Johnsplaining
December 9, 2020

Last Week Tonight's John Oliver took a break from his between-seasons hiatus to dive into one of his many odd obsessions: What does the Pringles mascot's body look like? "The only thing we do know is that his head looks like a hard-boiled egg disguised as Tom Selleck," he said. Technically, it wasn't his obsession, Oliver explained. But after he'd mused in detail about Julius Pringles' body in a November show, "people went out of their way either draw or find drawings of what people feel the Pringles guy does look like from the neck down." He showed some examples and commented on them, calling the exercise "genuinely uplifting."

"The only thing that doesn't sit well with me is just how silent Pringles has been on this matter," Oliver said, offering to donate $10,000 to Feeding America if Pringles came through.

Pringles came through Tuesday evening, tweeting out a video of a full-body Julius Pringles.

Oliver called Pringles a "garbage snack" and specifically mocked the company's Twitter feed, but as the old adage goes, no publicity is bad publicity. And Pringles did get in a bit of a dig at Oliver's bizarre obsession, pointing out that Oliver's $10,000 donation represents $1 for every second he "has thought of Mr. P's body." So it seems to be a win-win-win. Peter Weber

November 16, 2020

"This is our final show of the year, and we just wanted to thank you so much for watching," John Oliver said at the end of Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Clearly, this has been a dark time to be producing a comedy show, but incredibly we have managed to have some fun this year." He listed some of the lighter highlights of his seventh season, "and of course, I spent the whole year demanding that Adam Driver demolish me," he added, truthfully. Oliver wrapped that year-long bit up with an awkward FaceTime call from Driver himself, who acted less than amused by the whole weird thing.

But Driver also got Oliver to explore the void he has inhabited ever since COVID-19 hit, and as Oliver left through a newly discovered door, he started ruminating on how "this year has been an absolute parade of misery." You may have forgotten some of the low points, or might have added in some of your own. "2020 was absolutely terrible, and I really hope next years is going to be better, but the truth is, what happens next is up to all of us," he said. "It's going to depend on how willing we are to fight, how well we learn from what's happened, and and how much we're able to care about each other. So I don't know what happens next, but I do know what happens now." And what happened then was less a moment of zen than a fiery moment of catharsis, set to classical music.

"Let tomorrow be about solutions," Oliver said, detonator in hand. "Today is about vengeance." If you don't mind the NSFW language and also had a bad 2020, you might want to bookmark his moment of vengeance to replay on New Year's Eve — it's way more fun than a ball drop. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 16, 2020

The main story on Sunday's season finale of Last Week Tonight "unfortunately, for the second week in a row, concerns the election we just had," John Oliver sighed, and "believe me, I'm just as disappointed as you about that." Normally, "the loser of a presidential election would simply acknowledge that they lost, and the country would get to move on," he said. And while President Trump's refusal to concede isn't that surprising, the public backing of "Trump's indefensible behavior" by top administration officials and Republicans is "disappointing."

"Tonight let's look at just how weak Trump's case for overturning this election is and what real harm 'humoring' him will do," Oliver said. "And let's start with the case itself. Because there are lots of accusations and lawsuits flying around right now. And If you're a casual viewer of right-wing media, you might think, 'Well, there must be something here, they wouldn't be going to all this trouble over nothing.' But the thing is, they are. This really is nothing." He shot down some of the allegations — dead voters, flipped votes — then said he "could spend the rest of this show debunking stories, the problem is, it's endless."

"So the allegations here are complete nonsense, and who knows why Republicans are entertaining this," Oliver said. "What I do know is that the answer to the question, 'What's the downside of humoring him?' is: a lot." Aside from depriving President-elect Joe Biden of a smooth transition, Trump's delusion "also plays into grim fantasies of embattled Trump supporters, something expressed perhaps most dramatically and stupidly by the actor Jon Voight," he said. "Trump is playing a dangerous game here. Because there is a huge difference between 'not my president' and 'not the president.' And to be clear, people who are that angry are not riling themselves up in a vacuum. They've been fed a steady diet of misinformation, bulls--t fraud claims, and a victim narrative" from right-wing media and Trump himself.

"And infuriatingly, Trump has chosen to sow all this chaos around the election despite the fact that deep down, he knows it's over," Oliver said, a situation that "is pathetic, dangerous, and in many ways an appropriate coda to a presidency that has destroyed so many lives" and relationships.

