Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
Last Week Tonight title.jpg
Genre Comedy, news satire
Created by HBO
Developed by John Oliver
Presented by John Oliver
Narrated by David Kaye
Opening theme "Go" by Valley Lodge[1]
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 43 (as of June 28, 2015) (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s) John Oliver
Tim Carvell
James Taylor
Jon Thoday
Producer(s) Liz Stanton
Location(s) CBS Broadcast Center
New York, New York
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s) Avalon Television
Partially Important Productions
Original channel HBO
Picture format 1080i (16:9 HDTV)
Original release April 27, 2014 (2014-04-27) – present
Related shows The Daily Show
External links

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is an American late-night talk and news satire television program airing on Sundays on HBO in the United States and HBO Canada, and on Mondays (originally Tuesdays) on Sky Atlantic in the United Kingdom.[2] The half-hour-long[3] show premiered on Sunday, April 27, 2014, and is hosted by comedian John Oliver. Last Week Tonight shares some similarities with Comedy Central's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, where Oliver was previously featured as a correspondent and fill-in host, as it takes a satirical look at news, politics and current events on a weekly basis."[2]

Oliver has said that he has full creative freedom, including free rein to criticize corporations. His initial contract with HBO was for two years with an option for extension.[4] In February 2015, it was announced that the show has been renewed for two additional seasons of 35 episodes each.[5] Oliver and HBO programming president Michael Lombardo have discussed extending the show from half an hour to a full hour and airing more than once a week after Oliver "gets his feet under him".[4]


Oliver described his preparations for the show to an interviewer for The Wire: "... I basically have to watch everything. The only thing I kind of watch for pleasure is Fareed Zakaria's show on Sundays... That and 60 Minutes I watch for pleasure, or maybe Frontline... I have a TV on in my office all the time and I'll generally flick around on that from CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Bloomberg, CNBC, Al Jazeera... I'm watching with a certain thing in mind and that is how to see a story told badly."[6]

He admitted to another interviewer that he is concerned about dealing with old news:

"If something happens on a Monday, realistically all the meat is going to be picked off that bone by the time it gets to us — there's probably barely a point in doing it... I think we'll be attracted to some extent by stories that are off the grid... Our show may end up skewing more international in terms of stories."[7]

Tim Carvell, executive producer of Last Week Tonight, explained to an interviewer how the cast and crew deal with a half hour of Oliver speaking without any commercial breaks.[8]

"Structural considerations are leading to changes in the content in the show that will inherently make it different from The Daily Show... We realized early on, you don't necessarily want to hear anybody talk to you for a half an hour straight – even John, who is very charming – so we are constructing these little, produced comedy elements that will serve the function of commercial breaks throughout the show, which will let us get out of the studio, get us away from John's voice and break the show up a bit."

Carvell also revealed that HBO gave them freedom in choosing guests for the show, advising them not to feel obligated to feature celebrities.[8]

When asked by an interviewer about "correspondents" such as those featured on The Daily Show, Oliver replied, "we're not going to be a parody news show, so no people pretending to be journalists."[9]


Season Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 24 April 27, 2014 (2014-04-27) November 9, 2014 (2014-11-09)
2 35[5] February 8, 2015 (2015-02-08) N/A


Oliver's debut show garnered 1.11 million viewers. The number of viewers online, through websites such as YouTube showing extended clips of different segments, have steadily climbed into multiple millions. The show's YouTube channel also features Web Exclusives which are occasionally posted when the main show is taking a week off. Across the TV airings, DVR, on-demand and HBO Go, Last Week Tonight averaged 4.1 million weekly viewers in the first season.[10]

Last Week Tonight has received critical acclaim. Matthew Jacobs of The Huffington Post named Oliver's program as 2014's best television show writing, "the year's most surprising contribution to television is a show that bucked conventional formats, left us buzzing and paved the way for a burgeoning dynasty. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is 2014's crowning achievement.[11]

Hank Stuever of The Washington Post compared Oliver's program with The Daily Show several times in his review of Oliver's debut:

