Food For Thought & Lots Of Laughs: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver


I have a new show to binge-watch rather obsessively. Perhaps binge-watch isn’t the right word, but I’ve found myself spending a fair amount of time watching this series. I was first introduced to it by my best friend, and now I am hooked.

I’m talking about Last Week Tonight With John Oliver.

It’s a news show from HBO discussing various issues, usually in an American context, hosted by a British guy. We live in a global society, y’all.

You may wonder why I enjoy it so much, considering that it focuses mainly on American content, but it’s seriously hilarious. Even if you know nothing about America other than burgers, fries, and pies, you’ll definitely still be able to appreciate the humour.

What I enjoy about Last Week Tonight is that the information is broken down into something easy to understand. Oliver can spend an entire episode talking about the IRS, but I understand everything perfectly. He can go on for nearly half an hour talking about patent law and net neutrality, but I get it. I get it, and I’m not necessarily the brightest crayon in the box.

And of course, the humour is on point. He uses all sorts of funny comparisons in order to drive home messages. Things like “Trial lawyers shouldn’t get to decide whether a bill against patent trolls gets to Congress, it’s like raccoons deciding the number and positions of garbage cans in the city!” or “getting your budget cut by 20% makes a big difference, like Zayn leaving One Direction. He’s 20% of the band, of course it’s not the same!”

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Oliver does very good impressions of meth addicts and raccoons.

He also occasionally parodies show trailers or videos in order to make his point, such as parodying an action movie trailer about bridge and building inspectors in order to drive home the importance of maintaining America’s infrastructure.

Some of his jokes are borderline offensive, and clearly make fun of various political parties, situations, and people, but it makes me literally laugh out loud.

Jokes aside, you may wonder: what’s the point in watching it if it’s just about America?

Well, Oliver may examine issues from an American perspective, but some of them are very real problems that affect the world, like online bullying and LGBT rights. Stuff like how tobacco companies are suing countries for putting health warnings on cigarette packs, or how there are illegal factories behind many fast-fashion labels. They’re real issues that could affect us in Singapore too – what if one day a tobacco company tries to sue our government for enforcing the rule that IDs must be checked before cigarettes are sold?

He also covers external affairs, like the Scottish Independence referendum, so it’s pretty good for picking up general knowledge.

One episode of his that really interested me was on Native Advertising, or what we call advertorials. Basically, advertorials are content that looks like your regular blog post, but was paid for by an advertiser. Some are well-disguised, others blatant. It’s an issue that’s being hotly debated even in Singapore, with a slew of grey areas that need to be worked out. There’s long been a divide between church and state, or in this case, journalism and business, but as the world progresses and times change, the line blurs.

I could go on about advertorials and paid posts, but that’s another post for another day.

Long story short, if you’re looking for an entertaining show that’s also pretty insightful, check out Last Week Tonight.

I’d recommend starting with this episode on televangelists scamming the hell out of people. It’s startlingly similar to a recent case we had in Singapore about a mega-church that I shall not name. Do the words ‘China Wine’ mean anything to you?

Cheers, folks!


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