On June 10, John Oliver will begin a three-month stint hosting Comedy Central’s The Daily Show while regular frontman Jon Stewart is away directing his debut movie, the imprisonment drama Rosewater. The 36-year-old British comedian and longtime Daily Show correspondent and writer talks to EW about his preparation — or lack thereof — for this choice gig, and why stepping in for the king of late-night satire will probably involve him dressing up as the Queen.
How did you find out that you were hosting The Daily Show? Jon called me on the phone to say they’d got the money for the movie and then asked if I would host over the summer. I said yes just automatically. I owe him so much I will do anything he wants, from temporarily hosting a show to disposing of a body. It was only on hanging the phone up that I suddenly thought, “Whoa. What have I just agreed to?”
Were there other people in line for the job? I’m imagining a lot of scheming and backstabbing among the Daily Show correspondents— like Showgirls, but with less nudity. [Laughs] Oh, much more than you know. We have a swimming pool here that we all thrash around in for at least three hours a day. No, everyone’s been incredibly supportive.
How have you been prepping? This show is fundamentally reactive. There isn’t too much you can plan for. There are certain things you know are going to happen over the summer. There is going to be the Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. There is going to be a royal baby born. Those two things are going to be big issues.
In the press release announcing your appointment as guest host, you were quoted as saying, ”Don’t worry, it’s still going to be everything that you love about The Daily Show, just without the thing that you love the most about it.” Which is one of those lines that is funny because it’s true. Because it is profoundly true…. It’s like having the royal family without the Queen. It’s like the Queen taking the summer off. And you can dress up like the Queen, but you’re not the Queen.
Will you be dressing up as the Queen at any point this summer? Listen, it’s three long months with a royal baby in it. I can’t imagine that I’m not going to be in a Queen costume at some point.
I would describe your correspondent persona as ”overcaffeinated über-Brit.” How much thinking have you done with regard to your persona as host? Not much thinking. I am an overcaffeinated über-Brit. I think you’re giving my performance skills slightly more respect than they deserve.
Speaking of performance skills, over the years Jon has gotten a lot of comedy mileage out of his appearing in the movie Death to Smoochy. Is that why you appeared in The Love Guru? So that if you ever did host The Daily Show you would have your own crappy movie to reference? I’ve modeled my movie career on his, too, yeah. The Love Guru and then The Smurfs 2, which is coming out this summer…. My movie career proves that this is the only thing that I can do.
Are you getting a pay raise out of this? I don’t think so. Again, that’s probably something I should have looked at.
Would you like to become the permanent host of either The Daily Show or something else, like Daily Show alum Stephen Colbert? Maybe one day. But I can’t really think that far ahead…. It’s like being stuck in open water. Your main thing is trying not to drown. You’re not thinking, “Oh, when I don’t drown, I wonder if I should learn Spanish.” I know it might seem like an achievable goal, but I’m just trying to make sure that when Jon gets back the entire studio isn’t somehow in flames.