"another scathing, stick-it-to-'em critique of American mass media and politics shellacked in satire and delivered by a funny if almost off-puttingly incredulous man with a British accent... Exactly like The Daily Show, the goal is to make elected and appointed officials, as well as just about any corporate enterprise, look foolish and inept while slyly culling together television news clips that make the media look equally inept at covering such evident truths."[12]

James Poniewozik of Time similarly compared Last Week with The Daily Show, but also wrote that the "full half-hour gives Oliver the room to do more", and praised Oliver's "sharper tone and his globalist, English-outsider perspective", as well as his "genuine passion over his subjects". Poniewozik wrote that Oliver's debut was "a funny, confident start".[13]

The Entertainment Weekly review began by ringing the same changes: "The fear with Last Week Tonight is that it's The Daily Show except once a week — a staggered timeline that would rob the basic news-punning format of its intrinsic topical punch... The first episode of his HBO series didn't stray far from the [Jon] Stewart mothership, stylistically..." However, the reviewer, Darren Franich, liked that Oliver has "a half-hour of television that is simultaneously tighter and more ambitious, that the extra production time leads to sharper gags but also the ability to present more context" and thought that the debut had "plenty of funny throwaway lines". Franich appreciated Oliver's coverage of the 2014 India Election, which the American press was largely ignoring,[14] and, like Poniewozik, praised Oliver's "passion". Franich concluded that Last Week Tonight "suggested the sharpest possible version of its inspiration" and that it "should feel like an experiment" but "felt almost fully formed".[15]

The reviewer for Slate was ambivalent, writing that the show is "obviously a work in progress" and that one segment "felt like misplaced overkill", but also that it is "good use of a weekly show, and it was funny to boot".[16] Gawker's Jordan Sargent claimed Last Week Tonight was "the new Daily Show",[17] while simultaneously criticizing the Daily Show for abandoning those "who have moved on from caring about Fox [News] and Republicans".

A number of commentators from mainstream media outlets, including New York Times,[18] The Huffington Post,[19] Time Magazine[20] and Associated Press[21] have described Oliver's style of reporting as journalism or even investigative journalism. Oliver himself disagrees, stating that "it’s not journalism, it’s comedy—it’s comedy first, and it’s comedy second."[22]

International reaction[edit]

A segment on Prime Minister of Australia Tony Abbott received widespread attention in Australia across the mainstream media and was trending on social media.[23][24][25]

According to a document obtained by Vice, the military government of Thailand listed Oliver as "undermining the royal institution" for calling Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn a "buffoon" and an "idiot".[26][27]

The show also made international headlines following Oliver's interview with Edward Snowden, which included a graphic, in-depth conversation about the amount of power the United States government has at its disposal in terms of intelligence, both domestic and foreign. Oliver also confronted Snowden about the lack of knowledge of the American people about his work and why they may be hesitant to analyze it for themselves rather than accept preconceived notions of him being a whistleblower. Notably, he tried to help Snowden in creating public awareness for the fundamentality of the surveillance problem in putting forward the question "Can they see my dick?"[28][29]


Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in Canada on HBO Canada in simulcast with its U.S. airing on HBO. It airs in Australia on The Comedy Channel hours after the U.S. airing.[30] The second season debuted on February 9, 2015.[31] In the United Kingdom, it is broadcast on Mondays (originally Tuesdays) on the satellite-only channel Sky Atlantic.[32] In Belgium it is broadcast on Thursdays by the Telenet cable-only channel PRIME Series.[33]


