Speed Reads


John Oliver uses Hugh Grant to explain why Boris Johnson will catastrophically fail as Britain's leader

John Oliver didn't mince words when assessing the United Kingdom's new leader. "The U.K. is about to be completely f--ked," he said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Incredibly, Britain's new prime minister is Boris Johnson, and even if you know nothing about British politics, you're probably already vaguely aware of him," Oliver said. He's "a clownish figure with silly hair" and "eccentric, chaotic outfits," and "it's honestly hard" to find photos "where he doesn't look ridiculous."

But "Johnson's bumbling persona is a carefully calibrated act" — he "learned at an early age the benefit of making yourself the butt of the joke," Oliver said. It's just not very funny anymore: "An absolutely crucial leader in the Brexit campaign," Johnson now has to finalize a Brexit deal by Oct. 31, "and the consequences of messing that up could have catastrophic ramifications for Britain, Europe, and the world."

There's a definite charm in Johnson's calculated "lovable mess weathering adversity with humor and good cheer," but "beneath all of Boris' surface charm are some truly nasty elements." like lying and careful bigotry, Oliver said. And "unfortunately, Boris the prime minister may have just hit the limits of where that charm can take him, because crucially, he now has less than 100 days to negotiate a Brexit deal, and his well-engineered clumsy-Brit persona does not necessarily travel well."

"His bumbling charm may work wonders in low-stakes situations, but that's not where he is now," Oliver said, finally arriving where you knew he must. "Think of it this like this: Hugh Grant is delightful in romantic comedies: the stammering, the hesitation, the inability to relate to his immediate surroundings with any level of competence. You want to see Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral, but no one wants to see him in United 93, because the context would make his character a lot less charming." He acted that out. There is NSFW language throughout. Peter Weber