John Oliver“Are you staying at the hotel tonight?” a TV critic asked John Oliver at the start of a Q&A for his new HBO comedy show.

“This is already a very creepy way to start the question,” Oliver interrupted during the session of the TCA Winter Press Tour 2014, being held at the Langham hotel in Pasadena.

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Sarah Palin is hosting breakfast,” the critic explained.

“WHAT?! Are you kidding? Well, now — I’m checking in!” Oliver enthused. “What breakfast?”

Sportsman Channel, he was informed. Palin’s come to promote her new reality series for the network.

TCADeadline__140109155905__140109183154“Good for her!” Oliver beamed. “She’s going to do to sports what she did to politics. … Believe me, there is a significant voice in my head now saying, ‘Check in, go to breakfast’!” he said giddily. “I think I’m on a flight tomorrow morning, but again, half of me has already canceled that flight,” he continued as one TV critic offered him his credentials so he could attend the Palin breakfast. “I’m also glad the TCA security is so high that passes are utterly transferable — especially since we are different races,” he said of the critic.

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Later, Oliver thought better of his original comment. “Look, I criticized you for starting weird, but you closed strong,” Oliver told the critic who’d kicked off the session. Turning to address the rest of the crowd, he warned, “The bar is pretty high in terms of weird questions.”

In November, on the heels of his impressive stint as fill-in host on The Daily Show, HBO announced it had nabbed the Comedy Central show’s correspondent by offering him his own topical comedy talk show. The HBO show — which, like the Daily Show, will take a satirical look at the week in news, politics and current events — will debut this year, airing Sunday nights. HBO’s Michael Lombardo said at the time the network wasn’t looking for another weekly talk show, “but when we saw John Oliver handling host duties on The Daily Show, we knew that his singular perspective and distinct voice belonged on HBO.”

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Oliver and PleplerOver the summer, while Stewart took time off to direct his first film, Rosewater. Oliver got great reviews for his guest gig. And though he told PBS’ Charlie Rose, “I don’t think it’s going to change my life” and that his goal had been only “not to destroy that machine” during his brief tenure, he acknowledged Thursday that it was a game changer. “It’s probably the key reason I’m here,” Oliver said during HBO’s block of time at the press tour. “I sent myself the achievable goal of not destroying that franchise. I guess it went well.”

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Oliver joins a flurry of newcomers in late-night during the past year or so, with TBS (The Pete Homes Show), Comedy Central (@midnight) and FX (now-defunct Totally Biased and Brand X) all launching new daily late-night programs.

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