  1. ^ "Dave Hill's band Valley Lodge did the theme for 'Last Week Tonight w/ John Oliver' (who crashed the FCC's website)". BrooklynVegan. June 3, 2014. Retrieved August 12, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Patten, Dominic (February 12, 2014). "HBO Sets Name & Date For John Oliver Debut". (PMC). Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved February 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ O'Connell, Michael (February 12, 2014). "John Oliver's HBO Series Gets Name, April Premiere". Retrieved March 10, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b Guthrie, Marisa (16 April 2014). "John Oliver on the Luxurious 'Freedom' of HBO, His Complicated Relationship With NYC". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  5. ^ a b Luckerson, Victor (February 18, 2015). "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Gets 2 More Seasons". Time. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  6. ^ Zuckerman, Esther (May 1, 2014). "John Oliver: What I Read". The Wire. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  7. ^ Hoxie, Angie (August 13, 2014). "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Changing journalism for the better". Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Sneed, Tierney (April 22, 2014). "Why Last Week Tonight Will Not Just Be The Daily Show on Sundays". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  9. ^ "'Last Week Tonight,' Two Days Later: John Oliver on His First Show, Dream Guests, and Old White Racists". Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  10. ^ O'Connell, Michael (September 9, 2014). "John Oliver's Talk Show Ratings Edging Out HBO Colleague Bill Maher". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 23, 2014. 
  11. ^ Jacobs, Matthew (December 8, 2014). "Why 'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' Was 2014's Best Show". The Huffington Post. Retrieved December 9, 2014. 
  12. ^ Stuever, Hank (April 28, 2014). "John Oliver's 'Last Week Tonight' on HBO sticks to a familiar formula". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  13. ^ Poniewozik, James (April 28, 2014). "REVIEW: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver". Time. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  14. ^ Ayres, Alyssa (May 1, 2014). "Thanks, John Oliver! Why India Isn't a Big Focus for U.S. Television". Forbes. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  15. ^ Franich, Darren (Apr 28, 2014). "'Last Week Tonight With John Oliver' review: The Weekly Show". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  16. ^ Haglund, David (April 2014). "Last Week Tonight: Like The Daily Show, With Unbleeped Swears!". Slate. Retrieved May 4, 2014. 
  17. ^ Sargent, Jordan (May 6, 2014). "John Oliver's Last Week Tonight is the New Daily Show". Gawker. Retrieved May 6, 2014. 
  18. ^ Carr, David (November 16, 2014). "John Oliver’s Complicated Fun Connects for HBO". New York Times. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  19. ^ Bauder, David (September 26, 2014). "John Oliver Is Doing Some Really Good Investigative Journalism". The Huffington Post. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  20. ^ Poniewozik, James (November 17, 2014). "Unfortunately, John Oliver, You Are a Journalist". Time. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  21. ^ Bauder, David (September 25, 2014). "With journalism in quiver, John Oliver transcends his schtick". Associated Press. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  22. ^ Suebsaeng, Asawin (September 29, 2014). "‘Last Week Tonight’ Does Real Journalism, No Matter What John Oliver Says". The Daily Beast. Retrieved April 30, 2015. 
  23. ^ "Tony Abbott lambasted on US TV show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver hero". News Corp Australia. June 3, 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  24. ^ Ma Evelyn Castino Quilas (June 3, 2014). "Tony Abbott Mocked in U.S. News Program, Aussies Cringe on Twitter". International Business Times. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  25. ^ Nick Toscano (June 2, 2014). "Tony Abbott roasted by John Oliver on HBO show Last Week Tonight". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved June 5, 2014. 
  26. ^ "Thailand's Military Government Thinks John Oliver Is a Threat to Its Monarchy". Vice. July 25, 2014. 
  27. ^ "Thai junta unamused by comedian John Oliver's royal jibes". The Guardian. 30 July 2014. 
  28. ^ "John Oliver lands Edward Snowden interview from Russia". CNNMoney. April 6, 2015. 
  29. ^ "John Oliver presses Edward Snowden on whether he read all leaked NSA material". The Guardian. April 6, 2015. 
  30. ^ "Airdate: Last Week Tonight". TV Tonight. April 11, 2014. Retrieved June 2, 2014. 
  31. ^ Higgins, D (February 9, 2015). "New this week: The Walking Dead, Gogglebox, The Affair, Grammys, ICC World Cup, Super Rugby and more". The Green Room. Foxtel. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  32. ^ "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver". Sky. Retrieved 13 September 2014. 
  33. ^ "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver S2". Telenet/PRIME. Retrieved 21 February 2015. 

External links[edit]