Terrifying TimesComedian John Oliver may already be a familiar face to many due to his recurring role as a “news” correspondent on “The Daily Show,” but to those unfamiliar with Oliver’s sarcastic wit and his accent (which he proudly boasts about in the opening of his act – “this stand-up performance will be delivered with a British accent, so be prepared for words to come with more authority than you’re used to.”) this hour-long Comedy Central special will serve as a welcome introduction. 

With a well-honed blend of dry commentary (which helps explain why Jon Stewart was taken with him in the first place) and visual and audio back-ups, Oliver takes the stage with almost as much authority as his comment about his accent promises. Though distinctly political in nature, his comedy manages to touch on numerous subjects: from evolution vs. intelligent design (if we’re putting stickers on science textbooks, why not add one to the Bible as well?) to imperialism (the British managed this better than Americans have, he asserts, because there was no 24-hour news when the British were doing it) to corporations (his “UN fair trade” label is fairly brilliant). And though it’s impressive that he can hit so many talking points in such a brief amount of time, this is also one of the drawbacks to his special: he never focuses enough time on any one subject to cover new ground. It may just be my own personal tastes, but I like when a comedian picks a specific topic apart until there’s nothing left to say – think of George Carlin on abortion or David Cross on the Catholic church. Though Oliver is typically dead-on with his observations, he never quite gets past a brief sound-bite on the various issues he discusses. This isn’t to say that his mockery is ineffective. When he’s talking about power ballads backing up speeches and making them sound more emotionally stirring than they are it’s the kind of genuinely original humor that stand-up was built on. It’s just that he could spend a few more minutes to really get to the heart of whatever topic he has chosen to examine.

The bonus materials are particularly enjoyable, especially Oliver’s clips from “The Daily Show” – though a few of these are in Full Screen format and look slightly skewed on a widescreen television. Even the menu is used as a comedic talking piece as Oliver gives a monologue pleading with the viewer to choose an option on the menu rather than listen to him ramble on. Take my advice: listen to him ramble on. And then enjoy his special.

Zach’s Rating: B+
Perfect For: Fans of “The Daily Show”
Stay Away if: Stand-up lovers looking for the biting British wit of Ricky Gervais’ “Animals” or Eddie Izzard’s “Dressed to Kill”

To purchase John Oliver: Terrifying Times, visit Amazon

Be Sociable, Share!