Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (often abridged as Last Week Tonight) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program hosted by comedian John Oliver. The half-hour-long show premiered in April 2014 on HBO. Last Week Tonight shares some similarities with Comedy Central's The Daily Show (where Oliver was previously featured as a correspondent and fill-in host), as it takes a satirical look at news, politics and current events, but on a weekly basis.
|Last Week Tonight with John Oliver|
|Also known as||Last Week Tonight|
|Created by||John Oliver|
|Presented by||John Oliver|
|Narrated by||David Kaye|
|Opening theme||"Go" by Valley Lodge|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||196 (list of episodes)|
|Production location(s)||CBS Broadcast Center|
New York, New York
|Running time||30–40 minutes|
|Distributor||Warner Bros. Television Distribution|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround|
|Original release||April 27, 2014 –|
Oliver has stated that he has "full creative freedom, including free rein to criticize corporations". His initial contract with HBO was for two years with an option for extension. In September 2017, HBO announced that the show had been renewed for three additional seasons of 30 episodes each, keeping the show on the air through 2020. The show's seventh season, the last season promised by the 2017 renewal announcement, premiered on February 16, 2020.
Oliver described his preparations for the show to an interviewer for The Wire: "... I basically have to watch everything. The only thing I kind of watch for pleasure is Fareed Zakaria's show on Sundays ... That and 60 Minutes I watch for pleasure, or maybe Frontline ... I have a TV on in my office all the time and I'll generally flick around on that from CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Al Jazeera ... I'm watching with a certain thing in mind and that is how to see a story told badly."
He said to another interviewer that he is concerned about dealing with old news:
If something happens on a Monday, realistically all the meat is going to be picked off that bone by the time it gets to us — there's probably barely a point in doing it ... I think we'll be attracted to some extent by stories that are off the grid ... Our show may end up skewing more international in terms of stories.
Structural considerations are leading to changes in the content in the show that will inherently make it different from The Daily Show ... We realized early on, you don't necessarily want to hear anybody talk to you for a half an hour straight – even John, who is very charming – so we are constructing these little, produced comedy elements that will serve the function of commercial breaks throughout the show, which will let us get out of the studio, get us away from John's voice and break the show up a bit.
Carvell also revealed that HBO gave them freedom in choosing guests for the show, advising them not to feel obligated to feature celebrities. When asked by an interviewer about "correspondents" such as those featured on The Daily Show, Oliver replied, "we're not going to be a parody news show, so no people pretending to be journalists."
During the fifth episode of season 7, Oliver stated that the studio and the show's offices were shut down after employees tested positive for COVID-19 and that the show would go on temporary hiatus. The show returned on March 29, filmed from Oliver's home, to cover the coronavirus and the response to it.
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The format is similar to The Daily Show, with Oliver sitting at a desk in front of a backdrop of a skyline containing buildings from around the world, often relating to the current topic. Unlike The Daily Show, Oliver tends to explore one concept in depth but retains the appearance of commercial breaks to intercut larger topics with smaller segments that are not necessarily related to the topic at hand. The show is taped in front of a studio audience, and HBO offers a limited number of free tickets to attend each week's Last Week Tonight taping. As of March 15, 2020, the show is being filmed with no live audience at Oliver's home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The show's theme starts off every episode containing images relating to it or the world at large with satirical captions written in dog Latin. Each episode covers a small handful of shorter segments, and then one main segment. While the short segments almost always relate to recent news, the episode's main segment usually covers in length and detail a political issue, even if that issue did not have news media attention during the preceding week. On occasion, the short segments are omitted and the main segment takes up the entirety of the episode.
Oliver injects humor into his presentation, including satirical analogies, and allusions to popular culture and celebrities. The show includes a panel in the upper-left corner that frequently displays a photo or graphic for that accompanies subject at hand, which aids in the humor. A full-screen graphic will show and play a video clip (such as excerpts from news show or documentaries) when Oliver is citing it. He often coins hashtags related to his segment for use in social media, some of which go viral.
