The writers of “Last Week Tonight” could not accept their sixth consecutive Emmy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series without thanking their favorite unwashed buffalo — and tempting him to snap off their toes.
As a selection of the show’s writers stepped onstage to accept their award Sunday night, one of its writers couldn’t help but give a shoutout to Adam Driver.
“And finally, we would like to dedicate this award to Adam Driver,” the writer, who Entertainment Weekly identified as Chrissy Shackelford, said from the Emmys podium, prompting “Last Week Tonight” host John Oliver to nod in agreement in the background. “He knows what he did, and we know what we’d like him to do.”
Shackelford’s shoutout to the star of “Marriage Story” and “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was actually a callback to a dark ongoing joke about Driver that the HBO series used frequently during its last season. Randomly, and often during serious monologues, Oliver would suddenly refer to Driver in some sexually bizarre way and then ask the actor to perform an oddly violent act on him.
For example, in an August 2020 episode about former President Donald Trump’s promise to build a border wall, Oliver referred to Driver as a “human wall” and asked him to “crush my ribcage, you load-bearing behemoth.”
Other hilariously weird things Oliver has said about Driver include “dislocate my ankles, you rusty cello,” “pull my heart out through my ear, you meaty oak tree,” and the aforementioned “snap off my toes, you big unwashed buffalo.”
There are even compilations of the joke on YouTube:
Driver confronted Oliver and his strange obsession with him during the final “Last Week Tonight” episode of 2020.
“This strange, strange bit that for some reason you’ve pulled me into — what is it?” Driver said angrily, albeit jokingly. During their interaction, Driver asked Oliver to apologize for it, and Oliver said he’d stop doing the joke.
Oliver explained the origins of the ongoing quip during an appearance on “Late Night with Seth Meyers” in November 2020.
“The water on the seed [of the joke] was feeling real resistance from the audience,” Oliver said, noting the first joke about Driver happened before the pandemic struck. “It felt like only 40% enjoyed it. So we did it as a callback a few weeks later, and they weren’t really happy to have it back. So, at that point, it became something of an obsession in our staff.”
Oliver also explained that, after a year of making these revoltingly risque references to Driver, the show reached out to the “Annette” actor and asked him to join in on the fun.
“The message came back from him saying, ‘He has heard about it, he thinks it’s very strange, and he’s in,’” Oliver continued to Meyers. “So we thought, ‘Great,’ and we didn’t know what we were going to do, but at least at that point, we had an end in sight.”
Yet, Shackelford’s crack during the Emmys seems to have resurrected the joke — and reignited Driver’s (presumably fake) feud with the show.
But Oliver told Deadline Sunday after his show’s Emmy wins that he doesn’t care if Driver is “mad” about the shoutout, and egged the actor on.
“We had said we wouldn’t do the joke again — but if he’s mad about it, that’s what we are really looking for,” Oliver said.
So, fingers crossed that Oliver’s “brooding mountain” doesn’t break his fingers after his writing team’s stunt.
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