On the subject of John Oliver

Seen a couple of YouTube clips of his stuff. And while perfectly fine as comedy my immediate reaction was that I know why he’s working in the US.

His act is simply warmed up Ben Elton. We’ve seen it all before over here. Even to the accent. Parents are Scouse, he’s a Brummie, educated in Bedford then Footlights at Cambridge. With that background you’ll only end up with a Mockney/Estuarine as a deliberate part of the act.

Can’t say I was greatly impressed. Elton Lite doesn’t really cut it for me.

25 thoughts on “On the subject of John Oliver”

  1. Elton Lite doesn’t really cut it for me.

    Full fat Elton was pretty dire too. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him deliver a funny joke.

  2. The Bugle – the podcast he does with Andy Zaltzmann – can be pretty fucking funny at times — but only when they are riffing on the silly stuff – once they hit politics it’s pure student union, Rik from the Young Ones times.

    His TV show is an odd duck, a half-hour long hectoring lecture – with the occasional zinger. Strange format, guessing they went this way to differentiate themselves from the incomparably more talented Jon Stewart.

    Mr Elton has never been funny.

  3. How can anyone think Mr Elton isn’t funny? Whatever happened to Blackadder being the greatest sitcom of all time?

  4. B.I.G.

    I guess people are drawing a distinction between Ben Elton the scriptwrite for others and Ben Elton the stand-up comedian.

    He was of his day doing stand up. Most ‘alternative’ comedians relied largely on hurling abuse at the Conservatives government in general and Mrs T in particular.

  5. BiG, seeing as I rate the 4 series of Blackadder in descending order of funniness from s1 to s4, and Elton wasn’t involved with the first, I suppose I give most of the credit to his co-writers.

  6. We’ve seen it all before over here

    And we continue to see — or at least hear — it every week when Jeremy Hardy gets laughs from a Radio 4 audience by using the same incredibly clever comedy technique of ‘reading out what some right-wing politicians have done, in a funny voice’.

  7. BIW – I couldn’t abide the first series, though mostly because Rowan Atkinson’s odd faces/voices. Much better once they played it straight and let the (often very funny) material speak for itself.

  8. @G

    Spot on.

    How the BBC continues to be allowed to produce that propaganda astonished me (though I must admit I find a lot of it quite amusing).

  9. He was quite good as a John Stewart sidekick but having his own show is a bit too much. I agree with Dan above – the guy has talent but he should keep away from politics

  10. His crap is like a sawn-off politicised version of Esther Rant-zen’s “That’s Life”. Keep expecting him to say “unless you know better”.

    He vaguely looks like a young Cyril Fletcher.

  11. I thought Blackadder 4 was fairly awful – far too many laboured, long gags, eg “Baldrick, you are stupider than…<insert long and painful comparison here".

    I think I laughed only once, with the crack about the monumental effort to get Haig's drinks cabinet a few yards closer to Berlin.

    Hugh Lawrie was the star of series 3.

    Oh, and Rik Mayall's appearances were shouty irritating rubbish.

  12. I haven’t heard this John Oliver, but surely he hasn’t come close to plumbing the depths of unfunnyness that Mark Thomas has pioneered and explored. I found him not only unfunny but inexplicable.

  13. Mark Thomas really is the epitome of the twattis lefty alterna-comedian. Who needs jokes when you get harangue the audience for 90 minutes about the Suez Crisis?

    Oliver by contrast isn’t that bad – not by a long shot. He did have his moments on the daily show and The Bugle keeps me entertained enough for the price. I submit for your consideration the clip below;


  14. The evidence of Ben Elton’s writing career is that whatever Blackadder had, it was either a sort of black swan, or due to the influence of others. Anyone who has watched The Thin Blue Line can have no illusion that Elton is a talented comedic writer. Blackadder itself seems to have been largely a product of some excellent performances from Atkinson, Robinson, Laurie, Fry, Mcinnerney, etc. Much of comedy is in what the actors do with a script.

    I watched some episodes of The Young Ones a while ago on Youtube and was astonished at how thoroughly bad they were; like many of my generation I thought at the time it was quite the thing, and expected watching them to be a cosy nostalgia experience. But they were (in my view anyway) just absolutely terrible; the appeal was in the illusion that they were “alternative” and that was a big deal at the time, blowing away the old fashioned variety and sitcoms that had been the staple of the 1970s. Often a thing can seem to have merit merely because it is new. It’s a striking contrast to the roughly contemporary Not The Nine Oclock News, much of which is still watchable. I did a show with Mel Smith once. The man was a genius.

    I think Mitchell And Webb are going to stand the test of time by the way. There’s real comedy gold in them.

  15. Oliver (or his writers) can be quite amusing. But one could, I think, predict the line he’ll take on most topics sight unseen.

    There really isn’t much that distinguishes him politically from any other Oxbridge comedian of the twenty-five years.

  16. Ecks-

    I watched that one just the other day. It’s great stuff. This is another corker-


    The show I worked on (early 80s) Smith used to come in and totally professionally direct all day after a night of cards and booze. A true Englishman.

  17. Miranda Richardson rescued Blackadder from disappearing up its own backside. Stephen Fry did similar in the last series (I can’t believe I’m saying I liked Stephen Fry!)

    As for John Oliver, never heard of him and judging from the comments above won’t be making an effort to acquaint myself.

  18. I haven’t seen much of John Oliver, but fwiw he was funny when doing interviews as part of the John Stewart show (albeit I only saw one, where he interviewed John Howard on Australian gun control).

    Now he’s got his own show, he basically just shouts, like Robin Williams at his worst. More a US taste, maybe.

  19. How the BBC continues to be allowed to produce that propaganda astonished me (though I must admit I find a lot of it quite amusing).

    It’s a comedy show. There’s nothing wrong with it being propaganda, as long as it’s funny propaganda.

    Mr Hardy, unfortunately, stopped being funny years ago (if he ever was).

    Ms Toksvig, on the other hand, is (or at least her script is) just as much agitprop, but she delivers it hilariously.

    As for John Oliver, it turns out he is the teacher from Community, and was on it when it was good. So he has that in his favour.

    I always hated The Daily Show: as we British know, satire is supposed to be deadpan. You do not deliver it and then mug to the audience as if to say, ‘Aren’t I clever? Yeah? Yeah? Wasn’t that funny?’.

    Basically, the platonic ideal of satire is John Bird and John Fortune, and John Stewart is about as far from that as you can get while still being called John.

  20. @G

    ‘It’s a comedy show. There’s nothing wrong with it being propaganda, as long as it’s funny propaganda. ‘

    There is something wrong with it if it’s being funded by the force of the state, bascially to ensure the continuity of the state. Humour is a terribly powerful weapon, which is why I pass up no opportunity to take the piss out of the left whenever I can.

    Hardy used to pop up on the comedy circuit in the early 90s, when I lived in the Smoke and was a regular attender at the Comedy Store etc, and I never found him funny then.

    Sandi Toksvig is an irritating little berk. Almost every (unfunny) punchline is signalled with, ‘And I thought, …’

    Still, overall I enjoy it – even if it’s just for the personal rants I can indulge in.

  21. @Ecks I was never a fan of Smith and Jones but that is very well-observed (though obvious, like all the best comedy I suppose).

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