A recurring element of the show is Oliver's use of mascots. The mascots used in the show include Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat, Hoots the NSA Owl, Taryn the Tinder Chicken, and the Last Week Tonight puppets. Oliver told Vulture in February 2019, "I mean, the truth of the mascots is that we have a gigantic room filled with spectacular mascot costumes now. [Executive producer] Tim Carvell and I — I think we’ve always seen the show as our attempt to make The Muppet Show and failing to do so. But occasionally, just occasionally, you get the kind of Muppet Show adoration in the ludicrous mascots."
The typical structure of the show is to open with a recap of a few of the week's news stories, segue into a video compilation, and then move on to Oliver's main segment. Some of the episodes will follow up the main segment with another video compilation or news story. Oliver's speech is broken up with video compilations of recent news clips, or recurring segments, into which Oliver segues with the slogan, "And now, this." Oliver has also ended some segments with mock trailers for fictional TV shows or commercials that satirize the subject of his speech.
The show frequently features one or more celebrity guests in its segments to help Oliver better get his point on the week's topic across. Guests have featured in many different capacities including giving monologues directly to camera, being interviewed by Oliver, playing musical numbers, participating in comedic skits with or without Oliver, or starring in fictitious parody PSAs. On the show, guests are sometimes seen in the Last Week Tonight studio itself doing their part during the show's main taping, while at other times they are seen in video clips that were pre-recorded at a different location and later included in the show. Oliver often interviews personalities who were directly involved in or impacted by the issues being discussed in the show to get their first-hand experiences and viewpoints on the issue. Some of the famous personalities Oliver has interviewed include Edward Snowden, the 14th Dalai Lama, Professor Anita Hill, Stephen Hawking, and Monica Lewinsky.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||24||April 27, 2014||November 9, 2014|
|2||35||February 8, 2015||November 22, 2015|
|3||30||February 14, 2016||November 13, 2016|
|4||30||February 12, 2017||November 12, 2017|
|5||30||February 18, 2018||November 18, 2018|
|6||30||February 17, 2019||November 17, 2019|
|7||30||February 16, 2020||TBA|
Last Week Tonight has a YouTube channel where videos are intermittently (depending on series) added after a show has aired. Most of the videos are of the main segment from each episode. Some extended clips are also available on the show's YouTube channel, as are "Web Exclusives" that are produced solely for the channel, such as a July 2016 video in which Oliver responded to negative comments left on the channel itself.
The show's production has also created content specifically for fan use. For the March 19, 2017, episode, which reported on Bolivia's growing coalition of workers clad in zebra suits to educate civilians about traffic laws, the show's production recorded 23 minutes of a person in a zebra costume dancing and gesticulating before a green screen so that viewers could edit it into other videos for humorous effect. A similar video called "Real Animals, Fake Paws" for use in reenacting U.S. Supreme Court cases was released after the October 19, 2014, episode where dogs were used instead of justices to make listening to oral court cases more amusing to the general public and to increase interest in the subject.
By April 2015, the channel had attained over a million subscribers. That number had risen to 3.6 million by July 2016, and over 5 million by May 2017. As of April 2020[update], the channel had over 8.1 million subscribers and more than 2.4 billion views.
Last Week Tonight has a Facebook page with over 2.6 million likes, a Twitter account with over 2.9 million followers, and an Instagram account with more than 450,000 followers as of July 2019[update].
Oliver often makes use of joke hashtags to facilitate the viral spread of his videos on Twitter and Facebook, as with the hashtag #NotMyChristian, which he used in 2014 to complain about the casting of actor Jamie Dornan in the feature film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The hashtag became a recurring punchline on the show, mentioned in both serious stories and casual segues.
Oliver's debut show garnered 1.11 million viewers. The number of viewers online, through websites such as YouTube showing extended clips of different segments, have steadily climbed into multiple millions. The show's YouTube channel also features Web Exclusives which are occasionally posted when the main show is taking a week off. Across the TV airings, DVR, on-demand and HBO Go, Last Week Tonight averaged 4.1 million weekly viewers in its first season.
