RECENT PERSONAL IDOLS #1: JOHN OLIVER (PART 1)

While the major international pageants are still a few months away (and ditto Miss World Philippines), I am in the mood to share some of my most recent obsessions (besides Pentatonix) as though of you who have been following my blog may now know, my interests go way beyond pageants.

I’ll start sharing people who I regard as my “personal idols”, people that I have the highest regard to, mainly because they have become key role models that resonate with me and if I have the opportunity, would want to emulate.

I will start this series with John Oliver, host of HBO’s comedy-news show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.  I first heard of him when I saw a Time magazine web article on my Facebook newsfeed buzzing about his in-depth rants about Miss America.  Being a pageant enthusiast, my curiosity was piqued so I played the video (embedded from YouTube) and though I disagreed with his contempt for pageants in general, he made strong salient points about how far off Miss America’s scholarship claims of US$45 million was compared to what it actually gives out (a little over 1% of that declared amount)–I am aware that the pageant world is unfortunately notorious for instances of deception and misrepresentation such as this one, and it is endemic even in the most prestigious of them.  Still, I would defend my support of pageants in this day and age as at the very least, pageants demonstrate in a heightened and entertaining way how this entire world functions based on perceptions–and as long as any form of judgment is based on perception instead of basing strictly on reality and merit, then anyone who criticizes pageants has no right to dismiss them outright.  Still, I was transfixed with the way John Oliver presented the facts–how it was illuminating and entertaining at the same time.  Check out the Miss America piece below:

John Oliver started out as a British stand-up comic who even in his early days his comic material took a satirical look at politics and society.  He was a rising star back in Britain playing in comedy festivals like the annual Edinburgh Fringe (where he debuted in 2001), on comic commentary shows like Mock the Week, and radio podcasts like The Department.  This gotten him such notices that he was recommended by comedian/actor Ricky Gervais to join Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show in 2006.  And from then on his career took went to the next level, as besides his regular stint in that show, he also got to star in his solo stand-up show, host a stand-up TV series, acting gigs on TV (Community) and movies (not quite as acclaimed or illustrious as those films were Mike Myers’ Love Guru and  two The Smurfs movies).  Check out his 2008 solo stand-up show, John Oliver: Terrifying Times, below.

In The Daily Show, John proved to be an almost indispensable member of the ensemble of correspondents, with his man-on-the-street interviews, his coverage of the US election campaigns, and in-depth reports on issues like gun control particular highlights.  In fact, when Jon Stewart decided to take a break from the show to direct a film (Rosewater), John was then entrusted to host the show for 33 episodes from June to August 2013 (the most guest hosting gigs for this show, exceeding Stephen Colbert’s 11).  His guest hosting stint was so well-received that there was speculation he could become the logical successor to John Stewart when he chooses to retire from this program (which he eventually announced in April of this year, with his last broadcast this Thursday, 06 August).  But at the end of 2013, it was announced that John would be departing for his own weekly show on HBO.  But as bittersweet as it is, he most likely got his boss’s Jon Stewart’s blessings and was given a warm sendoff as shown from the highlight clips they made for him (and he choked up as the clip rolled–a rare display of emotion for the typically British comic).  I’m also featuring a highlight reel of his witty intros during his Daily Show guest hosting stint.

Prior to premiering his new show, Last Week Tonight on HBO, he underwent a subtle makeover.  Yes, over the years in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show, John’s look got cleaned up from the scraggly medium-length haircut to something a bit neater, but still sporting bangs.  But as his HBO debuted, he sported a much shorter haircut and the bangs are almost totally ditched.  In my opinion it’s his most flattering look to date, and he physically exudes the authority of a genuine news anchorman.  There is an added comic bonus, though–his current look also made me see him as a döppelgänger to Food Network personality and former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy food expert Ted Allen.  Observe the close resemblance between the two personalities below.  I don’t know why other netizens have not seen what I have observed, as I’m now clamoring to see them together sharing the same screen–not in the digitally superimposed effect like what happened with Archie Panjabi’s last appearance with lead actress Juliana Margulies in The Good Wife, but actually be in the same room together.  Perhaps, make Ted Allen guest in John Oliver’s show, or what about a Food Network special where Ted and John travel across New York for Ted to coax John to find a food that he likes (in his show, we hear of foods John doesn’t like, so what about what he likes for a change?).  HBO and Food Network, come on, make this happen!

Ted Allen (top) and John Oliver (bottom):  see the resemblance?
Ted Allen (top) and John Oliver (bottom): see the resemblance?

Obviously Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has significant DNA derived from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (I know even John himself will acknowledge this).  But I don’t know if people can see a thread that links The Daily Show with the pioneering efforts of Saturday Night Live‘s “Weekend Update” segment?  With Last Week Tonight‘s once-a-week format, the link between those two classics are made more obvious–the “Top-of-the-week” rundown of some of the biggest news of the week makes me recall those classic “Weekend Update” segments, particularly those from the Dennis Miller and the combos of Jimmy Fallon/Tina Fey/Amy Poehler/Seth Meyers eras, while the way John Oliver effectively delivers the unvarnished truth while making it funny, accessible, and enlightening to the public in his main story segment is obviously in the same tradition that Jon Stewart does on The Daily Show–when Jon Stewart departs from the show, I know most people will feel this show is going to pick up where Jon Stewart have left off.

COMING UP: My favorite John Oliver takedowns/segments

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