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Q&A with John Oliver

Originally published in NOW magazine

As the dimple-faced British correspondent from The Daily Show, John Oliver still isn’t sure what he’s doing in America. Fans of the former radio-show writer would say he’s making us laugh.

Whether poking fun at U.S. foreign policy or the differences between British and American customs, his naive style cloaks a cutting commentary on the state of the world, helping us realize just how ridiculous we can be.

Oliver brings his satirical brand of political humour to Toronto as a part of the Just For Laughs Gala with Jimmy Fallon on Saturday (July 26) at Massey Hall. See comedy listings for details.

How are British stand-up audiences different from Canadian audiences?

I’ve never done stand-up in Canada, but I’m presuming that we are bonded through a deep respect for the Queen. Remember, she is the greatest lady in the world, despite the fact that there is no evidence to support that yet.

Why do you think Canadians find the British so funny?

I have no idea. Perhaps you find something laughable about accurate pronunciation. We have always found it not so much amusing, as basic human politeness.

You wrote a very funny campaign for BBC America to get subtitles for the British accent. How many accents do you do? How would you describe your accent?

I do one accent – my own. I can make it louder or quieter. That is the sum total of my vocal range. I thought I could do an American accent until I tried it in front of an American – the expression of horror is still burnt onto my retinas.

What was it like working with Mike Myers on The Love Guru?

Great. I’ve always liked him. When I went home over the holidays I found a small picture of him on my old bedroom wall from when I was a kid. I’d forgotten about that, and I’m glad that I only remembered once it was over.

What do you miss most about the UK in New York?

Terrible food. Sometimes it’s good to remember how bad food can be, so you can enjoy the concept of flavour to the fullest.

What still baffles you about North American culture?

NASCAR. They’re literally going round in circles. They all look like they’re about to pull over and ask a spectator for directions.

How do you keep a straight face when interviewing people for The Daily Show?

The relentless tension in the room usually makes that pretty easy.

What’s your solution to global ­warming?

People growing up.

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