TV Recap: John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show, Season Premiere

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Plot: The Daily Show’s John Oliver and three of his friends come together to present some of their newest stand-up routines.

John Oliver has been in the comedy business for quite a while now, but there is no denying that his popularity has grown immensely since he took over hosting duties of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for the summer. Case in point, I have never really made an effort to watch John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show before despite this being the Season 4 premiere. It’s not because I didn’t expect it to be funny mind you. It just wasn’t on my “must watch” list for whatever reason. However, now that I’ve seen how incredible Oliver has been as a substitute host for comedy juggernaut Jon Stewart, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show jumped onto my radar. This Season 4 premiere also means we can get our Oliver fix five days a week at 11 PM, a feature that not even Stewart can lay claim to. Tonight’s episode featured comedians Nick Turner, Colin Jost, and Reggie Watts, with Watts being the most recognizable name. In theory the show should both start strong with Oliver and end even stronger with Watts since both are extremely talented and reputable comedians. I have never heard of Turner or Jost before, but the way I saw it was that even if they both tanked we’d have a strong ending with Watts bringing us to a close. Unfortunately things didn’t pan out as expected with the episode starting strong and ending a lot weaker than anticipated.

Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Comedy Centra
Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Comedy Centra

The real star of the night was rightfully Oliver. I firmly believe that a comedy show is only as good as its host, which means that if a host can’t carry a program no amount of big named guests can save it. It doesn’t even matter that the host is barely on during the program either. If I can’t find the host funny, I’d have little reason to return. Thankfully Oliver doesn’t have this problem. His bit was absolutely hilarious. The majority of his segment was focused on his discovery of “slash fiction” on the internet. For those who aren’t aware, slash fiction is when someone creates an erotic story about characters in a single TV show. It doesn’t matter if it’s Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, characters who don’t normally bang usually do when it comes to fan created fiction. The reason Oliver brought this up is because a friend of his sent him slash fiction about The Daily Show where Oliver, Stewart, and Stephen Colbert do the nasty. Yes, the internet takes no prisoners! The bit was basically Oliver’s reaction to him reading this story and how shocked he is that we have come to the point of technology where stories like this are created. It was, from start to finish, the best part of the episode.

Then we came to Nick Turner. Like I said before, I never heard of Turner before and I was pleasantly surprised by how funny he was! I always feel like watching an unknown comedian is a bit of a risky move because they can either be really good or really bad. If they’re bad it’s hardly a surprise (most people believe they’re funnier than they really are), but if they’re good it’s really fun to watch. Turner is good and he easily carried the momentum from Oliver’s act. His best joke of the night was when he recanted his story of when he saw The Talk and the “Whoopi Goldberg” character promised everyone in the audience a year supply of donuts, which apparently means 52 dozen donuts a year (one dozen per week). The approximate number of this is 624 donuts for a single person. That is A LOT of donuts and Turner refused to eat them all. He ended up selling the gift card with the year supply on eBay, which means that someone in California was searching eBay for cheap deals on donuts. The remaining Turner jokes were pretty solid as well but this was easily the stand out.

Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Comedy Centra
Photo Credit: Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images for Comedy Centra

Things started to go a little down hill following Turner with Colin Jost. Jost had some funny moments but unfortunately didn’t have the same amount of humor as the two preceding acts. His strongest bit was how irresponsible New Yorkers are with their money and that was at best decently humorous. The idea that New Yorkers like to wave credit cards around like gift certificates or a magic wand was really spot on honestly which made that entire joke shine. The rest were just a few chuckles here and there despite the joke about how couples have completely pointless fights around the dumbest things being extremely relatable. We’ve all had those moments with significant others, but in all honesty Dane Cook did the same exact joke years ago in his “Nothing Fights” skit. His had a lot more yelling and erratic actions, but an almost identical concept. It was too much of a “been there heard that” joke to really get into. I did like his joke about how the DeVry or ITT Tech commercials always have the worst production quality. We can all agree those suck.

The final act of the night was Reggie Watts who has become immensely popular in his own right. He’s best known for performing his own songs during his acts. I have never actually seen Watts do stand-up before despite his popularity so I was excited to watch him work his magic. Well imagine my surprise when I was actually disappointed by his act. The entire first half of his bit, before he actually got to the music, felt completely awkward and unprepared. It was like when you have to do a speech but didn’t practice so you just say whatever you can to form a coherent sentence but have no real conclusion. Maybe this is his style that I’m just not aware of, but it felt way too unstructured to be from someone with such immense popularity. The act had a notable increase in quality once he started performing his songs because holy shit is Watts talented. He can probably make a beat box/hip hop track about anything and have it work out. In regards to how funny the songs were, they weren’t as hilarious as I expected.

If you’re a fan of John Oliver and are interested in learning about the newest stand-up acts, John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show is definitely right up your alley. Oliver is hilarious and the new acts have potential to be something truly special. However, keep in mind that the guests vary each week. This means that you might find all but one guest hilarious one week and have the exact opposite happen the next week. Oliver is a rock though which should provide you with enough interest to keep coming back. That being said, I’m sure there are some absolutely incredible episodes of John Oliver’s New York Stand-Up Show and I’m sure there are some pretty terrible ones. I’d say this premiere episode is somewhere in the middle.

Rating: 6.5/10

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