John Oliver had a heck of a summer vacation. When Jon Stewart took a three-month hiatus to direct a movie and grow a beard, the British comic took over as anchor of TV's "The Daily Show," earning almost universal praise.
Now that he's stepped away from the desk, Oliver isn't slowing down. In addition to continuing as a "Daily Show" correspondent — a gig he's had since 2006 — Oliver is taping numerous episodes of "Community" and heading off on a standup comedy tour that lands Saturday at the State Theatre. Oliver chatted with us last week about his substitute gig, becoming an American citizen and finding true love in St. Paul.
Q: I understand the Twin Cities hold a special place in your heart.
A: I owe the Twin Cities a wife. I met her at the Republican National Convention, the most romantic place on Earth. We were shooting somewhere we weren't supposed to be because it was occupied by all the dignitaries. They didn't quite live up to the dignitary part, but they had the right lamentation.
I was running away from security like a child that had broken a window because I didn't have my green card at the time. My wife and a bunch of war veterans hid us in a little room. I didn't know she was the one initially. I just thought she was somebody who was going to stop me from being arrested. But we kept in touch, e-mailed each other and pretty soon I knew.
Q: Does the fact that she was a medic in the Iraq war change how you perceive the world?
A: Yeah, probably. We just got back from Afghanistan a few weeks ago. That was the final piece of the jigsaw in understanding what they had gone through day by day and what border terror was like. I had a pretty decent respect before going there, but seeing the real-life consequences and miracles they achieved absolutely raised my respect.
Q: How would you evaluate your performance as host of "The Daily Show"?
A: That's hard to do. I'm British, so it's going to be particularly hard. I thought it went pretty well. I mean, the show is still on the air. Going in, my thought was that anything short of disaster would be great. There's nothing I didn't love about it. Running the show during the day was a real privilege. I was impressed by the machine before, but to drive it was incredible.
Q: After getting a chance to be in Jon Stewart's shoes for a few months, do you look at him any differently?
A: I was always aware of his work rate to build this thing. He built every element of this show to work the way it does. When he got back, I said to him, "I got a three-month window into your world and it's quite a view."
Q: This was the first year in a long time that "The Daily Show" didn't win an Emmy for best variety series. Were you disappointed or was it a relief?
A: It's not a relief, but I was so pleased for "The Colbert Report" [which did win]. I have so much respect for Stephen and that show. Part of you does feel rough [after] winning every year, but obviously, awards are ridiculous and meaningless, a whole lot of metal nonsense.
Q: How do you find time to go out on the road?
A: It's done in fits and starts. I'm never out long enough to get tour T-shirts made. I go out to work on stuff, try things out. If I had a name for it, I'd call it the "I'm Going Out for a Bit Tour."
Q: How long before you qualify to become an American citizen?
A: I don't know. Good question. Now that I'm married, maybe I can speed things up a bit. This is my home. I love it here. The idea of voting for the first time is amazing. I can't even imagine that moment. But like most Americans, I'll probably do it a few times, get jaded and give up.