A Minute With: John Oliver on channeling rage into comedy

Wed Apr 16, 2014 8:10am EDT
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By Christian Plumb

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British stand-up comedian John Oliver can sound downright angry at times, even though his star is on the rise.

The 36-year-old Oliver has managed to parlay a successful stint filling in for Jon Stewart on "The Daily Show" into a gig hosting a Sunday night news comedy show on HBO that debuts April 27.

But get him started on topics from the corrosive influence of money in U.S. politics, to gun control, to the massive General Motors auto recall, and you'll hear no shortage of outrage -- faux or real.

Ahead of the premiere of "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," the satirist spoke to Reuters at the HBO headquarters about what has raised his hackles lately, his non-alpha male status, and why he feels like a 3-year-old with a nail gun.

Q: How do you explain the fact that the GM recall, which you devoted a large part of one of your test shows to, has yet to provoke any kind of broader public groundswell?

A: General Motors, that's like the fuel-injected spine of the United States, it's a Springsteen song. And they're killing teenagers. It baffles me why there's not more of a pushback against it, the fact they can get away with it this easy.

Q: How much of the humor in the show is going to be propelled by that kind of anger?

A: You don't want it just to be a diatribe every week. You don't want to be a sledgehammer every week. You want to be a scalpel.   Continued...

Comedian John Oliver poses for photographers backstage during the 41st International Emmy Awards in New York, November 25, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri