I normally do not like people with the name John because, frankly, they crowd up the scene. After all, I already have to contend with hundreds of years of Johns. There was already that Jon Stewart doing that nightly news show thing and now I also have to contend with this John from another country.
It is frankly unfair how a backup to that other Jon got his own news show and is now incredibly popular.
In my life, this John Oliver first appeared as a hilarious secondary cast member in “Community,” then progressed into a scathing podcast host. Now, he appears every week on his show “Last Week Tonight,” in which he is both hilarious and scathing but also intelligent and passionate.
The show airs every Sunday on HBO, a very different format from the other two popular comedy news shows: “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and “The Colbert Report.” In Oliver’s two dozen episodes, he has already made quite a name for himself on the Internet.
Being on a premium network like HBO allows him to be as profane as he wants and show indecent photos. Instead of capitalizing on this freedom and using it to shock, he uses this freedom to really grab his audience’s attention.
Oliver’s show has extremely topical segments about events of “last week,” but his popularity has really been propelled by his special segments, which tackle broader political themes. Oliver devotes half of each show to an important issue in America; these special segments have gone viral just about every single week.
Attempting to describe how great and refreshing this segment is is almost impossible in text. Oliver makes Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert seem childish in comparison. I think those two guys do an amazing job, but Oliver operates above making fun of crazy Republicans and avoids jumping on every stupid 24-hour news issue.
There is a space for poking fun at regular news outlets regarding what they choose to cover but “Last Week Tonight” does not waste time with those stories.
Despite Oliver’s English accent and foreigner’s jokes, he really feels like an American on the show. His impassioned, lengthy, funny and insightful segments convey that he views himself, in some degree, as a patriotic and concerned citizen of our nation.
Some of the topics Oliver has covered include civil forfeiture, Miss America, FIFA, drones, student debts, the wealth gap and predatory lending. These are important issues that receive little attention in mainstream media.
Oliver’s 15-minute segments introduce very complicated material to a wider audience by conveying the ideas in a very consumable and often funny segment.
Oliver does not seem too sobered by the severity of the issues he’s covering. During the first few episodes, he joked about his viewers “leaving” the show, but these segments have only made him more popular. He makes a lot of jokes either about pop culture or excerpts of national news, but every joke seems to be in service of his point: the betterment of Americans and American society.
It feels like Oliver is using comedy to build a stronger, smarter country. And because of that, “Last Week Tonight” should be required viewing for every American.