LOVE IN A HOPELESS PLACE
How John Oliver Found Love in a Hopeless Place: The Republican National Convention
Last Week Tonight host John Oliver once found love in the unlikeliest of places: the Republican National Convention.
With a xenophobic Cheeto calling the shots, this year’s RNC is fated to be the most stripper-tastic, soul-crushing convention yet. But before Trump touches down in Sodom and Gomorrah aka Cleveland, let’s journey back to a more innocent time and place: St. Paul, Minnesota, 2008. John McCain was at the helm of the GOP, amateur geographer Sarah Palin was his first mate, and love was in the air.
At the time, comedian John Oliver was two years into his gig as Senior British Correspondent for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. As a covert operative for the liberal elite, Oliver was working behind enemy lines at the RNC. When convention security chased after him for entering into a restricted area Oliver, who was still on a temporary work visa, found himself at risk for potential deportation. Attempting to avoid arrest and subsequent Breturn, the reporter and his camera crew happened upon a group of veterans who offered to help them hide. In a meet-cute befitting a beloved political satirist, one of those veterans was Oliver’s future wife—U.S. Army combat medic Kate Norley. After exchanging emails (aww, 2008) Oliver and Norley struck up a friendship; in 2010, the bespectacled Brit proposed in St. Thomas, and the couple tied the knot one year later.
Norley, who Oliver describes as “Very American with a capital A,” is already a fan hero for (permanently!) saving her celebrity husband from deportation, but she’s also a straight-up American hero. At age 19, Norley enlisted in the military after the 9/11 attacks, serving as a combat medic in Fallujah and a mental health specialist in Ramadi, providing counsel to returning soldiers. In addition to being the only female combat-stress specialist, she was awarded the Combat Medic badge for providing medical care while under fire. Stateside, she worked as a veteran’s rights advocate for Vets for Freedom; the organization, which was founded in 2006, advocated on behalf of victory in the War on Terror, and promoted like-minded politicians.
To say that Norley keeps Oliver grounded seems like an understatement. In classic self-effacing style, Oliver explained, “It’s the most emasculating thing I could possibly do to go out with someone who has actually done something valuable with their life.” Long-term emasculation aside, Norley’s combat experience gives the comedian some much-needed perspective: “I can’t come home and say I had a really tough day at work today and see her roll her eyes and go, ‘Really?’ And she would be like, ‘I can’t imagine how difficult it was for you. You clown!’ Rightly, I have no place to whine about anything. That’s the problem with living with someone who has fought a war. You lose the moral high ground.”
When Oliver was offered his current gig hosting his own show, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, at HBO, his Daily Show departure was huge entertainment news. But as Oliver tells it, Norley knew just how to keep him humble. As the comedian was making a career-defining move, his wife was on emergency deployment in the Philippines as a first responder to Typhoon Haiyan. “I got to speak to her once on this spotty satellite phone,” he recalls, “and she’s saying, ‘We had to do emergency C-sections and amputations and there are dead bodies everywhere, it’s worse than people are letting on, it’s just death, death, everywhere.’ And there’s no point at which you can go, ‘I’ve got some news as well!’ It just doesn’t matter.”
Oliver distinguishes himself from the late night pack with his British accent, across-the-pond intellectualism, and genuine outsider’s confusion. But after eight years with a proud vet, Oliver has proven himself to be quite the patriot. After his 2013 break with The Daily Show was finalized, John and Kate headed to Afghanistan as part of the USO Tour. The unconventional second honeymoon found the Oliver’s sleeping in the barracks, eating with the troops, and performing at more than half a dozen forward operating bases.
Last Week Tonight viewers might be surprised to learn that Oliver’s wife is a Republican—let alone a Republican who’s advocated on behalf of GOP politicians on Fox News. The unabashedly liberal HBO show has been credited with real change, otherwise known as the “John Oliver effect.” Oliver’s ability to synthesize and sensationalize under-reported topics into viral videos has led to political victories for causes ranging from unfair bail requirements to FCC regulations. And while Oliver is an equal opportunity satirist, his popular “Make Donald Drumpf Again” campaign suggests that He’s with Her.
In an increasingly polarized political climate, it’s rare and refreshing to see bipartisan cooperation—let alone wedlock. And while Oliver hasn’t publicly commented on any political squabbles at home, he’s unequivocally supportive of his wife and her veteran activism: “Once you’ve bled for America, you definitely get to say you’re an American in a slightly louder tone of voice.”