Last Week Tonight has received widespread critical acclaim. Matthew Jacobs of The Huffington Post named Oliver's program as 2014's best television show, writing "the year's most surprising contribution to television is a show that bucked conventional formats, left us buzzing and paved the way for a burgeoning dynasty. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is 2014's crowning achievement."
Another scathing, stick-it-to-'em critique of American mass media and politics shellacked in satire and delivered by a funny if almost off-puttingly incredulous man with a British accent ... Exactly like The Daily Show, the goal is to make elected and appointed officials, as well as just about any corporate enterprise, look foolish and inept while slyly culling together television news clips that make the media look equally inept at covering such evident truths.
James Poniewozik of Time similarly compared Last Week with The Daily Show, but also wrote that the "full half-hour gives Oliver the room to do more," and praised Oliver's "sharper tone and his globalist, English-outsider perspective," as well as his "genuine passion over his subjects." Poniewozik wrote that Oliver's debut was "a funny, confident start."
The Entertainment Weekly review began by ringing the same changes: "The fear with Last Week Tonight is that it's The Daily Show except once a week — a staggered timeline that would rob the basic news-punning format of its intrinsic topical punch ... The first episode of his HBO series didn't stray far from the [Jon] Stewart mothership, stylistically ..." However, the reviewer, Darren Franich, liked that Oliver has "a half-hour of television that is simultaneously tighter and more ambitious, that the extra production time leads to sharper gags but also the ability to present more context" and thought that the debut had "plenty of funny throwaway lines." Franich appreciated Oliver's coverage of the 2014 Indian election, which the American press was largely ignoring, and, like Poniewozik, praised Oliver's "passion." Franich concluded that Last Week Tonight "suggested the sharpest possible version of its inspiration" and that it "should feel like an experiment" but "felt almost fully formed."
David Haglund of Slate was ambivalent, writing that the show is "obviously a work in progress" and that one segment "felt like misplaced overkill," but also that it is "good use of a weekly show, and it was funny to boot." Gawker's Jordan Sargent claimed Last Week Tonight was "the new Daily Show," while simultaneously criticizing the Daily Show for abandoning those "who have moved on from caring about Fox [News] and Republicans."
A number of commentators from mainstream media outlets, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Time, and Associated Press, have described Oliver's style of reporting as journalism or even investigative journalism. Oliver himself disagrees, stating that "it's not journalism, it's comedy—it's comedy first, and it's comedy second."
Awards and nominationsEdit
Last Week Tonight has received critical acclaim and won several major awards, including sixteen Primetime Emmy Awards, two Peabody Awards, five Producers Guild Awards, five Writers Guild of America Awards, one Critics' Choice Television Award, three TCA Awards, and has been nominated for three Directors Guild of America Awards.
Reaction and influenceEdit
A June 2014 segment about net neutrality in the United States was thought to spur over 45,000 comments on the Federal Communications Commission's electronic filing page about a net neutrality proposal that, if implemented, would have priority "lanes" for certain internet traffic. The FCC also received an extra 300,000 comments in an email inbox designated specifically for the proposal. It was thought that Oliver's segment had a major role in the FCC's ultimate reversal of stance on that proposal, with the FCC instead implementing net-neutrality rules that prohibited priority "lanes". A sequel in 2017 inspired over 150,000 comments on a subsequent proposal to scrap the new net neutrality rules.
According to a document obtained by Vice, the military government of Thailand listed Oliver as "undermining the royal institution" for calling Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn a "buffoon" and an "idiot."
The show also made international headlines following Oliver's interview with Edward Snowden, which included a graphic, in-depth conversation about the amount of power the United States government has at its disposal in terms of intelligence, both domestic and foreign. Oliver also confronted Snowden about the lack of knowledge of the American people about his work and why they may be hesitant to analyze it for themselves rather than accept preconceived notions of him being a whistleblower. Notably, he tried to help Snowden in creating public awareness for the fundamentality of the surveillance problem in putting forward the question "Can they see my dick?"
In a segment about public defenders and how some offices are extremely underfunded, the New Orleans Public Defense office's crowdfunding efforts to improve their conditions were featured. In the days following the episode's broadcast, thousands of dollars were donated to the office by the show's fans, helping them raise their goal four days after the show aired.
