John Oliver, right, on his last night at "The Daily Show" anchor desk, shows a picture of Jon Stewart on a movie set. Stewart returns to the show on Sept. 3. (

“Let’s all just acknowledge for a moment that this is weird,” said John Oliver on June 10, his first night hosting “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

“This looks weird, it feels weird, it even sounds weird — it sounds weird to me, and this is my actual voice.”

A correspondent for the show since 2006, Oliver took over the anchor desk this summer while Stewart has been directing a not-so-secret movie project in the Middle East.

It was weird at first.

I found [Oliver’s] entire performance not just a refreshing change, but in most ways as good — or even better — than his boss’s rendition.

But soon, the idea of Oliver as emcee began to seem normal. I liked having Oliver in the driver’s seat. So did other viewers. He won over audiences immediately.

Alas, as they say, all good things must come to an end: Oliver’s run as interim host ended last week. I miss the geeky, gawky, lovable Brit already.

Don’t get me wrong: I adore Stewart. His show is groundbreaking. He’s the Messiah of the left-leaning fake news program.

But I’m about to say something that borders on blasphemy: If push came to shove, I’d pick John (with an “h”) over Jon (without).

John Oliver is a better host of “The Daily Show” than Jon Stewart.

There, I said it.

Because Stewart has been hosting since 1999, with more than 2,600 episodes under his belt, you might say, OK, you’re jaded. You’re bored. But I think my affection for Oliver is about more than novelty. I found his entire performance not just a refreshing change, but in most ways as good — or even better — than his boss’s rendition.

Here’s why:

1. Oliver is a better actor
Stewart is funny, but he overacts. He uses the same predictable voices, smug facial expressions and caricatures over and over again: The Mafia Guy, The Dumb Southerner, the Jewish Grampa, etc. Oliver’s more sedate physical awkwardness — OK, let’s call it nerdiness — makes for extra laughs. He also plays a better “straight man” to play off the correspondents’ bits. Compare Oliver’s presence with Stewart’s looser, spazzier demeanor. And let’s face it: Stewart’s inability to sit still detracts from his material.

2. Oliver is the better interviewer
He is. Oliver is more attentive, more reactive, and just plain better at asking good questions and engaging his guests. Stewart tends to get mired in silly talk or in pushing some kind of an agenda.

3. Outside perspective
Oliver’s modus operandi is to be amused and horrified by what happens in our country. He seems physically pained by the news travesties he’s reporting. Of course, Oliver has had the same team of writers (minus Stewart) to back him, but to my ear, being a Brit provides him the perfect critical stance as “commentator” and gives him the outsider edge. He can straddle the pond, claiming a British “we” or American “we” depending on the needs of the comedic moment.

4. British accent
Perhaps this is just my “Monty Python” obsession speaking, but satire just sounds better with an accent. A British inflection automatically reads as authoritative — but since “Daily Show” material by its very nature is subversive, the tension between the two forces is comedy magic.

5. Enunciation
This goes along with the categories above, but it’s worth noting as its own criteria. Jon Stewart mutters. He low talks. Worse of all, he delivers his lines at light speed. The dude needs to slooooow dowwwwwn. Oliver, on the other hand, speaks clearly, carefully, methodically. We can hear every snap, crackle, and pop in the timbre of his voice.

6. More funny?
What makes one laugh is personal. It’s a matter of taste. You can’t really quantify or explain it. For me, Oliver is just funnier. He’s also sharper, fresher, and yes I must admit, younger. Maybe I’ve outgrown Stewart’s shtick? Or perhaps the times have changed? I was, after all, obsessed with David Letterman in the 80s and early 90s: His antics suited that era of pop culture perfectly. Now, decades later, to me, he’s a tired out grump who seems almost as checked out as bandleader Paul Shaffer. No fun.

On September 3, Stewart returns.

But fear not, Oliver-ites! Media outlets are already speculating Oliver is the “The Daily Show” heir apparent. If Stewart should not step aside anytime soon, Comedy Central could easily spin off an Oliver-helmed show.


Tags: Film/TV

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    Great piece! I, too, have fallen in love with Oliver’s comedy this summer.

    In a similar fashion, Craig Ferguson is my favourite late-night host, hands down. (see what I did with the English spelling there?) Yes. I love his accent and his worldview.

    Different is nice. And enunciation is more valued than we think.

  • Collin

    Should have included Craig Kilborn in this Analysis even though thats going pretty far back he was the first and the best.

  • MaeX3

    I totally agree!!

