Speed Reads

John Oliver Begs

John Oliver channels British romantic comedies to plead for Scotland to stay

This week, Scotland is voting on whether or not to sever itself from England and the rest of the United Kingdom. On Sunday night's Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver explained the vote for an American audience, made a case why everyone should care about Scotland's possible independence, then pleaded for Scotland to stay on behalf of his native England.

The U.K. isn't a country, but a "complicated political and economic union," Oliver explained. "Think of it as an archipelagic super group comprised of four variously willing members." The England-Scotland alliance, in particular, is "something of a 300-year arranged marriage," he added, acknowledging that England has been kind of a jerk since the honeymoon. There are lots of reasons for Scotland to leave, but consequences as well — an independent Scotland might well have to trade the British pound for the unstable euro or whatever its currency was 300 years ago — Oliver guesses "sheep and threats."

The polls suggest that Thursday's vote will be very close, and England is scrambling to up its game and play nice with Scotland. Here's the problem, Oliver said: "When you haven't been nice to someone for 1,000 years, it's very difficult to suddenly start." Prime Minister David Cameron — an unpopular figure in liberal Scotland — visited with some half-hearted pleas. But Oliver said more is needed: "Look, if I've learned one thing from the last four minutes of British romantic comedies, it's that if you're trying to win someone over, you need a big romantic gesture." His gesture is family friendly, but there's some mildly salty language sprinkled throughout the segment. --Peter Weber