For a segment in the October 18, 2015, broadcast, Oliver put on a comically grand demonstration with Canadian actor Mike Myers to urge Canadian voters to vote against Stephen Harper in the next day's Canadian federal election. As part of this gesture, Oliver displayed $5000 in cash in anticipation of being charged for the crime of being a foreigner attempting to induce Canadian citizens to change their vote as per section 331 of the Canada Elections Act. However, the agency responsible for overseeing federal elections in Canada, Elections Canada, explained the next day that prosecution of Oliver would not be necessary since inducement in the Act is defined as offering something material to voters. Per Elections Canada, Oliver did not try to influence the Canadian electorate, since the money shown was only for the anticipated fine, but merely expressed his opinion as a bystander, which is lawful.
During the June 17, 2018 episode, Oliver spoke at length about Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, in part criticizing his censorship of Chinese media, his dictatorship and consolidation of power. Both "John Oliver" and "Last Week Tonight" were blocked from Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo immediately following the segment. The HBO website and content from the network were also blocked, although Last Week Tonight had already been excluded from HBO Asia.
The promotion for Season 3 highlighted four derogatory quotes either the show or Oliver himself received: "Comedian fool" (former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, responding to a segment on the 2015 FIFA corruption case), "Makes people dumb" (an article The Wall Street Journal wrote about the show), "Very boring" (Donald Trump's assessment of the show), and "More unpleasant than a diuretic" (what President of Ecuador Rafael Correa said "gringo talk shows" were like, after being featured in a segment).
The John Oliver EffectEdit
On several occasions, show segments on major societal issues, such as the "Chickens" or "Bail" segments, were soon followed by real-world change and action on said issues by the public, policymakers and/or other institutions. Several media outlets, noticing this pattern, suggested that attention from the show had instigated these changes, going so far as to dub the phenomenon the "John Oliver Effect". One of the most commonly cited examples of this is Oliver's first Net Neutrality segment which allegedly led to more than 45,000 comments being sent to the FCC, crashing the website set up to receive comments in the process.
Oliver himself does not believe the effect to be real and has openly ridiculed the idea on the show, even calling the term "completely meaningless".
"Tobacco" is a segment about the tobacco industry, which aired on February 15, 2015, as part of the second episode of the second season. During the eighteen-minute segment, Oliver discusses tobacco industry trends and practices. He also introduces Jeff the Diseased Lung, a mascot he created for the American global cigarette and tobacco company Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro brand of cigarettes. The anthropomorphic diseased lung, who smokes and coughs, has been compared to Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. Oliver and his team promoted the cartoon character by sending shirts with Jeff's image to Togo and displaying billboards in Uruguay, and by encouraging use of the hashtag #JeffWeCan, which trended on Twitter following the broadcast.
The segment received widespread media coverage, with several outlets praising Oliver's ability to launch successful marketing campaigns and change perceptions about smoking through the creation of the mascot. The mascot later made an appearance at a protest organized by the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids" in New York City in May 2015.
Philip Morris International issued a response to the segment, stating that it included "many mischaracterizations" of the company.
Stranger Than Truth: John Oliver's 101 Favorite History LiesEdit
In the Mandatory Minimums segment that aired on July 25, 2015, John Oliver talked about the controversial history of presidential pardoning, claiming that Abraham Lincoln once pardoned a man convicted of bestiality because he was intoxicated at the time; the man in question being John Wilkes Booth. He then confessed the statement was not true and for the first time mentioned a book compiling his favorite history lies.
A couple of weeks later, he published a web-exclusive video based on that reference, expanding the content for a book called "Stranger Than Truth: John Oliver's 101 Favorite History Lies", to be released in the following spring. At the end of the mini-segment, however, he confesses again that the entire book was also a lie.
In what seems a continuation of the lie saga, the book surprisingly appeared on Amazon UK in October 2018.