  • Joe

    You are, as the youths like to say, cray-cray (sp?). John Oliver is Jon Stewart lite. His interview with Rand Paul is one example where he showed he is not ready to really dig in on the issues. I think the Daily Show is funniest when it not only amuses everyone but proves to be the best informed political show on tv. Oliver did an admirable job this Summer, but I’m looking forward to Stewart’s return. I’m also looking forward to Oliver’s vignettes coming back.

    • Aaron

      Regarding the interviews, think back to the early 2000s–Jon’s interviews were typically abysmal back then. I would often just turn off the TV for the third segment. He got better with experience and time, and I expect John O. would as well.

  • Brian Doherty

    This article is nothing short of insane!!!!,,,,,,,John Stewart today, tomorrow, and forever!!!

  • Union

    ” A British inflection automatically reads as authoritative.”

    Get over your inferiority complex – or is it something else?

    Maybe you find a “harvard” accent more authoritative than a Brooklyn one? Need I go further?

  • maraith

    John O is an awful interviewer. Clearly uncomfortable with most people unless they were comedians of some stripe. Abruptly ending the interview with hardly a mention of the book or movie. Jon S. reads the books and this is evident in his interviews. Otherwise, Jon O did really well.

  • benitat

    With all due respect to John O., who I think did as well as anyone could in trying to fill Stewart’s shoes, I CAN’T WAIT for Jon Stewart to get back.

  • Rob H

    John Oliver did a great job but he will never best The Master. And at times he was a little too emphatic and shrill and I had to turn down the volume.

    Maybe this article was just meant to provoke some comments, and it worked!

  • Stu

    Wow, 10 0ut 0f 10 WRONG! I loved John as the anchor but Jon is the anchor!

    • Jon Stewart Jr.

      Well, Oliver does have a British accent. He is right about that.

  • joanna

    I absolutely agree, save for one point. I think Stewart is an excellent interviewer, Oliver not so good. But I said from the start that I thought John Oliver was better. I do wish, though, that the show had skipped that awful shtick with all the other correspondents bad mouthing Oliver. Not funny!

  • No

    Without Jon Stewart, there would be no Daily Show. Oliver did a great job and deserves his own show, however, he didn’t even come close to Jon’s 15 years behind the desk.

  • LibertarianUSA

    John Oliver did great during his time hosting the Daily Show, but his interviewing skills need some serious work if he does one day inherit the daily show or gets his own show.

  • brettys

    I commend the writers. I was prepared to not like John Oliver as much as Jon, but as I listened to the words, I thought, “I can hear Jon saying this!” The writers are excellent and deserve the kudos. Either Jon or John could have uttered the words. Both are great at delivery. I will be excited to see Jon back, but John O. did a superb job.

  • souvien

    Many of the points raised are valid, and Oliver certainly did an exceptional job…but it all comes down # 6…and Jon is just a funnier comedian!

  • wordsdontmatter

    John Stewart is better, because he is American, and can criticize real politics, and in a funny way covers things that ARE not funny. I do not want to see comedic entertainment but journalism or news at some level of social reality. luckily we al jaz america now, which will be cool to see how stewart, uses their coverage to compare to infomercial news.

    i been watch 3 days straight from 5 to 11pm roughly and man, AJAM, only six mins commercials, no ping pong attempt to force our lives to evolve around stupid repub-dem discourse, and not submission to corporatism marketing sales..

    refreshing, as i like to turn news on when im tired of internet, sometimes, for the background and fox, cnn, mnsbc etc… just feels like secular demonic propaganda in some form trying to seep into my brain..

    watch ajam..refreshing and they are covering things now covered: 1st 3 days… Obama care, not from good or bad value judgement, fact that it is here, and what is it and does it mean for u?, lousianna, detroit, chicago… women, christians who have problem with political and corporate christianity..

    calm reporting..

  • Vincent Ricci

    first off — Yes! John Oliver has done a great job!! He is extremely talented. Furthermore, he had very big shoes to fill; which he DID with his own spin. That being said, I think that Jon Stewart less in-your-face approach does a better job at still making the point while not making it sound like a personal jab. He has had many more years to get there. John Oliver is fantastic and can’t wait to see what else he will come up with. Bottom line: 2 is better than 1. Keep up the good work guys!!

  • Chris Farlee

    Oliver cemented himself as next in line to the King, but the King he yet is not.

  • Stephanie Mack

    I love Stewart but I have to admit that I have been enjoying John Oliver even more.

  • Deej

    I started watching the Daily show again because of John Oliver’s guest gig and it was much more enjoyable than ever before. I am sorry he’s gone.

