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Oliver Makes News Fun, Hilarious

courtesy of HBO publicity

David Welsh, Staff Writer

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By David Welsh

Staff Writer

Every Monday morning, for the past four years, the internet has been thrown into a frenzy, all thanks to the best British import since bagged tea, John Oliver. The comedian, occasional host of The Daily Show and current host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight has made a name for himself in the world of late night comedy in recent years, and he shows little sign of stopping anytime soon. Every week, Oliver hones in on a single target, often a complicated and obscure policy issue and, joke-by-joke, takes it apart in videos that can be up to half an hour long. The next day, two-thirds of the resulting footage is uploaded to Youtube, where it gets millions of views in a matter of days.

So far, targets have included the FCC, the Miss America Pageant, the tobacco industry, and more recently, our new president. “Donald Trump is America’s back mole: it may have seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it’s gotten frighteningly bigger, it is no longer wise to ignore it,” joked Oliver, back when Trump was still a laughing matter. There are a couple of things that separate Last Week Tonight from other political comedy shows — Oliver’s rants are heavily researched, and more importantly, he has an inherent understanding of what makes the internet tick.

One of the main reasons people are ignorant to many important events happening in the world is because there are very few people willing to explain them in a way that regular people understand, and in a way that is entertaining. Most news organizations get the first part down pretty well, but it’s the second part which can be blamed for our ignorance. It is the reason an ever-increasing number of Americans are choosing to get their news from comedians and talk show hosts rather than actual journalists. Oliver strikes this balance perfectly, as he takes issues that the majority of Americans either didn’t know or didn’t care about, and presents them in a way that’s hilarious but still informative enough that the viewer walks away a smarter person. Oliver’s talent combined with his knack for making viral videos has shown time and time again that journalism can make a real-world difference, which has appropriately been dubbed the “John Oliver Effect.”

Take the issue of net neutrality, for instance. Net neutrality is the principle that internet service providers should enable access to all content and applications regardless of the source. Before Oliver did a segment on the issue, the vast majority of people knew nearly nothing about what it is or why it matters, which is unfortunate considering how close we came to letting companies violate this basic principle of a free and open internet, which ensures that internet service providers can’t treat different types of information unequally. After his segment aired, the FCC was inundated by 3.2 million emails urging it to stand up to internet providers, and guess what? It did! (

Another example of the so-called “John Oliver Effect” was in 2015, when Oliver discussed how bail is often used to keep poor, low-risk defendants locked up before they’ve even been found guilty of a crime. He noted that people who can’t afford to pay bail have two poor options: plead guilty to avoid waiting in jail or stay in jail until a trial. “Jail can do for your actual life what being in a marching band can do for your social life,” he said. “Even if you’re just in for a little while, it can destroy you.” Just a month after Oliver’s monologue, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would relax bail requirements for people charged with nonviolent crimes and misdemeanors.

Even the beautiful game wasn’t safe from Oliver’s scathing commentary, when he lampooned FIFA, the world’s most powerful sports organization, long before US officials arrested several of the federation’s top executives. In 2014, Oliver compared FIFA (unfavorably) to organized religion and called out the organization’s poor treatment of migrant workers. He was back with an even more scathing takedown later calling for FIFA President Sepp Blatter to step down. “The problem is all the arrests in the world are going to change nothing as long as Blatter is still there,” Oliver said. “To truly kill a snake, you must cut off its head — or, in this case, its a**hole.” The following Tuesday, Oliver got his wish — Blatter abruptly announced his resignation from FIFA. Whether the two events were cause and effect is anyone’s guess, but it’s nice to think Oliver’s segment was the final nail in Blatter’s coffin.

More recently, Oliver targeted the hypocrisy surrounding how our country legislates marijuana. The substance, which is far safer than legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco and is practically impossible to overdose on, has shown in early studies to have real potential as treatment for everything from PTSD to multiple sclerosis. Despite the fact that over half of the states in the US have some form of medical or recreational protection for users, the federal government still categorizes it in Schedule 1, its most restrictive category, on par with heroin and PCP. Cocaine and meth, by contrast, are schedule 2. Oliver points out how the drug was made illegal for racist reasons and is the primary reason for millions of people to get their lives ruined through felony charges that follow them to their graves. “Marijuana is not a Schedule 1 any more than a hedgehog is an apex predator,” quipped Oliver in his segment earlier this month.

“John Oliver has managed to do what no other comedian has been able to do, which is to inform the public on things that appear boring, but have the potential to be hella funny, which is really important in this day and age.” said Freshman Jaime Rodriguez.

   Last Week Tonight has recently come back from its hiatus and is currently in its fourth season. Whether you like him or think he’s just another pointy-headed liberal trying to take away your guns, Oliver is going to keep enlightening the world, one internet video at a time.

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Oliver Makes News Fun, Hilarious