Last Week Tonight with John Oliver
|Last Week Tonight with John Oliver|
The Last Week Tonight with John Oliver logo
|Also known as||Last Week Tonight|
|Created by||John Oliver|
|Presented by||John Oliver|
|Narrated by||David Kaye|
|Opening theme||"Go" by Valley Lodge|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||136 (list of episodes)|
CBS Broadcast Center|
New York, New York
|Running time||30–40 minutes|
|Picture format||1080i (16:9 HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Surround|
|Original release||April 27, 2014– present|
|Related shows||The Daily Show|
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (often abridged as Last Week Tonight) is an American late-night talk and news satire television program hosted by comedian John Oliver. The half-hour-long show premiered on Sunday, April 27, 2014, on HBO. Last Week Tonight shares some similarities with Comedy Central's The Daily Show (where Oliver was previously featured as a correspondent and fill-in host), as it takes a satirical look at news, politics and current events, but on a weekly basis.
Oliver has stated 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. In September 2017, HBO announced that the show had been renewed for three additional seasons of 30 episodes each, keeping the show on the air through 2020. The fifth season premiered on February 18, 2018.
- 1 Production
- 2 Format
- 3 Episodes
- 4 YouTube channel
- 5 Social media
- 6 Reception
- 7 Reaction and influence
- 8 International broadcast
- 9 References
- 10 External links
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."
He said 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.
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. 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."
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The format consists of Oliver sitting at a desk in front of a backdrop of a skyline containing buildings from around the world, including the Dome of the Rock, the Washington Monument, Burj Khalifa, the Empire State Building, and Egyptian Pyramids as he reports news of the week, or a political issue. The backdrop also includes the castle Dragonstone from Game of Thrones. The show is taped in front of a studio audience, and HBO offers a limited number of free tickets to attend each week's Last Week Tonight taping.
The show's theme starts off every episode containing images relating to it or the world at large with satirical captions written in dog Latin. Each episode covers a small handful of shorter segments, and then one main segment. While the short segments almost always relate to recent news, the episode's main segment usually covers in length and detail a political issue, even if that issue did not have news media attention during the preceding week.
Oliver injects humor into his presentation, including satirical analogies, and allusions to popular culture and celebrities. The show includes a panel in the upper-left corner that frequently displays a photo or graphic for that accompanies subject at hand, which aids in the humor. A full-screen graphic will show and play a video clip (such as a news show or documentary's excerpt) when Oliver is citing it. He often coins a hashtag for use in social media related to his segment, some of which go viral.
The typical structure of the show is to open with a recap of a few of the week's news stories, segue into a video compilation, and then move on to Oliver's main segment. Some of the episodes will follow up the main segment with another video compilation or news story. Oliver's speech is broken up with video compilations of recent news clips, or recurring segments, into which Oliver segues with the slogan, "And now, this." Oliver has also ended some segments with mock trailers for fictional TV shows or commercials that satirize the subject of his speech.
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||24||April 27, 2014||November 9, 2014|
|2||35||February 8, 2015||November 22, 2015|
|3||30||February 14, 2016||November 13, 2016|
|4||30||February 12, 2017||November 12, 2017|
|5||30||February 18, 2018||TBA|
Last Week Tonight has a YouTube channel where videos are usually added after a show has aired. Most of the videos are of the main segment from each episode. Extended clips are also available on the show's YouTube channel, as are "Web Exclusives" that are produced solely for the channel, such as a July 2016 video in which Oliver responded to negative comments left on the channel itself.
The show's production has also created content specifically for fan use. For the March 19, 2017 episode, which reported on Bolivia's growing coalition of workers clad in zebra suits to educate civilians about traffic laws, the show's production recorded 23 minutes of a person in a zebra costume dancing and gesticulating before a green screen so that viewers could edit it into other videos for humorous effect. A similar video called "Real Animals, Fake Paws" for use in reenacting U.S. Supreme Court cases was released after the October 19, 2014, episode where dogs were used instead of justices to make listening to oral court cases more amusing to the general public and to increase interest in the subject.
By April 2015, the channel had attained over a million subscribers. That number had risen to 3.6 million by July 2016, and over 5 million by May 2017. As of April 2018[update], the channel has more than 6 million subscribers and more than 1.5 billion views.
Last Week Tonight has a Facebook page with over 2.6 million likes, a Twitter account with over 2.8 million followers, and an Instagram account with more than 300,000 followers as of March 2018[update].
Oliver often makes use of joke hashtags to facilitate the viral spread of his videos on Twitter and Facebook, as with the hashtag #NotMyChristian, which he used in 2014 to complain about the casting of actor Jamie Dornan in the feature film adaptation of Fifty Shades of Grey. The hashtag became a recurring punchline on the show, mentioned in both serious stories and casual segues.
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 its first season.
Last Week Tonight has received widespread 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."
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.
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."
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 Indian election, which the American press was largely ignoring, 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."
David Haglund of 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." Gawker's Jordan Sargent claimed Last Week Tonight was "the new Daily Show," 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 The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Time, and Associated Press, 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."