  • dharmagirl

    I wouldn’t say John is BETTER than Jon, but he was really really good. I really enjoyed his tenure. I think this has something to do with my Monty Python obsession that makes me like him so much. He’s a cute, geeky Brit! The skit on his last show with the correspondents bad-mouthing him – I did not like. He would get better at interviews given time. I’m glad he’s on the show.

  • Ooova

    John O. has been set up to copy Jon, and he tried hard to do so.
    It didn’t work out IMHO. John needs a different show to shine. Looking forward to see Jon again.

    • Nick Snow

      I disagree. I found John Oliver funnier because he didn’t try to copy Jon. He didn’t do the goofy voices or other things Jon is known for. I hope we get to see Oliver again in one form or another.

  • Valerie

    Yeah, sorry. John Oliver is doing a good job in the interim, but of the two only John Stewart actually makes me laugh out loud throughout the show!

  • Ashy Larry

    No. Just no. Oliver was just fine, and a pleasant surprise, but you’re just going nuts with it.

  • Amy

    I totally like Jon Stewart better, no contest.

  • Trixie

    Wow. I’ve been saying the same thing. Love Jon. REALLY love JoHn. Thanks for the courage to put this out there. (And I bet Jon agrees with you!!)

  • twoody

    Dream on. Oliver is great and did a wonderful job, but……

  • Alfa

    Loved John Oliver, but googled every time whether Jon Stewart was back yet every time I watched the DailyShow, knowing fully well that Jon was due back in September.
    Can’t wait for the show to get back to the way it was…

  • Jeremy

    John Oliver is hilarious and did a great job, but no one can EVER replace Jon Stewart.

  • Guest

    Are you kidding me? No contest. After a few attempts I gave up watching the show. Eagerly waiting for September 3

  • Michael JanFrancisco

    i enjoyed john O, but the whole time I would think, “he’s no J.Stewart”. And the Rand Paul interview made me cringe.

  • Carol

    John Oliver has a broader knowledge of news from an international perspective,. He follows news sources from outside the USA as well as within. He brought the show to a higher plane, very sharp, very aware, very funny. I admire Jon Stewart for his work and his great mentoring of comic talent. But I will miss Oliver as host.

  • Milliband

    Don’t think so – John Oliver was competent at the job- but its like comparing someone who throws just fastballs with someone who has five pitchers (not a bad analogy since bowlers in Cricket usually bowl their best pitch vs baseball when their expected to have at least three or four). His persona and comedic rhythm was usually the same which would get old in time. You also have to question why he was way easier on Rand Paul than Senator Gillibrand. His stranger in a strange land shtik suits him better as a correspondent.

  • Lorenzo

    You know this article is dead wrong when even John Oliver would disagree with it vehemently.

  • americandolt


  • Paul

    Be brief – I’ve watched 10 mins of Oliver as the anchor when he took over, nothing since, and I’m a UK viewer (?). As the diatribe goes “Chris Rock is funny, Jon Stewart is funny, Charlie bit my Finger is funny – John Oliver, not so funny.” All a bit forced, unlike Samantha Bee, another natural?

  • Rider

    It’s true. I liked John Oliver far better than Jon Stewart as the host of the Daily Show.

  • Joe

    the fact that this is even discussed after Oliver filled in for just a few months should tell you something – he was new to it, he had big shoes to fill, yet many many people thought not only was he funnier than Jon Stewart at his own job he’s been doing for 14 years after Oliver filled in for a couple of months (which tells you he will only get better) but it shows how tired Stewart’s shtick has become.

    If Stewart didn’t have obvious leverage since he started the show (the kind that lets you go in the sand and okay Scorcese for the summer), he would be out of a job right now. The ratings told it all.

    If Stewart had any idea Oliver would do that well, he would’ve picked Al Madrigal or the Eccentric Millionaire to fill in

    • anonymous

      Not everybody is as petty small minded as you apparently seem to assume they must be. Stewart probably picked Oliver BECAUSE he knew he was the best? Hm?

  • Tim Thompson

    The reasons that ethan gave as to why John was better than Jon… well, i wouldn’t be surprised if some dr who/sherlock fan girl who over indulges in geek culture wrote this. John was brilliant, but Jon will continue well into the future to be the best,

  • Zak

    I know its hard to admit that the king isn’t as good as the prince for all those who’ve come to love the king and kneel at his feet but its obvious to all those who aren’t jaded and sympathetic to Stewart’s cause that Oliver does a much better job and is a hell of a lot funnier. Hands down. Time for the king to dethrone and move on to more important tasks and let the prince gain a crown.

  • Jon Stewart Jr.

    Well. I agree he does have a British accent. Other than that I can say I pretty much disagree wholeheartedly.