On “The Daily Show,” John Oliver is the go-to British correspondent, a man who cleverly pokes fun at American foreignpolicy, domestic policy and social issues from an international perspective.
Friday night, Oliver, drenched in his own sweat under Strong Auditorium’s spotlight, dropped his suit from his “day job” and donned a hideous orange flannel shirt for his stand-up routine.
Oliver’s act was a sharp change from some of the past comedians I’ve seen (to be fair, most of the comedy that I have watched recently has been “BlueCollar Comedy). For me, Oliver emphatically shut down the idea that stand-up necessitates crude, sometimes condescending, sexual jokes to get the crowd rolling. His routine was quite the opposite.
Shout-outs from the crowd precipitated Oliver’s uncanny ability to come up with a joke on the spot. Several times, audience members yelled things out that were undecipherable, and when Oliver asked them to repeat themselves, the crowd went silent. This got Oliver going, and he likened those members of the crowd to the much-maligned Mel Gibson crying “Freedom!” in “Braveheart,” then remaining silent after the enemy asked Gibson to repeat himself.
Oliver even proved amenable to incorporating “those kids” in the show — the inevitable audience members who stand up and say something stupid. Friday night’s crowd included the Russian kid, presumably a freshman pining for face time with Oliver and asking for his bracelet. Then there was the guy in the front row who, when asked by Oliver whether he owned a gun, hesitated for a few minutes, causing a very awkward back and forth silence. The audience gradually became more and more convinced that he did actually own a gun, until he flexed his right bicep and pointed to his “gun.” Yep. Oliver’s easygoing style went right with the flow of “those kids” as well.
While Oliver’s unscripted stand-up was superb, what he came to do — his scripted act — wasn’t far off either.
Oliver, newly arrived from Britain four years ago and engaged to an Iraqi war veteran (did anyone else find this pairing odd?), used his foreign perspective as the basis for many of his jokes. His proclamation that, “the world needs idiots, idiots get things done, they don’t waste time over-thinking things” summed up what he’s learned about the American public. I haven’t seen many stand-up comics recently, but I really liked Oliver. He seemed like a guy who was genuinely having the time of his life on stage. He integrated the crowd perfectly with his skit, his self-deprecation meshed well with his travel anecdotes and his jokes about American idiocy were a safe bet with an idealistic college audience.
If you missed the jokes, be sure to check out comedians.jokes.com for some of Oliver’s hilarious skits from the night. Oliver definitely set the bar high for Jim “Hot Pockets” Gaffigan, who will appear at UR for Meliora weekend.
Willis is a member of the class of 2011.