Most of Tuesday night's Daily Show was consumed by John Oliver gamely trying — and largely succeeding — to make tax reform interesting, accessible, and funny. (Watch below) But the best part of the show was when correspondents Jessica Williams and Samantha Bee tried to hold a conversation about race in America.
We've been talking about having a conversation about race in America since at least Bill Clinton's first term in the White House. But the idea has gained new relevance after the shooting of Travyon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman. President Obama is among those who urged a renewed conversation on race. The pundits say we're scared to touch the topic. Williams and Bee just showed us why.
The Daily Show gathered two groups of five people, one all white and one all black, and had Bee and Williams go in to talk race with them. Bee, who is white, talked with the black group; Williams, who is black, talked with the white group. Neither conversation went particularly well.
Bee was told her "white privilege" shields her from having to think about race; Williams was told that America's race problem is 50 percent solved. Williams rolled her eyes as a white woman explained that she's probably never been interviewed by a black person because black people aren't interested in her fashion job; Bee sweat profusely and tried to explain it away as a medical condition.
It is one of those Daily Show segments where the guests are deadly earnest and the Daily Show interviewers are not. These bits usually work. Most of the time, the guests come off looking pretty silly; here, it's mixed: Bee and some members of the white group end up looking kind of clownish, on purpose or otherwise. When a white New Yorker explains she has been stopped-and-frisked "at the airport," Williams groans and so do we.
In the first part of the show, John Oliver explained why everybody is talking about reforming our tax code — it hasn't had a serious overhaul since 1986, back when Boy George could guest star on The A Team (watch: this really happened) — and why nobody has been able to actually revamp it.
The problem, Oliver explains, is that each loophole and tax credit in the bloated tax code is there because somebody wants it there, and taking any of the goodies out is tantamount to political suicide — it will hurt your current career in Congress and your future career as a much-better-paid lobbyist.
And to demonstrate the dangers of discussing who's holding up tax reform, Oliver brought on correspondent Aasif Mandvi:
Here are some amazing highlights of Boy George on The A Team:
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Watch out, China — America is working on dogfighting drones
- How liberals are unwittingly paving the way for the legalization of adult incest
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- Why America won't have enough money to battle ISIS
- The troubling persistence of eugenicist thought in modern America
- How the Simpsons/Family Guy crossover revealed the worst of both shows
- Why the Chinese military is only a paper dragon
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- Libertarianism's terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea
Subscribe to the Week