He plays a recurring character, Professor Ian Duncan, on the television series Community. He has worked extensively with Andy Zaltzman; their body of work includes hundreds of hours of satirical podcasts and radio broadcasts, including series such as Political Animal, The Department, and The Bugle. In 2013, Oliver spent eight weeks as the guest host of The Daily Show.
According to Edward Helmore in The Guardian: "His style leans toward the kind that Americans like best from the British – exaggerated, full of odd accents and mannerisms, in the vein of Monty Python." Oliver describes his own accent as a "mongrel" of Brummie, Scouse and Bedford influences.
Mock The Week
Prior to joining The Daily Show, Oliver was making appearances on British television as a panellist on the satirical news quiz Mock The Week. He was the most frequent guest on the first two series in 2005 and 2006, appearing in 7 out of 11 episodes.
Oliver joined The Daily Show with Jon Stewart as its Senior British Correspondent in July 2006. He says he got interviewed for the show on the recommendation of comedian Ricky Gervais, who had never met Oliver but was familiar with his work. He landed in America on a Sunday night and started working the next day. As a writer for the show, Oliver has received Emmys for outstanding writing in 2009, 2011 and 2012.
During the summer of 2013, Oliver guest-hostedThe Daily Show for a total of eight weeks while Stewart directed his movie Rosewater. Oliver's performance received positive reviews, with some critics suggesting that he should eventually succeed Stewart as host of The Daily Show or receive his own show. Three months later, HBO announced it was giving Oliver his own late night show.
Since 2010, Oliver has hosted John Oliver's New York Stand-Up Show, a standup series on Comedy Central featuring sets from himself and other standup comedians. Four seasons of the show have been produced through 2013, the first three lasting six episodes and the most recent lasting eight.
Oliver has a recurring role on the NBC comedy Community as Dr. Ian Duncan, a psychology professor. However, he declined becoming a regular cast member of the series because he did not want to leave The Daily Show for it. As of December 2013, it was however stated that Oliver would come back on the show's 5th season premiering 2 January, for at least a six episode arc.
As a boy, Oliver played the orphan Felix Pardiggle on the BBC drama Bleak House in 1985.
Oliver wrote and presented a BBC America campaign to have viewers use closed captioning (subtitles). Shown in brief segments before shows, "The following program contains accents you would have heard a lot more if you hadn't thrown our tea into Boston Harbour," says one. "Not even British people can follow the British accent 100 percent of the time. Therefore you, like me, might want to use closed-captioning." Oliver used some of these jokes in his stand-up routine.
In 2009, Oliver made a cameo appearance as the actor Rip Torn in the music video for the Fiery Furnaces single "Even in the Rain", which is based around the story of the making of the film Easy Rider.
In 2013, Oliver spent time filming in Australia, claiming in a podcast it was "a sensational place, albeit one of the most comfortably racist places I've ever been in. They've really settled into their intolerance like an old resentful slipper."
Oliver's status as an immigrant placed certain constraints on what he could do in his adopted country, but also provided him with comedy material as he poked fun at the opacity and occasional absurdity of the process of attaining US citizenship. Oliver was one of the many writers on the picket lines during the Writers' Guild strike which brought The Daily Show to a halt, but he appeared on the show upon its resuming production on 7 January 2008. During a sketch, he pointed out that he is in the US on a visa that requires him not to strike while the show is in production and violation of the terms of the visa would be grounds for deportation. When asked about his immigration status in early 2009, Oliver said, "It's an ongoing, and slightly unsettling, battle to be honest. I tried engraving 'Give me your tired, your poor, and your aspiring comic performers' into the base of the Statue of Liberty, but apparently that's not legally binding." In an episode of The Bugle released 31 October 2009, Oliver announced he "finally got approved for [his] green card," noting that now he can "get arrested filming bits for The Daily Show". He says he was given a scare when applying at the US embassy in London, when an immigration officer asked, "Give me one good reason I should let you back in to insult my country," followed by, "Oh, I'm just kidding, I love the show." He now refers to Americans as "us" or "you" as each segment demands.