When John Oliver auditioned for The Daily Show in 2006, it was his first time in the U.S. He spent the next seven years as Jon Stewart’s Senior British Correspondent, Oliver’s writing for the show earning him three Emmys for outstanding writing and his performance leading to roles in television and film. Though his star was certainly on the rise, it was when Oliver guest-hosted for Stewart in 2013 that HBO took notice, offering him his own show.
In a conversation with EW, Oliver admits that he knows better than anyone how he has Stewart to thank for the stratospheric success of Last Week Tonight, and reveals some behind-the-scenes insight into what it’s like to have Stewart as a boss — and how they’ll never again be anybody like him.
ON STEWART’S INFLUENCE: “He’s such an influential presence in my life,” Oliver tells EW. “Especially right now — I can’t really imagine my life without him in it. It’s hard to overstate – I wouldn’t be sitting in this country if it wasn’t for him, you know? I left the country for him, so I think I have a slightly different relationship to him — in my own head, at least – compared to Americans who’ve worked there before. I left my country for that man. I don’t live in the country I was born in because I wanted to work with him.
“And the show I do now, I definitely would not be doing without him. Not just because I wouldn’t have ever been given the opportunity to do it, but because I wouldn’t know how! He taught me how to do everything that I do now. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to do it. So it’s hard to overstate the extent to which I owe him everything.”
ON STEWART’S IMPACT: “He’s one of the funniest people who have done television in the last two decades. He’s the best person to have ever done this version of comedy on television, in my mind. I don’t think there has ever been anyone better, and I don’t think there ever will be anyone better. He is the high water mark for this kind of comedy on TV. We’ve seen something pretty incredible – we’ll never see this again.”
ON HAVING STEWART AS A BOSS: He’s a pretty amazing manager. He’s obviously funny – that is objectively the case over the years – but I think what you don’t see is what an incredible manager of that machine he is. In doing that show for a long time and tinkering with the process for a decade and a half, making sure that everyone is taken care of and knows how to do the best version of their job – watching him tinker with it like a mechanic is amazing to watch. He’s technically incredible.”
ON STEWART’S POST-DAILY SHOW FUTURE: “I want to see him become the official King of New Jersey. I think New Jersey would probably move to a monarchy – it would be him and Springsteen duking it out, War of the Roses style,” Oliver joked, before adding more seriously: “Yeah, I don’t know – I would like to see him probably rest for a second. Probably… standup? That’s something he can go back to.”
A version of this story appeared in Entertainment Weekly issue #1375, available for immediate purchase here. For much, much more from Stewart’s former correspondents on his legacy, see below.