“Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver is okay with missing some stories — after all, the very nature of his Sunday night HBO series and the increasingly busy news cycle it covers ensures that he’s always going to be, in his words, “late to everything” — but there is one story the British comedian is sad to have skipped during the four-month break between the fifth and sixth seasons of show. And no, it’s not political. It is, however, the kind of thing he and his team could have had a ton of fun with.
At a Monday morning breakfast in New York City with assorted members of the press, Oliver was asked about which news stories caught his attention during his hiatus, and he had one quick answer. “The really honest answer to that is, there was a story about a British family terrorizing New Zealand, did you hear about that?,” he said. “There was a British family of tourists terrorizing New Zealand, and [executive producer] Tim Carvell and I were emailing back and forth, going, ‘actually, I wish we were back at work.’ But all the other stuff that wasn’t that? No, we were more than happy [to skip it]. We had a couple of weeks off over the holidays, but otherwise, we’ve been working the whole time, researching stories, so there’s been nothing in particular that really felt painful that we weren’t on TV for, other than the barbaric British family in New Zealand.”
He added, “It’s really worth looking up, it’s pretty amazing. I genuinely was disappointed that we weren’t around to show people what was happening there.” (You can read up on the very amusing and very weird story right here.)
When the show does return to HBO later this month, Oliver promises that it will mostly stay in line with the previous five seasons of the news program, complete with its trademark balance between humor and information. While the show may occasionally break with its traditional thirty-minute format — as it has for previous episodes, including a season three episode about multilevel marketing — Oliver and his team are pleased with their current format, one bent on being “as dense as possible.”
The host shared that when he was in the early stages of the series, HBO brass offered him just two suggestions that ended up altering the unique style of the show: that he didn’t need to do an hour-long episode every week, and that he could skip a final segment dedicated to interviewing a live guest. And that Sunday night slot has only helped the “Last Week Tonight” team hone in on what’s really important.
“The difficult thing, that ended up becoming a positive, is that we’re late to everything,” Oliver said. “I mean, the way that it is now, everybody’s late to everything, you can be on every day and you’re still technically late, because something that happened this morning seemed like a long time ago and has already been joked about a lot online. So everybody’s late, we’re just really late. We try to make a feature of that, have it be not so much a bug as a feature.”
One topic Oliver promised that the show will not focus on: the presidential primary races for the 2020 election, which are just starting to shape up now. It’s par for the course.
“We didn’t really touch what was happening with the election until the election year,” he said. “I guess it will only be worth it if it feels like there is something a little more substantial we can say about it. Last time, we kind of gave it a pass until the start of that 2016 year. … I do think it’s not particularly helpful, how much attention is paid so early in the primary process. It becomes a bit of a horse race.”
The sixth season of “Last Week Tonight” premieres on HBO on February 17.