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John Oliver Smuggles Sage Advice into Cobb's Comedy Club

As a head writer and correspondent for The Daily Show, John Oliver has a front row seat for all things WTF and Fox News-ish, parsing through America’s quotidian brain farts for our daily digestion. He’s seen the bad and the ugly, but — as he’s wont to remind — the multi-talented British satirist has found the “good,” too. Our visceral approach to life — not over-thinking it, eschewing fact for faith, overconfidence, etc. — are qualities that are at least better than their opposites for getting things done.  

Which is why he loves America. 

Or, at least, why he wants to. But, yes, he must demur. As an Englishman, he’s seen this movie before. It’s epic, but it never ends well. Somewhat ironically, his stand-up instead plays out like a next-generation Paul Revere story, as we picture Oliver riding through cities across America, warning not of his own people, but of ourselves. One if by land, two if by diabetes!

Oliver has been packing the house at Cobb’s this week — through Saturday night (two shows tonight, two shows Saturday) — preaching to the choir on topics such as inane politics, American gumption, the over-credited almighty, and Tim Tebow (which, oddly, incited the greatest reaction from the Thursday night audience). 

By now, his routine is polished and his arguments cogent. His shtick is that of an over-informed grad student ranting with equal amounts of sarcasm and bewilderment. He’s still using some of the material from his special, Terrifying Times, but most of his Thursday night narrative was pulled from the headlines of 2011, including the incidental theme of Worldwide Addition by Subtraction (who could have predicted three of the world’s most villainous figureheads would have breathed their last breaths in the same year?).

He’s such a compelling force, it seems only a matter of time before someone gives him his own show. He’s clearly the sharpest correspondent on The Daily Show, the gold standard for American infotainment. The show, much like SNL, regularly fosters talent that goes on to grander projects — usually in Hollywood, on the ‘tainment side of things, and Oliver has already heeded the occasional call of filmmakers. Yet he seems particularly interested in the “info,” the data from which he cleverly and lovingly riffs on as one of Jon Stewart’s many absurdist foils. 

He could do whichever. His acting chops are considerable, exemplified rousingly in a State of the Nation/NFL Halftime Speech mash-up (the highlight of the hour, for my money)(also: Jim Harbaugh for President?), calling out certain states — *cough*Mighican*cough*Utah*cough* — for lackluster individual performances, and dropping in plentiful F bombs for effect (Oliver also had an insightful, hilarious, tangential take on swearing as an undeniably human reaction to much of the world around us).

If there’s one criticism, it might have been interesting to see him engage with the audience a bit more, but perhaps he knows better than to incite an American mob.

@ChrisTrenchard