The book description reads as follow:
There is absolutely nothing more fun than lying confidently about history. Lying is incredibly fun. In fact, the only thing that feels better than lying to someone is lying to someone, then regaining their trust, and then lying to them again. This book, for example, was promised to be released in April 2016. But that was a lie. The plan was always October 2018. Because, you know, now is a time in history when lying openly gets you elected to office.
In this book, you will find plenty of plausible but completely unverifiable nonsense. Almost like watching Fox News but with a better sense of humour. Hopefully, it will teach you much about nothing other than the true joy of lying to people. Honestly, there has never been a better moment in history to be a liar. We have reached a point where truths have become lies and lies are now the truth. So learn from the greatest and get inspired by the best lies in history.
*NB: Most profits from this book are going to finance railway infrastructure under the English Channel. Contains strong language.
Our Lady of Perpetual ExemptionEdit
In August 2015, after delivering his "Televangelists" segment, Oliver hired a professional tax lawyer to set up a church called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption as a legal entity. He did this partly as a way to demonstrate how "disturbingly easy" it is, in terms of paperwork, to set up a tax-exempt religious organization as viewed by the Internal Revenue Service. As Oliver explained, the requirements needed to be defined as a "church" are quite broad. Since regulatory guidelines require an established location for a church, Oliver chose his studio location in New York City as its official location, although he registered the nonprofit organization in the state of Texas. Oliver's "megachurch" had a toll-free phone number which allowed callers to donate to the church, and said that any money collected would be redistributed to the charitable relief organization Doctors Without Borders. Oliver announced the formation of his church on the episode of the show that aired on August 16, 2015.
Matt Wilstein, writing for Mediaite, saw Oliver's stunt as being along the same lines as comedian Stephen Colbert's setting up of a 501(c)(4) organization—Colbert Super PAC—as a way to "test the absurd limits of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision"; Oliver's megachurch, in contrast, is a way to test whether the IRS might view his "megachurch" as a tax-exempt organization. Steve Thorngate, writing in The Christian Century, suggested that the question of the religious exemption from taxation was more difficult and nuanced than Oliver portrayed, and not a simple matter of government regulation, describing Oliver's pivot to IRS policy as "unhelpful." However, Thorngate agreed that Oliver's exposure and criticism of "manipulative sleazeballs" who "fleece the faithful" is "spot-on." Leonardo Blair, writing for Christian Post, described Oliver's segment as a "brutal takedown" of televangelists and churches which preach "the prosperity gospel," a message that dupes people into thinking that cash donations will solve medical or financial problems, while in fact the donations go to the personal aggrandizement of televangelists who buy expensive jets or large mansions.
A week later, on the following episode, Oliver devoted a short segment to the donations the church had received, which included money from around the world. Oliver said he had received "thousands of envelopes with thousands of dollars" from donors. Displayed were several US Post Office containers full of mail. Oliver told viewers that the more money they sent in, the more "blessings" would be returned to them, adding that "that is still something I'm — amazingly — legally allowed to say."
Oliver announced that the Church would be shutting down during his show on September 13, 2015. All monetary donations have been forwarded to Doctors Without Borders.
"Donald Trump" is a segment discussing American businessman Donald Trump. It aired on February 28, 2016, as part of the third episode of the third season. During the 22-minute segment, Oliver discusses Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and his long career in business. He also reveals that the Trump family name was changed at one point from the ancestral name 'Drumpf'. Although the changing of names was once a common practice among many non-English immigrants to the United States, the segment popularized the term "Donald Drumpf" and started a campaign urging viewers to "Make Donald Drumpf Again," a play on Trump's own campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." It is the most popular segment the show has ever done. The segment garnered more than 85 million views on Facebook and YouTube combined which, an HBO spokesman has said, "is a record for any piece of HBO content." Throughout the 2016 presidential election and following Trump's inauguration, Oliver made additional segments regarding Trump.
