Comedian and 'Last Week Tonight' host John Oliver is a pretty amazing talent, and he made his Stern Show debut this morning to tell Howard about his life, filling in for Jon Stewart, and getting his own show.
Here are the highlights from Howard's interview with John:
*John grew up in England, humbly, and was accepted to Cambridge University – he claims because they were forced to take a few lower-class students. While at college, he started performing with an improve troupe that lists several luminaries among it's alumni – including Sacha Baron Cohen, who just started to break as John was finishing up at Cambridge. 'My family was clear that I wasn't going to offer much in the way of pride for them.'
* John likened being an improv beginner to going to medical school – people only see doctors, they don't see students hacking up dummies and making mistakes.
* John started performing stand up and learned how to make people laugh in the back of a pub. At some point, he had an epiphany and realized that he wanted to tackle politics and issues that truly interested him. He threw out all his sure-fire material and bombed horribly - and John loved it. He took the bus home from that awful gig more excited about comedy than he'd been in a long time.
* The only people John really didn't want to watch him perform were his family. He made his parents promise not to come to his gigs. Once, while he was performing at the legendary Edinburgh Festival, he heard his dad's laugh a few minutes into his set and seriously considered leaving the stage.
* He started performing on different panel-style TV talk shows and caught the attention of Ricky Gervais. When the Daily Show was looking for new correspondents, Gervais recommended him to Jon Stewart and he was flown in to try some stuff out.
* Armed with only one suitcase (his manager told him that the American way is to be fired in three weeks) he headed to the Daily Show studios in New York City. Immediately after finishing up with Jon, John was asked if he wanted to work there. He said yes.
* While covering the Republican National Convention in Minnesota in 2008, John met the woman who is now his wife. She was combat medic who spent 2003-2005 in Iraq and still constantly travels to countries in peril to help out.
* She helped John when he was in peril too: While shooting at the RNC, John and his small Daily Show crew were about to be arrested for shooting where they weren't supposed to – which would have been disastrous because he was only in the country on a work Visa – and the woman who would become his wife hid him from security.
* When Jon Stewart took off to shoot the movie he had written last year, he asked John to fill in for him. Perhaps the choice was just because viewers wouldn't have to get used to a new first name, but more than likely it was because John is a super talent. He excelled beautifully in the role of host, though he was petrified. His only concern, he said, was giving Jon Stewart his show back in one piece.
* CBS head Les Moonves even invited John to talk about possibly having a role in CBS's late night TV line-up, just like he did with Neil Patrick Harris. For some reason, Neil got a whole sushi spread, John was offered coffee and a bottle of water.
* HBO wound up being the network where John landed with his own show 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver'. They tackle all the big news from the week before on Sunday nights. They cover all kinds of topics, like the recent Indian election (the biggest election in history). Next up, John hopes to tackle the story of how a Manhattan hedge fund is stopping an Argentinian war ship from sailing. It's a confusing, sprawling story and John admits that he doesn't understand it yet, which Howard respected.
Check out John's show, 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' on HBO.