John Oliver wrapped up his summer-long stint as temporary host of “The Daily Show” on Thursday night, a three-month period which, contrary to conventional wisdom, has been remarkably busy on the news front.
Oliver made his debut the very day news of the NSA surveillance scandal broke. And since then, neither the substantive news (the Supreme Court, Egypt) nor the sideshows (Carlos Danger, the royal baby) has slowed down the way it’s supposed to in the dog days of summer.
In his hosting farewell Thursday, Oliver shared some final thoughts on a few of the biggest stories of the past few months – sexual harassment allegations against San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, Russia’s severe anti-gay laws and the ensuing backlash, and of course, political candidate Anthony Weiner.
“There are so many things I’ll miss about this summer,” Oliver said. “But I’ll miss you most of all, Carlos Danger.”
Then it was time for an obscenity-laced send-off from his fellow correspondents – including former colleagues Wyatt Cenac and Rob Riggle – who roasted Oliver mercilessly. Jessica Williams, standing outside Paula Deen’s house, said, “I would much rather work for an old lady who admitted to throwing the ‘N-word’ around than spend six more minutes working for you.”
Reporting from Detroit, Samantha Bee mused about “a once proud American institution, brought to its knees by gross mismanagement and incompetent leadership.” And, oh yeah, she meant “The Daily Show,” not the bankrupt Motor City.
The truth is quite the opposite. “Let’s all just acknowledge for a moment that this is weird. It looks weird, it feels weird, it even sounds weird,” Oliver joked in his first night on the air, but he settled into the role with ease, the show’s writing team continued to deliver whip-smart material and viewers warmed to Stewart’s temporary replacement.
(As our own critic Robert Lloyd wrote after Oliver’s debut, “The writers are still the writers, the jokes are still good. And Oliver, who has proven himself funny in many venues, had no trouble selling them.”)
On Thursday, Vulture declared Oliver the “heir apparent” of “The Daily Show,” suggesting he could easily take over the show should Stewart decide to move on once his contract expires in 2015.
Whatever the case may be, while it will be good to see Stewart back at his desk at “The Daily Show” on Sept. 3 (with or without the beard he acquired while directing “Rosewater” in the Middle East), it’s also nice, if surprising, to know the show can survive without him.
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