John Oliver. Photo by Shawn Ehlers, Getty Images for Scleroderma Research Foundation.
British comedian John Oliver, a "Daily Show" correspondent since 2006, will step in for a summer-long stint hosting Comedy Central's late-night show starting Monday (11 ET/PT) as Jon Stewart heads to the Middle East to direct his first movie.
Oliver says he's "looking forward to it in the way someone looks forward to a bungee jump. I know it will be a fun and exciting experience. I'm just not 100% sure I should be doing that."
But he couldn't say no when Stewart asked him a few months ago, entrusting him with filling in for his longest absence since he began hosting the show in 1999. He'll do eight weeks of original episodes (and four weeks of repeats) before Stewart returns on Sept. 3.
"It's a real honor to be able to do this for him, however misplaced that trust," Oliver says.
Thursday, Stewart's last day on the show, was "an emotional day. He's a large part of our lives here, and the prospect of not having him around is a dislocating feeling."
Hosting the show is merely "a treat at the end of the day," Oliver says of the "fake news" show's process, which involves a team of writers, clip researchers and headline searchers. Stewart often makes extensive changes to the show's script between rehearsal and taping, so his presence will be missed behind the scenes.
The show's format, two segments followed by a guest interview, will remain intact. This week's scheduled guests are Seth Rogen (This is the End), Armando Iannucci (Veep), singer Mavis Staples and journalist Fareed Zakaria.
The desk-bound Oliver will take an extended break from traveling for remote segments. His roving at the 2008 Republican National Convention led him to his future wife, Kate, a combat medic in the Iraq war who hid him and his crew in her booth while they were evading security guards chasing them out of a restricted area. "It's an emasculating experience, being rescued by someone braver than you are," he says. They married in 2011.
The contrast between Jon and John, apart from the accent? "There's a slight height differential," he says, "and I like to spell words with more u's than he does. But basically I grew up in the Jersey of Britain, so we're cut from the same cloth."
On Thursday's show, Stewart talked about Rosewater, his film based on Then They Came For Me, a book by Maziar Bahari that recounted the London-based journalist's detention and torture by Iranian authorities that followed his appearance in a 2009 Daily Show segment shot in Tehran. Stewart also wrote the screenplay, and Gael Garcia Bernal (The Motorcycle Diaries) stars as Bahari.
While filming, Stewart plans to check in with a few Skype calls, so "he may be inadvertently a guest on his own show." But "I will try very hard here just to do something so funny and interesting ... that I hope people will just have to watch it, while understanding at the same time why they may not," Oliver says.
"The show is going to be much classier while he is hosting," Stewart promised viewers. "He's going to be incredible."
Gary Levin, USA TODAY
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