Comedians doing commentary on politics is absolutely nothing new. Late night talk shows are renowned for this practice, but none do it quite like John Oliver.
The show, created by British-American comedian and actor John Oliver, features the comedian commenting on the issues of our time. He has covered a multitude of political and economic factors that affect our everyday lives, such as capital punishment, climate crisis, net neutrality, immigration reform, student debt, predatory payday loans, the militarization of the police force in the United States, the use of drone strikes on civilians, issues in the pharmaceutical industry, voting rights, infrastructure, LGBTQ rights, and public education. The show began airing on April 27, 2014.
Oliver’s particular brand of suave (or might I say, lack thereof) brings an element to this genre of television that other shows don’t. Oliver is awkward, but he is awkward in a presentational and relatable way. He leans into the fact that he is awkward and doesn’t appear to be much at first glance which ultimately helps to make him more approachable.
Another element of his show that does wonders is his ability to seamlessly transition between comedic lines and quite serious news delivery. Like many shows of this type, he intersperses clips that help flesh out the story being discussed and when he needs to make fun of something in one of those clips, its at just the right moment. It can be extremely easy to punch down on to someone struggling, but particularly in the stories of racial injustice, financial destitution, and public health, he tones down the comedy to an appropriate level. It’s something that is quite difficult to meter as a comedian because you’re doing so much reaction to the energy of the crowd in front of you. Oliver does his show in front of a live studio audience, and he has a great ability to sense how they feel about jokes.
Oliver’s show has a phenomenal writing team and as television shows go, they are reportedly treated quite well. This fair and quality treatment shows in the writing of the show. There are routinely moments where Oliver will break the flow of the show for a minute and brag on members of the writing team or involve them personally in a story with how it has affected their lives. Many of the topics Oliver talks about have a personal connection somewhere in his team of writers. This, of course, only seeks to make the writing that much better.
Oliver got his start working on the immensely popular show “The Daily Show with John Stewart” and even subbed in for Stewart when he had to take an extended hiatus. This practical experience being the presenter and host was invaluable to his success on his own show. Currently, the show streams on HBO Max and releases episodes weekly on Sundays. Many segments from the show are also posted to YouTube. “Last Week Tonight” receives an A-plus rating.