John Oliver, the lanky-haired Brummie comedian who moved to America to try out his funny accent on the natives and has risen to something near fame as "Senior British Correspondent" on the The Daily Show, is being rewarded in the only way that is appropriate – with his own weekly US show.
This is a trumpets-and-cymbals moment for the Cambridge-educated Oliver, who or may not have been straining to escape the shackles of his Daily Show host and boss, Jon Stewart, from the moment he first joined the satirical news programme on Comedy Central in 2006. After all, no one watches it.
All right, not true. Everyone does. Stewart, with his liberal-hilarious take on political and cultural events, has become almost as indispensable to the peddling of news in America as the nightly news anchors themselves. And as a result, others like Oliver, who once similarly languished on his set, have broken free and gone on to exceptional solo careers. They, of course, would include Steve Carrell, star of The Office (the US version) and nowadays of the big screen too, as well as Stephen Colbert, whose own programme, The Colbert Report, now follows The Daily Show nightly on Comedy Central.
Oliver, 32, is not yet getting quite so dramatic a leg-up as, say, Colbert, but it's not bad – particularly for a Brit. Comedy Central confirmed that it is purchasing a new six-part stand-up comedy series that will debut in January and will be called John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, to be produced by the UK-based TV company, Avalon.
The man himself, who also writes for The Daily Show and recently has been showing up as a guest star on an NBC sitcom called Community, knows what this means. "It's the most worthwhile way you could spend an hour each week that doesn't involve getting Mount Rushmore gradually tattooed across your stomach," he said.
The series has already been shot, hence the quick turnaround. Each one-hour show will feature Oliver doing his stand-up thing before he introduces a four of his own favourite comedians to pick up where he leaves off. Those guests including the likes of Janeane Garofalo, Brian Posehn, Paul F. Tompkins, Marc Maron and Kristen Schaal.
Best known in Britain for his semi-regular guest appearances on Mock the Week, Oliver cemented his key role as Stewart's fake-reporter side-kick through the drama of the 2008 presidential election when The Daily Show achieved record ratings. The task became a little harder when George Bush was finally gone and the man left was Barack Obama, whose politics made him a less obvious target.
That did not stop Oliver, however. "Enough is enough," he bellowed one evening one week after Obama's inauguration last January. "For eight long days, America has paid the price of his failed policies: layoffs, foreign wars, temperatures so low water itself is freezing."
True, Comedy Central is putting Oliver into the 11pm slot, not quite primetime. But still. "When John Oliver said he wanted to host a stand-up series featuring his favourite comics, the only real question we had for him was 'How soon can we do it?'" said talent vice president Elizabeth Porter. "It's awesome to know our audience is going to get more of him this way."
Of course, it will be 2010 before we know if Oliver and his stand-up show flourish and becomes his ticket to even greater stardom. Or not. His take on his future career in America (as lifted from his biography on The Daily Show website last night): "He hopes to stay at The Daily Show for as long as they and US immigration will allow." And for as long as he makes America laugh.
John Oliver: Thoughts on life in USA
* "Since arriving from England, almost everything that I've put in my face has contained flavours that I had only previously read about. We in Britain stopped evolving gastronomically with the advent of the pie."
* "The Boston Tea Party is appalling. The only time throwing tea into the sea would be acceptable would be if you'd pre-boiled the ocean. And added a splash of milk."
* "I am going to be speaking to you this evening with a British accent, so do be prepared for the words you hear to come with a little more authority than you're used to."
* "Immigration is an ongoing, and slightly unsettling, battle to be honest. I tried engraving 'Give me your tired, your poor, and your aspiring comic performers' into the base of the Statue of Liberty, but apparently that's not legally binding."
* "British people would die for their right to drink themselves to death."