Speed Reads


John Oliver explains why you (and France) should care about France's presidential election

John Oliver kicked off the main segment of Sunday's Last Week Tonight with a gratuitously NSFW jab at your childhood literary heroes, but that was just an introduction to France's upcoming presidential election. "It is way more important than you might realize," he said. In next Sunday's first-round election, multiple candidates are proposing a French exit from the European Union, which would destroy the EU and fracture modern Europe. "That's right," Oliver said. "The fate of Europe rests in the hands of a country that looks at snails and says, 'I have got to get you in my mouth.'"

And France is ripe for an upset, following a string of terrorist attacks, an unemployment rate of 10 percent, and a president so unpopular he couldn't plausibly seek a second term. There are 11 candidates running to replace President Francois Hollande, and before getting to the four main candidates, Oliver introduced some of the quirky outsiders, including Jacques Cheminade, who accused Britain's Queen Elizabeth II of international drug trafficking and wants to colonize Mars.

The four main candidates, Oliver explained, are Francois Fillon, the scandal-plagued conservative former frontrunner; Jean-Luc Mélenchon, a far-left candidate who's "anti-EU and pro-high-tech campaign wizardry"; Emmanuel Macron, a centrist who has never held elective office, might well win the presidency, and is mostly interesting because he married his French teacher; and Marine Le Pen. "Honestly, she is the main reason you should be invested in this election," Oliver said. She has put a kinder, gentler face on her father's National Front party, he said, but "beneath her slick presentation, Le Pen's message if vicious," he said.

"Le Pen has already dangerously normalized the National Front," Oliver said. "And one of the frustrating things about watching this unfold from America is this feels a little like déjà vu: a potentially destabilizing populist campaigning on anti-immigrant rhetoric who rages against the elite, despite having a powerful father and inherited wealth, even as all the experts reassure us that there is no way that this can possibly happen." To convince France to vote against Le Pen, Oliver tried to appeal to the "innate French sense of superiority over the U.S. and Britain," assuring the French that, after the Brexit and President Trump, they can now prove they're right. Oliver's track record with Brexit and Trump isn't great, but maybe his plea to France — in French, and black-and-white — will have better success. Watch below, though note there is NSFW language. Peter Weber