John Oliver answers our stupid questions
A version of this story appears in the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands Friday. Subscribe here for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW.
All praise Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption! John Oliver is finally returning to the desk for season 4 of HBO’s Last Week Tonight this Sunday at 11 p.m. But before that happens, Oliver stepped into EW’s not-very-serious confessional earlier this week to answer the silliest questions we could think of.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your new season premieres during Black History Month. Do you have plans to book Frederick Douglass as a guest?
JOHN OLIVER: I mean, I’m hearing great things about him. He’s a guy that’s had a lot of success. But not immediately, no. That would be an incredible get. [Edward] Snowden was an amazing get. Frederick Douglass, in a way, would be an even more impressive booking.
HBO is also home to Game of Thrones. Have you met the dragons?
No, I’ve not. They have dressing rooms long down the corridor from me — and some incredible catering.
During season 2, you set up your own church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, which you were the head of. Would you consider yourself a young pope?
Listen, there’s only one young pope that makes sense and it’s Jude Law, for some reason.
You went to Cambridge, a very smart school. What was the dumbest thing you learned there?
The dumbest thing I was taught was that The Canterbury Tales were funny, and I would argue that they were not even funny at the time [they were written] and they’re certainly less so now. Even if they were funny then, they’ve dated very badly, unless you find the idea of people shoving their naked ass out of windows entertaining. It has a certain visceral charm, I suppose.
Girls is also returning to HBO soon. If you were on the show, whose boyfriend would you be?
I would be anyone of those girls’ bad date story. Either way, they’re faking a phone call during the first date. So then it’s a question of who accepts a date from me. I don’t know if I’d have any takers there. I think instinctively I’m not getting into anything other than a blind date situation and that blind date situation is getting called to a halt before the appetizer turned up.
So your mother was a music teacher. If you were a musician, what kind of genre would it be?
Straight-up old school hip hop. I would basically be the white Biz Markie.
Last Week Tonight has a Supreme Court of dogs, and Neil Gorsuch has now been nominated to be the ninth Supreme Court justice. Have you guys begun the hunt for a Neil Gorsuch dog?
Well, let’s wait and see if he’s confirmed. That’s a very solemn process, right? We wasted a lot of time finding a f—ing dog for Merrick Garland.
What is going to happen to the Merrick Garland dog?
It will be put down.
You famously ran a series of segments on FIFA, in which you exposed a lot of the bad things going on there. Was this all because you never made a professional football team?
Probably. That’s some pretty excellent psychiatry right there. Yeah, I probably have a resentment from the fact that my one childhood dream is in tatters right now. That was all I wanted to do, was be a professional footballer. The only thing I dreamt of as a kid was doing that. I remember there was a few kids at my school who went on to be professional. It was like we were playing a different sport because I would end up kicking them out of no malice at all. I would be kicking the space where the ball was and then they would move [the ball] and then they would be in that space.
The alt-right has adopted the frog as its mascot. What do you consider the least racist animal?
I don’t know because you’ve got to believe there’s a lot of f—ing racists in the animal kingdom. I want to say the penguin. Because it’s black and white, has wings, can’t fly, can’t swim. You feel like a penguin should understand others’ life experiences more than perhaps another member of the natural kingdom. Having said that, you know, if you gave them the ability to talk, would they use the N-word? I hope not.
What is your most Trump-like quality?
I do not think I have a Trump-like quality because anything that he would refer to as a quality is something I don’t have.
And what is your least Trump-like quality?
Self-loathing. A willingness to analyze my motivations for things. But most of all, it’s probably curiosity. I don’t think he’s a remotely curious man, so I think that is it. I think he has a smorgasbord of defining deficiencies. That is just one of them. I am a quite curious person and I think he is the opposite of that.
You’ve done voice work for multiple Smurfs movies. Why?
Because, you know, there’s certain times in life that you know there is a child version of yourself which will be disappointed if you said no. If you’re looking for a life well lived, and then if someone says do you want to be a Smurf, I think the answer has to be yes. I don’t think you can say no to that. I think then what else do you say no to? The fact that I’ve been in a Smurf movie that I haven’t seen is very funny to me.
If you were in a film genre other than comedy, what would it be?
Probably some kind of English period drama where people talk a lot but don’t talk about how they feel — some movie version of Downton Abbey. Class-wise, I am of peasant stock, so I would very much be the downstairs worker there, where I’m getting shouted at by an expensively dressed man. I see myself as a kind of bedraggled kitchen staffer being slapped across the face because the soup is cold and Master is angry.
Would you ever want to star in an action-movie franchise?
If I was going to be in a Fast & Furious kind of a movie, I think I would be the one sensible driver. I feel like that group of people needs a sensible driver who refuses to break the law because he’s on a green card. So I would be the one driver appearing to the scene late but with his car in impeccable condition while a bunch of Lamborghinis are smoking at the side of the road. Someone who’s turning up in a Ford Cortina that has no paint chips.