John Oliver: The Brit going from sidekick to superstar on 'The Daily Show'

The stand-up comic from Birmingham is to step into Jon Stewart's shoes

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The Independent Culture

It's more than just a comedy news programme. Over the past decade, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has become the televisual destination of choice for young American liberals in search of sane – if side-splitting – commentary. It has won 10 Emmys in a row. In the dying days of the Bush administration, several surveys suggested it was many viewers' primary news source. And now the top-rated late-night show among America's under-50s, with an average of 2.5 million viewers each night, is to be taken over by a Brit.

Tomorrow evening, and for the next two months, Birmingham's own John Oliver will take the host's chair, which Stewart is vacating temporarily in order to direct his first feature film. Oliver, 36, a stand-up comic and sometime vice-president of the Cambridge Footlights, has been The Daily Show's "Senior British Correspondent" for the past seven years. He had never visited the US before landing in New York in 2006, yet he started work on Comedy Central's flagship programme the day after his arrival. In a 2010 interview with The Independent, Oliver said that, contrary to popular belief, the British and American senses of humour were closely aligned. "There is so much cross-pollination between the US and Britain in terms of comedians," he said. "British TV comedies work well in the US. American stand-ups make it big in Britain."

Nor will he be alone among late-night hosts in the US. Scottish-born Craig Ferguson has presented The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson for CBS since 2005. In a press release announcing his stint as Stewart's replacement, Oliver was quoted as saying, "Don't worry, it's still going to be everything you love about The Daily Show, just without the thing you love the most about it."

Stewart's two-month absence will be spent largely in the Middle East, where he plans to shoot Rosewater, a screen adaptation of the Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari's best-selling memoir, Then They Came for Me: A Family's Story of Love, Captivity and Survival. Stewart also wrote the screenplay for the film, which came about following Mr Bahari's 118-day detention, interrogation and torture in an Iranian jail in 2009, shortly after he was interviewed for a Daily Show report.

As a Daily Show alumnus, Oliver can also look forward to the possibility of a glittering Hollywood career. The programme was previously a stepping-off point for Steve Carell, Newsroom star Olivia Munn, and Ed Helms of The Hangover trilogy.