John Oliver Rejected Queen Elizabeth’s Royal Award — ‘Why on Earth Would I Want That?’

John Oliver is a fan-favorite British comedian, a man who has been a mainstay on television for years. Oliver, who is the host of the popular HBO series Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, has become renowned for his monologues, where he expounds on important issues of the day, always in his signature sharp, witty style.

While Oliver is an award-winning star and is the recipient of many honors, there is one particular award that he has no interest in. And, in 2019, he opened up on a podcast about why he turned down a special honor from Queen Elizabeth

How did John Oliver become famous?

John Oliver attends the Sesame Workshop's 50th Anniversary Benefit Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on May 29, 2019 in New York City.
John Oliver attends the Sesame Workshop’s 50th Anniversary Benefit Gala at Cipriani Wall Street on May 29, 2019 in New York City. | Bennett Raglin/FilmMagic

Oliver was born in England in 1977. Raised as the son of a school headmaster and a music teacher, Oliver also has ties to the music business as well as to British royalty.

While at college in the nineties, Oliver began developing his unique talent for comedy, joining the Cambridge Footlights, a university theatrical club. In 1998, Oliver graduated from college with a degree in English.

His standup career launched quickly, and he began appearing on stage at comedy clubs and festivals all over England — including at the renowned Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2002. Only a couple of years after making his standup comedy debut, Oliver was hired by The Daily Show and moved to New York City in order to begin working as a correspondent on the show.

Working as a writer and correspondent on the series, Oliver received critical acclaim and quickly became an audience favorite. He appeared on the series for years, all while working on other projects. 

John Oliver is known for poking fun at authority

In April 2014, Oliver began hosting his very own series, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The show is a sharp, witty satire on current events, and has been praised by critics for the way that Oliver allows his own signature style to thoroughly infuse the series.

Oliver has proven fearless and has no problem poking fun at anything and anyone. His hilarious brand of humor has resonated with fans for years, and news of his genius has spread all around the world — including throughout Oliver’s own home country.

Why did John Oliver turn down an award from the queen?

While Oliver has received a slew of awards, including several Primetime Emmy Awards, there is one particular award that the comedian has expressed sharp disdain for. In a 2019 podcast interview with Conan O’Brien, Oliver revealed that he has been offered a special honor at Queen Elizabeth’s behest.

“I got a call from the British consulate here in New York out of nowhere saying ‘the British consulate wishes you to return the call immediately’ – which sounds like a wartime telegraph. ‘Please. Stop. Call. Stop,'” Oliver stated. “He said, ‘Would you like an OBE?’, which is like the Queen’s Honours List.”

Many comedians might have jumped at the opportunity, and Oliver did admit that he thought about it for a moment.

“There was a moment of thinking, ‘I get to go Buckingham Palace, that would be an experience.’ Then what kicks in is, ‘Oh no I don’t want that at all. I don’t want an Order Of The British Empire. Why on earth would I want that? Then I looked up all the people who rejected it. I think the Beatles gave it back in the end.”

Ultimately, Oliver passed on the honor, seemingly preferring to remain a jester rather than a royal insider.