"Debt Buyers" is a segment discussing the business and questionable practice of debt buyers. It aired on June 5, 2016, as part of the fourteenth episode of the third season. Oliver announced he had purchased nearly $15 million in medical debt that belonged to 9,000 debtors. He did this through a company he had created, called "Central Asset Recovery Professionals Inc." (CARP), which he described as being "for the bottom-feeding fish." Oliver stated that it was "pretty clear by now [that] debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight" and went to point out that starting such a business was "disturbingly easy." It cost him $50 to register the business in Mississippi, while it cost less than $60,000 to purchase almost $15 million in bad debt, medical debt from Texas. Oliver forgave the debt in its entirety, and claimed that it was the largest single giveaway in the American television history, eclipsing that of General Motors on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 where it gifted cars to Winfrey's studio audience, worth an estimated $8 million in total. Writing for Slate, Jordan Weissmann disputed the $15 million figure: "[Oliver] says CARP paid around $60,000 ... for its paper, which was 'out-of-statute'—meaning the debts were so old that creditors technically couldn't even sue over them anymore. That suggests the seller thought the debts were worth no more than, well, $60,000." The episode was highlighted in the academic journal Religions. The show partnered with RIP Medical Debt, Inc. to abolish the debt.
Coal mining and Bob MurrayEdit
On June 18, 2017, Last Week Tonight's main segment was about coal mining and Bob Murray. In his segment, Oliver talked about how the safety condition inside the coal mines specifically the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, which killed six miners, in which Oliver criticized Murray for claiming the collapse was caused by an earthquake, despite all evidence demonstrating otherwise. The show ended with a costumed squirrel named "Mr. Nutterbutter" presenting Murray with a voided check for "3 acorns and 18 cents" in response to Murray's company presenting its employees with low sums of money as bonuses, and how the employees retaliate by voiding the checks, and in reference to a claim that stated that Murray supposedly got the idea to start his company from a talking squirrel. On June 22, Bob Murray presented a lawsuit against Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation. HBO believes Last Week Tonight has done nothing wrong, with a First Amendment lawyer describing the lawsuit as "frivolous." In February 2018, a West Virginia judge stated that he plans to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Murray as unfounded.
After Murray's appeal to the West Virginia Supreme Court was delayed due to impeachment of its judges, Murray offered to drop the charges and HBO accepted. On November 10, 2019, Oliver discussed the case in a segment about SLAPP suits, revealing that the suit cost HBO $200,000 in legal costs and tripled the show's libel insurance fees. Oliver acknowledged that, despite the segment being vetted, the content would likely lead to another lawsuit, and that he would stand behind his team if it were to happen. The segment was ended with a five-minute, Times Square-set musical number featuring crude and ludicrous fictional anecdotes about Murray; the musical is titled "Eat Shit, Bob."
A Day in the Life of Marlon BundoEdit
On March 18, 2018, Oliver announced the publication of a children's book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which parodies a book that Mike Pence's family wrote about their family rabbit, Marlon Bundo. Oliver used his book as a platform to criticize Pence's positions on LGBT issues, as it featured a rabbit in a same-sex relationship. The book became the number-one book and e-book on Amazon the next day, and the top-selling audiobook on Audible.
Russell Crowe's jockstrapEdit
Russell Crowe's jockstrap became a notable piece of memorabilia when it was purchased by the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and then donated to a Blockbuster Video shop. The jockstrap reappeared in a skit in the final episode of the 2018 season of the show.
The March 10, 2019, episode dealt primarily with robocalls, and how the problem had mushroomed in recent years since being increasingly deregulated under FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. To prove the point of how easy it was for any company to begin flooding anyone with robocalls, Oliver had one of his IT techs develop a system in which all of the FCC chairs would, at regular intervals on their personal phone numbers, receive a robocall followed immediately by bagpipe music. Oliver freely admitted his astonishment at just how easy this was to accomplish; the IT technician tasked with setting the system up told him they needed only 15 minutes to complete the project, doing so on a minimal budget. And per the very FCC regulations currently in place, Oliver quickly scrolled a section of fine print on screen at a random time during the segment, in which his office address was randomly embedded, and each FCC chair was required to send him an official letter to that address, notifying him in writing that they wished to have him cease all robocalls forthwith. Oliver was also flabbergasted at discovering that while tens of millions of dollars in fines were levied against companies for violating robocall regulations, only a few thousand dollars have ever been collected, effectively giving the companies free rein to continue robocalling unabated.
