In 2012, we talk dogs with John Oliver, the British comedian who has been a writer and correspondent on Comedy Central’s multi-Emmy-winning program, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Our interview with him appeared in our exclusive behind-the-scene coverage of the dogs who grace, enliven and patrol the show’s offices. Oliver tells us about the newest family member, a first for him.
BK: Tell us why you got your dog, Hoagie. Has she been good for you?
JO: I got her so I could have a piece of uncomplicated joy in my life. Yeah, it’s been fantastic; she really doesn’t give a shit about the “Daily Show” or working in an office, which I find enormously helpful at the end of the day.
BK: Your former colleague, Jim Margolis, told us the real reason you got her was to humanize yourself.
JO: Yeah, that’s true.
BK: Has she come to the office yet?
JO: She came here for one day; she’s a puppy and struggled to understand that this is not a dog run, but a place to work. I made her sit and give me a paw, and told her this is a place of work. I thought she surely would understand. She did the first two things but didn’t get the third one.
BK: How’s her training coming along, in general?
JO: She’s been great. The one thing she hasn’t been able to do is to be in a large office with other dogs at the moment. Maybe at some point, once she’s calmed down, she’ll join the rotation of dogs. But she got so excited, she just wanted to run around all the time, and I can’t cope with that when I have deadlines.
BK: How old is she now?
JO: She is nine months
BK: Well, you have a few more months of puppyhood. Goldens are puppies until they’re two, or even older. Is she your first dog?
JO: Yeah, my first ever. I had one pet before and that was a goldfish when I was seven years old.
BK: Is that why you got another Golden?
JO: Yeah, I never thought of that, but yeah.
BK: Has puppy-raising had any surprises for you?
JO: No, not really. My wife has been doing most of the work, so I can’t take credit for the way she’s progressing. But it is lot of work, and certainly a lot more rewarding.
BK: Do you baby talk to Hoagie?
JO: I talk to her as if she were a 45-year-old adult. She seems to enjoy that.
BK: Do you get your kicks watching the other Daily Show dogs do their thing?
JO: I don’t know what we would do without these dogs. There was one day when they weren’t allowed in the office because the then-president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, was the guest and we had to have bomb dogs sniffing around. You can really feel the difference when they aren’t here. It would be a very different place if there weren’t dogs walking around.
BK: Is that one of the reasons you signed up?
JO: That was instantly one of the best things. For the first time, it made me want to have a dog. So it probably contributed to me getting Hoagie in the long run.
BK: I thought Hoagie was a male name, but your pup is a girl.
JO: I don’t think Hoagie is a name at all. It’s a description of something, like a sandwich. I don’t think it’s masculine or feminine.
BK: How about Hoagy Carmichael? Ole Buttermilk Sky and all.
JO: Yeah, I wanted to name my dog after someone who was reportedly anti-Semitic! My wife loves hoagies.
BK: So, is she mostly with your wife?
JO: Yeah, I just spoke with my wife this morning. Hoagie was eating Reza Aslan’s most recent book, which is about, I believe, America’s war on terrorism; she’s very interested in that.
BK: Do you have a career path charted out for her?
JO: I would like her to eat a spectrum of different books, ingest information from different sources. Reza Aslan is great author, but there are others out there. Maybe she can start eating novels as well, moving into literature as well as nonfiction.
BK: Do you see her playing straight “woman” to you—can you imagine having her with you on interviews and in skits?
JO: No, I don’t think I would do that. The problem is, Jim is kinda right: she would fundamentally humanize me. So I can’t really do my job when she’s around. It would bring up too much compassion whenever she is around. I can’t have that. When I interview someone, I can’t have any kind of humanity inside of me.
BK: Did adding a dog make for a perfect family unit, or is it practice for having children one day?
JO: It’s been amazing, and nice, to come home after a stressful day at work and have someone just be there. Not that she isn’t interested in what I do for a living, she just can’t really comprehend it. So I can truly trust she isn’t interested in how my day was. She’s interested in going for a walk. I find that more relaxing than anything I have ever found as a way to de-stress. She doesn’t like the Daily Show because there are no dogs on the screen.
BK: Does she watch TV at all?
JO: She likes sports that are played on grass — she likes watching all that green. She is quite hypnotized by green. She thinks that the Daily Show should be on grass.
BK: Does she fetch?
JO: She calls it retrieving.
BK: How about tug-of-war; do you play it with her and let her win? That’s the important thing, you know.
JO: That’s something I need to work on. I’m a pretty sore loser. One of us is going to be disappointed.
BK: You have to let the dog win occasionally.
JO: Oh no no! I am working on that.
BK: When you’re stopped on the street, is it because of the show or the dog?
JO: The dog, especially when she was a puppy. People would come up to talk to her, then look at me and say, “I know you,” but then they’d look straight down at her and start talking again. I know exactly where I stand in that hierarchy.
Photography by Kate Oliver