Oliver ended the season awkwardly video-chatting with Adam Driver and literally blowing up 2020. Peter Weber

November 9, 2020

The 2020 election "was clearly a very long, very tense week, although thankfully, it all felt worth it due to how it ended," an uncharacteristically upbeat John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight: Donald Trump "isn't going to be president anymore." People took to the streets to celebrate in cities across America, he noted, and in New York "there was a mood here that can only be described as reverse 9/11. Why? Because it combined complete euphoria, an abiding disgust for Rudy Giuliani, and this time people were actually dancing on the rooftops in New Jersey."

"It is genuinely hard to overstate the level of relief that has been flying around parts of this country, especially at the end of a truly draining week, and tonight we thought it might be worth mapping out exactly how we got to this point over the last seven days," Oliver said. He started with the predictably slow ballot count, Trump's "nightmarish speech from the White House" early Wednesday, and his camp's subsequent attempts to do "absolutely everything they could think of to subvert this election," including rampant "conspiracy theorizing" and a flurry of "ridiculous" lawsuits in multiple states to try to "cast a cloud over the whole process." Still, he said, "perhaps the single most pathetic part of this week is that in the moments before this race was called on Saturday morning, Trump tweeted out 'I WON THIS ELECTION, BY A LOT!'"

"But here is the really important thing: After this absolute year of a week — the days of counting, the misinformation, the desperate, pathetic attempts to paint this process as fraudulent — the fact is, Trump lost this election," Oliver said. "He lost. All that bulls--t which we've grown accustomed to seeing work, did not work this time. And it's not like Trump and his family are going to stop — they're gonna carry on grifting and lying like they've always done. But once he's out of the White House, it's just not going to have the same effect anymore. It's not going to directly impact every American's life."

Oliver did touch on America's forthcoming reckoning with "what Trumpism is going to mean going forward" and note that Democrats also face questions after they "didn't get anything they hoped for." But he also took a minute — well, 30 seconds — just to celebrate, and it involves octopuses, and it's NSFW. Watch below. Peter Weber

November 2, 2020

President Trump, in his final flurry of rallies, is rolling his eyes at the COVID-19 pandemic, now killing about 1,000 Americans every day, John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "For many, Trump's handling of the coronavirus is going to a significant factor in how they vote," but "a lot of voters are more than willing to give him the benefit of the doubt." They shouldn't, he argued. This is the "defining crisis" of Trump's presidency, and "his response has been such a disaster," you've probably forgotten half his mistakes.

COVID-19 isn't a new topic, Oliver said, "but we still thought that tonight — especially if you or someone you know also thinks that 'nothing more could have been done' — it would be worth taking a look at three crucial areas where more could very much have been done, specifically preparation, coordination, and communication."

Oliver laid out some of the ways Trump undid years of U.S. pandemic preparations and explained why his frequently touted China "travel ban wasn't a ban, wasn't early, and didn't do what he said it did." China did take "too long to be forthright with us about the virus," but Trump "acted unforgivably slowly" once we found out about it, he added. The president's PPE supply chain management "was a total shambles," and "it has been genuinely remarkable just how consistently Trump has undercut public health messaging."

"I know that Trump badly wants everyone to believe that nothing more could have been done, but that's just not true — other countries have done more and suffered less," Oliver said. "This wasn't inevitable! And look, I shouldn't have to take 20 minutes to tell you that Trump mismanaged the pandemic," it's that self-evident.

"If Biden is elected, it's not like he's gonna magically end this pandemic," Oliver said. "But he'll at least take it seriously. And it's pretty bleak that that alone sounds good — but it really does." Look, he added, "this virus has taken so much from us — our peace of mind, our routines, and nearly a quarter of a million Americans — and it's frankly pathetic that in response, the only things that Trump has offered people in this country over the past eight months are damaging lies, staggering incompetence, and occasionally, when he's feeling generous, some sh--ty f--king pens." Watch his case against Trump, plus a disturbing and NSFW riff on Pinocchio, below. Peter Weber

November 2, 2020

Since becoming U.S. attorney general, William Barr "has been in the news constantly, and almost never for good reasons," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "In just the past few months, he has, among other things, sown distrust in mail-in voting and also dismissed public health measures in the middle of a pandemic, in the grossest possible way."

Strikingly, when President Trump nominated Barr 18 months ago, "the news was basically greeted with relief" there would finally be an "adult in the room," Oliver said. "Look, not only is being an adult an absurdly low bar to set for the highest levels of government, but it also implies that the main problem with Trump is that he is childish. And I know that it makes for a fun balloon now and again, but at its core, 'I wish that white nationalist with an authoritarian streak would act his age' is sort of missing the point here."

