For 'Daily Show' alum Oliver, 'Last Week' is 'fresh turf to ruin'

Mon Apr 21, 2014 8:03pm EDT
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By Christian Plumb

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Launching a weekly Sunday night news comedy show in an era of ever shorter news cycles is both a blessing and a curse, as John Oliver freely admits.

As he chooses current events topics to skewer, the bespectacled British comedian will have to pick over what other late-night shows, most notably "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart," where he used to work, have already feasted on.

"If something happens on a Monday, realistically all the meat is going to be picked off that bone by the time it gets to us - there's probably barely a point in doing it," he said of "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver," which premieres on HBO on April 27.

But Birmingham-born Oliver (who turns 37 this week) said in an interview that both global news and late-breaking stories explored in the U.S. networks' Sunday talk shows will provide plenty of fodder for "Last Week."

"I think we'll be attracted to some extent by stories that are off the grid," he said, mentioning the ongoing Indian elections, in which he said five candidates had criminal records, as the type of event that is barely covered by U.S. mainstream media - or political satire shows.

"Our show may end up skewing more international in terms of stories," said Oliver, who also co-hosts a weekly satirical podcast called "The Bugle" with fellow Brit Andy Zaltzman.

The U.S. political satire space is getting crowded. Not only Stewart, but also fellow Daily Show alum Stephen Colbert weigh in on the news on weekdays. Others from HBO's Bill Maher to "Saturday Night Live" do so weekly. But Sunday in particular - while a competitive TV night overall - is virgin territory, he said.

"There's no kind of comedic look on the week at all," he said in an interview at HBO's New York headquarters. "So you're actually on nobody's toes. It is a relatively fresh turf that we can, uh, ruin."   Continued...

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