, I guess there are corporations that I would like to tenderly make love to, and there are corporations I would like to angrily, angrily fuck. It seems like it would be nice to enter into a relationship with Apple. But in terms of which corporation would I like to fuck, Halliburton deserves something. If I could go back in time and have sex with Halliburton… you would not believe the look I just got from someone who walked past me.
Barney Frank recently said, "I think the media has gotten cynical and negative to a point where it's unproductive. And I include even Jon Stewart and Colbert in this." What's your response to that?
The great thing about doing comedy is that you're fundamentally unaccountable for stuff like that. You just do what you think is funny. You don't really need to serve the greater good. You just need to serve laughter. So I agree with him in general about how the news media is currently behaving, but I don't think we really belong in that group. We're usually looking for something that is inherently ridiculous. We don't think too much about the ripple effect after what we do, because we're on every day; we want to try to make it as funny and interesting as we can and then move on to the next day.
Tell me about a time you've compromised your own views and values for the sake of a laugh.
You do understand I work for The Daily Show — I compromise my own human dignity for the sake of a laugh. My own views or values? I don't think so. When you deal in irony, there are shades of gray involved. But I think I'm always pretty clear about where a joke is coming from. My views and values are consistent, but, like I say, dignity is nonexistent. If you end up with any dignity left after your first year in comedy, then you're doing something horribly wrong.
Describe a John Oliver groupie.
I'm not sure that I've really met one. I could hypothetically describe one in my mind, but I don't think a real John Oliver groupie would be able to call themselves a groupie without throwing themselves off a cliff or bursting into laughter. I don't think I really have groupies.
Oh, that's hard to believe.
Not if you're me, it isn't.
Okay, hypothetically describe one in your mind, then.
My ideal groupie would be someone who is not — are you talking about groupies in the Almost Famous sense? Someone in a long flowery dress tagging along with you gig after gig? That sounds hellish to me. My ideal groupie would be quite emotionally distant.
Here's a question from a reader: "My girlfriend and I have a generally good relationship, but I have a bit of a wandering eye. I want to focus on her and try to be monogamous. Any tips for a happy sex life with just one woman?"
My key tip there would be never start a sentence that she can overhear with the words "my girlfriend and I have generally a good relationship," because you are instigating a gigantic argument as soon as you pause for breath. He has such a problem with that first sentence that he doesn't really deserve an answer to the rest of it.
Are liberals or conservatives generally better in bed?
I think both of them are probably worse than they think they are.
Imagine a romantic comedy starring Mitt Romney and Barack Obama. Describe how you think the plot would go.
Well, I think campaigning has become so spectacularly negative that it does start to resemble one of those old Humphrey Bogart/Lauren Bacall films. And I think the logical extension would be if during a presidential debate, President Obama or Mitt Romney exchanged increasingly agitated sentences, followed by slapping each other across the face, exchanging two more slaps, and then feverishly making out.
Let's go back a few years to a time before you, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert were married men. Imagine a scenario where you're all single and out at the bar. Who does best with the ladies, and why?
I have to think it's Colbert. He's surprisingly jacked. He's got quite tree-trunkish arms. I would definitely do the worst, so that naturally staggers it. Stephen, then Jon, then me.
But what about your accent? Doesn't that count for something?
I'm not saying that wouldn't make me play way above my average, but I still think I would come in third, even adding the accent thing in there.
What's the best way to seduce John Oliver?
I think the old Victorian way: a firm, firm handshake.