It's also "worth remembering, some adults are a--holes, and Barr is very much one of them," Oliver said. "But he is also very much more: He is a driven, deeply moralistic man with extreme views on executive power, actually making him one of the more dangerous figures in the Trump administration — which I know is saying something. But if Trump gets a second term, Barr is only going to be more dangerous going forward." He ran through Barr's lifelong "veneration of authority," fervent belief "in something known as the unitary executive theory," and why he could only "fully test his belief that the president answers to absolutely nobody" when Trump was elected.

"And while Trump has been grumbling lately that Barr should have done more to punish his political enemies, when it comes to playing defense for Trump, Barr has been relentless," Oliver said. Trump may be "Barr's dream president, someone who is the ideal vessel for Barr's decades-long pursuit of a unitary executive," and if they get a second term to pursue their "case that a moral order must be imposed, and by force," it will be "very, very dangerous" for America. Because "Barr isn't just fighting to give the president power on principle, he wants to give this president power so he will use it against the people that Barr thinks are ruining society," he said. There's a bit of NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

October 26, 2020

"We have talked about immigration repeatedly on this show, but tonight we're going to focus on just one narrow area of it, asylum," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "It's the legal process by which people who are fleeing persecution and make it to the U.S. can apply to stay here. And asylum-seekers are a group that, in theory, everyone should be able to support. They are the literal 'huddled masses yearning to breathe free.'"

President Trump is "famously not a fan," Oliver said, and "the Trump administration's attack on asylum has been focused, dedicated, and deeply resourceful. And I know that those aren't adjectives you're used to associating with this administration, but in this one area, they've been truly disciplined about being truly evil. So tonight let's talk about out asylum system, how it's supposed to work, and just a few of the key ways that this administration has undermined it."

"The asylum process has never been easy, but this administration has made it absolute hell," Oliver said. "Their policy of family separation caused widespread outrage, but they have done so much more than that." He took a closer look at three tactics, ranging from cruel and callous — "it's pretty bleak when drug cartels have a more efficient system for keeping track of asylum seekers than the U.S. government" — to brutally opportunistic.

For example, the Trump administration invoked a public health power, Title 42, to not just "shut down the border to virtually all migrants" but also expel asylum-seekers who made it into the country with zero due process, Oliver said. Stephen Miller, Trump's immigration architect, reportedly tried to use this public health tool twice last year alone before Trump forced the CDC to invoke it during the COVID-19 pandemic. "And you can kind of see why this appeals so much to Miller, because invoking Title 42 has basically created a shadow deportation system that moves quickly and is accountable to no one," he said, and they've used it to summarily expel nearly 200,000 people since March.

The Trump administration "has effectively taken an asylum system that was already imperfect and shattered it," Oliver said, and "they're now trying to make this damage permanent." There's one thing people can do, he added, and while his report is likely upsetting for anyone who cares about humans (and sprinkled with NSFW expletives), Oliver does end with a dark joke. Peter Weber

October 19, 2020

The World Health Organization is one of President Trump's "favorite punching bags," John Oliver said on Sunday's Last Week Tonight. "Over the last six months, Trump has constantly tried to deflect blame for his handing of the coronavirus onto the WHO, China, and the close relationship that he claims the two have" — so much so he "decided to withdraw the United States from the WHO," and "the clock is ticking."

"Given that we're now on track to leave the WHO in less than a year, tonight let's talk about what that actually means — how important the WHO's work is, how valid criticisms of it are, and what we might be putting at stake," Oliver said. "One of the biggest powers it has is the ability to declare a 'public health emergency of international concern,' and issue recommendations on how countries should respond." And despite the WHO having "absolutely no power on its own to enforce those recommendations," he said, "it's managed to do some incredible things in the past," including eradicating smallpox, nearly wiping out polio, and overseeing the more "tedious" task of developing the annual flu vaccine, all on a budget around the same size as a large U.S. hospital.

Oliver put Trump's main critiques of the WHO in context and explained why the U.S. walking away from the organization — not trying to fix its problems — would be misguided and counterproductive, "especially in the middle of a global pandemic."

"This is yet another depressing example of Trump seeing something that involves shared sacrifice, trade-offs, and complexity and decided to just blow it up because he either doesn't understand it, doesn't care, or both," and it's "incredibly dangerous," Oliver said. "We're currently on track to leave the WHO on July 6 of next year — if, that is, Trump is re-elected. And this means our membership in the WHO is yet another important thing on the ballot this year. And even though Trump likes to pretend that we can insulate ourselves from the rest of the world, if the coronavirus has shown us anything, it's that diseases don't recognize borders, and we're only as strong as our worst-prepared country." There is quite a bit of NSFW language. So consider putting on headphones when you watch below. Peter Weber

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