Guinness World RecordsEdit
The main story of the August 11, 2019 episode was Turkmenistan and its autocratic leader Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow. The last portion of the segment centered around Berdimuhamedow's obsession with Guinness World Records, with the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat being home to the most buildings with white marble cladding, the largest indoor Ferris wheel, and the largest statue of a horse's head, among others. Oliver found that Guinness World Records received sums of money ranging from US$12,000 to US$500,000 from companies and authoritarian nations to set records for publicity. He ended the show with a 600 square foot marble cake adorned with a picture of Berdimuhamedow falling from a horse; he had requested a Guinness adjudicator to certify it as the world's largest marble cake, a record previously set by Betty Crocker in Saudi Arabia in 2017. Guinness refused, stating that because their brand was "aligned with kids and families", they would not send an adjudicator; Oliver mockingly commented that he didn't "run a brutal enough dictatorship to meet Guinness World Records' high ethical standards". Oliver claimed that Guinness offered to certify it after the fact only if he signed an agreement not to criticize their practices on the show, which Oliver dismissed as "ridiculous". Guinness called Oliver's allegations "false and unfair", claiming that they did not send an adjudicator because they felt the cake was specifically for the purpose of mocking a record holder, stating it was their policy "not to partake in any activities which may belittle their achievements or subject them to ridicule".
John Oliver extensively satirized Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a broadcast which went online on February 23, 2020 calling him a temporary symbol of hate. This was during a visit of US President Donald Trump to India, and in an organized rally which unexpectedly coincided with large-scale violence in Delhi, the country's capital. In this episode, Oliver likened Modi's BJP party's political beliefs to Adolf Hitler's, by noting that this party's founders, in 1925, had admired Hitler for his methods to ensure “the purity of the race” – “which is just not a chill thing to admire Hitler - and that, there is one and only one thing that it’s OK to admire Hitler for, and it’s the fact that he killed Hitler."  Oliver also lampooned Trump's choice of words to describe Modi as "the father of India", suggesting that there is a certain Gandhi that already holds that exact title. The brunt of his attacks, however, were aimed at Modi's "increasingly controversial reputation and widespread protests against his government's citizenship measures." In his attempt to explain the political climate in India under BJP which condones widespread violence against Muslims, Oliver mentions how Modi's party-appointed head of Uttar Pradesh, the largest BJP-ruled state of India, said at a recent rally: “If they kill one Hindu then we will also kill 100 of them (Muslims)." He further adds that Modi's party has also edited religious pluralism out of history textbooks, and introduced primary school textbooks teaching Indian supremacy, and that the image is "nauseating" and that for perhaps the first time in Modi's whole career, his actions are creating a massive and sustained backlash. Oliver concludes this segment by saying that when Trump says Modi is bringing India together, “with any luck, the thing that unites them may actually end up being their complete disgust over what he is trying to do”, since India, home of the “symbol of love” Taj Mahal, “frankly deserves much more than this temporary symbol of hate”.
Disney+ Hotstar, an Indian streaming service who holds rights to HBO programming in the country, refused to stream the episode, leading to criticism by local viewers (including Hotstar's apps being review bombed with 1-star reviews). Oliver addressed the censorship in the March 8, 2020 episode, also noting that since the acquisition of Hotstar by The Walt Disney Company (which occurred as part of its acquisition of 21st Century Fox), Hotstar had begun to censor jokes regarding Disney characters from the program, such as his "factually-accurate" claim that Donald Duck had a corkscrew penis.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode clips can be seen internationally on YouTube. It is broadcast on premium channel HBO Canada that is simulcast with HBO in the U.S.; around the same time it is shown on the international HBO channels. It airs in Australia on The Comedy Channel hours after the U.S. airing and airs in New Zealand on SoHo. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is broadcast on Mondays on Sky Comedy. In Belgium, it is broadcast on Thursdays by the Telenet cable-only channel PRIME Series. It airs in South Africa on M-Net and in Portugal on RTP3. In India, the show is streamed on Disney+ Hotstar.
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