Let's Not Forget John Oliver's Stand-Up Career

by Alex Gladu

Before he had his own hilarious, satirical news show, John Oliver was an equally hilarious stand-up comedian. His stand-up career has ranged from comedy club appearances in New York City to a full-blown series of stand-up specials on Comedy Central. Although he's now primarily focused on rattling off his jokes while sitting down behind a desk, John Oliver's stand-up comedy videos remain relevant as a sort of greatest hits reel.

While simultaneously working for The Daily Show, the show that largely launched his career into Last Week Tonight, Oliver also hosted his very own John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show. The show lasted from 2010 until 2013 and featured stand-up routines from Oliver himself, as well as other comedians, including Michael Che and Hannibal Buress. Many of Oliver's most memorable stand-up videos came from the Comedy Central show. Even earlier than the eponymous series, one of Oliver's first solo projects in the U.S. was a Comedy Central stand-up special from 2008, called Terrifying Times.

If there's one thing that his stand-up material from the past shows, it's that the British comedian has always found humor in American politics and culture. In the current season of Last Week Tonight, Oliver has literally made poking fun at Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, and the American electoral process in general his job. As you'll see from his stand-up collection, that's nothing new for him.

On Joining Twitter

In this episode from New York Stand-Up Show, Oliver prepares to introduce the three comedians who will perform. Before that, though, Oliver has to tell the audience about his experience reluctantly joining Twitter. "I worry that the Internet has destroyed curiosity forever," he declares.

On The American Empire

Oliver hosted this stand-up special, called The Decline of the American Empire, in Canada. Atop a stage covered in red, white, and blue, Oliver started off with, "At it's best, America has never been about facts. It's been about belief." If you enjoy this one, there are at least three other parts of the special to watch on YouTube.

On President Bush

In this excerpt from Terrifying Times, Oliver shows how far politics definitely hasn't come in the last several years. Speaking about then-current President George W. Bush, Oliver criticizes his plan for bringing peace to the Middle East. Meanwhile, the U.S. is about to elect its second president since Bush, and the Middle East is still one of Oliver's potential subjects for material.

On Traveling

In a 2012 episode from New York Stand-Up Show, Oliver recounted a quintessentially American experience: traveling through Newark Airport on Christmas Eve. As if that weren't an eye-opening experience enough, Oliver saw a pigeon — a pigeon that probably made it through security faster than you.

On Australia

The U.S. isn't the only country that Oliver pokes fun at. In this New York Stand-Up Show episode, Oliver called Australia "the most comfortably racist country" that he's ever been to. He also does a killer Aussie accent.

Don't get me wrong: Last Week Tonight is a fitting role for Oliver. Nonetheless, it's hard to tell whether Oliver's jokes are funnier when he's sitting behind a desk or standing behind a microphone. Although the politicians and the sets may change, Oliver's humor transcends.

Image: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation/YouTube (1)