NBC Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive show news, updates, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
NBC Insider Late Night

John Oliver Took a Running Joke Extremely Far on The Tonight Show

Here's why John Oliver visited fellow talk show host and friend Jimmy Fallon while dressed as the fabulous Pūteketeke bird.

By Samantha Vincenty

Last Week Tonight Host John Oliver paid a visit to his friend, fellow talk show Host, and former Strike Force Five co-Host Jimmy Fallon on November 8. Always one to fully commit to a bit, Oliver really dressed for the occasion. In a flashy feathered bird costume, specifically. 

How to Watch

Watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon on NBC weeknights at 11:35/10:35c and next day on Peacock

"I was told, explicitly, this evening was bird-themed," Oliver joked, referring to a story he'd told on Late Night with Seth Meyers about a party he showed up to dressed as a pirate after a miscommunication. 

"If you're wondering if this suit is hot to be in, the answer is yes," Oliver told Fallon.

In actuality, Oliver did have a semi-legitimate reason to flap on over to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in his get-up. 

RELATED: John Oliver Is Delighted to Be Doing Stand-Up with Seth Meyers on New Year's Eve

John Oliver being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show

Why John Oliver dressed as a bird on The Tonight Show

As Oliver explained to Fallon, on his show's most recent episode, "we entered the Australian—sorry, not Australian. New Zealand. I could not have made a more offensive mistake than that," Oliver said with a wave of his wing. "Although potato po-ta-to, am I right?"

Realizing anyone could enter for New Zealand's Bird of the Century contest, "that seemed like a vulnerability in their system that someone could exploit," Oliver continued. Which is how he came to be dressed as his candidate, the Pūteketeke, also known as the Australasian crested grebe.

"Even the name is a dance in your mouth, isn't it?" Oliver asked Fallon. "Let your tongue explore your face: Pūteketeke." 

So why this bird? "It looks like Pauly D [bleep]ed a swan," Oliver explained. "I don't think it's unfair to say that's what you're looking at right now. 

Oliver's show has even put up billboards around the world, urging people to vote at votethisbird.com

"It's American money undermining a foreign election," Oliver joked. "What's more to be proud of than that?"

John Oliver's pūteketeke actually won New Zealand's Bird of the Century

The Tonight Show John John Oliver being interviewed by Jimmy Fallon on the Tonight Show

Oliver's campaign actually paid off: The pūteketeke, aka the "puking" bird, aka the Australasian crested grebe, did win New Zealand's Bird of the Century poll, CNN reported on November 15. 

Per CNN, Oliver's pick received more than 290,000 votes, and put New Zealand's national bird, the kiwi, at a distant second place. “It began as an outside contender but was catapulted to the top spot thanks to its unique looks, adorable parenting style and propensity for puking,” conservation charity Forest and Bird wrote in a statement.

RELATED: How to Get Tickets to The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Evidently, none of the other birds in competition had a famous and hilarious spokesperson campaigning across not only his own talk show, but The Tonight Show as well.  Congrats to all the pūteketeke and their many fans out there.

Watch Oliver's full interview above, and watch The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon weeknights at 11:35/10:35c on NBC and next day on Peacock

Originally published Nov 9, 2023.