Awards and nominations
|2015||Writers Guild of America Awards 2014||Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) – Series||Won|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards 2014||Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television||Nominated|||
|Dorian Awards||TV Current Affairs Show of the Year||Nominated|||
|26th GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Talk Show Episode||Won|||
|2015 Webby Awards||Best Writing (Social)||Won|||
|5th Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Talk Show||Nominated|||
|31st Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in News and Information||Won|||
|67th Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Talk Series||Nominated|||
|Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Interactive Program||Won|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming||Nominated|
|2016||6th Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Talk Show||Won|||
|Dorian Awards||TV Current Affairs Show of the Year||Won|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards 2015||Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television||Won|||
|27th GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Talk Show Episode||Nominated|||
|2016 Webby Awards||Best Writing (Social)||Won|||
|32nd Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in News and Information||Nominated|||
|68th Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Talk Series||Won|||
|Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Won|
|Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming||Won|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special||Nominated|
|Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series||Nominated|
|7th Critics' Choice Television Awards||Best Talk Show||Nominated|||
|2017||Dorian Awards||TV Current Affairs Show of the Year||Nominated|||
|Producers Guild of America Awards 2016||Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television||Won|||
|Writers Guild of America Awards 2016||Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) – Series||Won|||
|2017 MTV Movie & TV Awards||Best Host||Nominated|||
|2017 Webby Awards||Best Writing (Film & Video)||Nominated|||
|33rd Television Critics Association Awards||Outstanding Achievement in News and Information||Nominated|||
|69th Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Talk Series||Won|||
|Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Won|
|Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series||Nominated|
|Outstanding Interactive Program||Won|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming (for "F*ck 2016 (segment)")||Won|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming (for "Stoplight (segment)")||Nominated|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special||Nominated|
|Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series||Nominated|
|2018||Producers Guild of America Awards 2017||Outstanding Producer of Live Entertainment & Talk Television||Won|||
|Dorian Awards||TV Current Affairs Show of the Year||Nominated|||
|70th Directors Guild of America Awards||Variety/Talk/News/Sports – Regularly Scheduled||Nominated|||
|Writers Guild of America Awards 2017||Comedy/Variety – Talk Series||Won|||
|29th GLAAD Media Awards||Outstanding Talk Show Episode||Won|||
|70th Primetime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Variety Talk Series||Pending|||
|Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series||Pending|
|Outstanding Directing for a Variety Series||Pending|
|Outstanding Interactive Program||Pending|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming (for "Border Patrol (segment)")||Pending|
|Outstanding Picture Editing For Variety Programming (for "Wax President Harding (segment)")||Pending|
|Outstanding Production Design for a Variety, Reality or Reality-Competition Series||Pending|
|Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Variety Series or Special||Pending|
|Outstanding Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control for a Series||Pending|
Reaction and influence
A June 2014 segment about net neutrality in the United States was thought to spur over 45,000 comments on the Federal Communications Commission's electronic filing page about a net neutrality proposal that, if implemented, would have priority "lanes" for certain internet traffic. The FCC also received an extra 300,000 comments in an email inbox designated specifically for the proposal. It was thought that Oliver's segment had a major role in the FCC's ultimate reversal of stance on that proposal, with the FCC instead implementing net-neutrality rules that prohibited priority "lanes". A sequel in 2017 inspired over 150,000 comments on a subsequent proposal to scrap the new net neutrality rules.
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."
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?"
In a segment about public defenders and how some offices are extremely underfunded, the New Orleans Public Defense office's crowdfunding efforts to improve their conditions were featured. In the days following the episode's broadcast, thousands of dollars were donated to the office by the show's fans, helping them raise their goal four days after the show aired.
For a segment in the October 18, 2015, broadcast, Oliver put on a comically grand demonstration with Canadian actor Mike Myers to urge Canadian voters to vote against Stephen Harper in the next day's Canadian federal election. As part of this gesture, Oliver displayed $5000 in cash in anticipation of being charged for the crime of being a foreigner attempting to induce Canadian citizens to change their vote as per section 331 of the Canada Elections Act. However, the agency responsible for overseeing federal elections in Canada, Elections Canada, explained the next day that prosecution of Oliver will not be necessary since inducement in the act is defined as offering something material to voters. Per Elections Canada, Oliver has not tried to influence Canadian electorate, since the money shown was only for the anticipated fine, but merely expressed his opinion as a bystander, which is lawful.
During the June 17, 2018 episode, Oliver spoke at length about Xi Jinping, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, in part criticizing his censorship of Chinese media, his dictatorship and consolidation of power. Both “John Oliver” and “Last Week Tonight” were blocked from Chinese social media platform Weibo immediately following the segment. The HBO website and content from the network were also blocked, although Last Week Tonight had already been excluded from HBO Asia.
The promotion for Season 3 highlighted four derogatory quotes either the show or Oliver himself received: "Comedian fool" (former FIFA vice-president Jack Warner, responding to a segment on the 2015 FIFA corruption case), "Makes people dumb" (an article The Wall Street Journal wrote about the show), "Very boring" (Donald Trump's assessment of the show), and "More unpleasant than a diuretic" (what President of Ecuador Rafael Correa said "gringo talk shows" were like, after being featured in a segment).
"Tobacco" is a segment about the tobacco industry, which aired on February 15, 2015, as part of the second episode of the second season. During the eighteen-minute segment, Oliver discusses tobacco industry trends and practices. He also introduces Jeff the Diseased Lung, a mascot he created for the American global cigarette and tobacco company Philip Morris International, the makers of Marlboro brand of cigarettes. The anthropomorphic diseased lung, who smokes and coughs, has been compared to Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man. Oliver and his team promoted the cartoon character by sending shirts with Jeff's image to Togo and displaying billboards in Uruguay, and by encouraging use of the hashtag #JeffWeCan, which trended on Twitter following the broadcast.
Philip Morris International issued a response to the segment, which received some criticism. It read in part:
On February 15, 2015, the 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' show dedicated a significant portion of its program to our company ... 'Last Week Tonight with John Oliver' is a parody show, known for getting a laugh through exaggeration and presenting partial views in the name of humor. The segment includes many mischaracterizations of our company, including our approach to marketing and regulation, which have been embellished in the spirit of comedic license ... While we recognize the tobacco industry is an easy target for comedians, we take seriously the responsibility that comes with selling a product that is an adult choice and is harmful to health ... We support and comply with thousands of regulations worldwide — including advertising restrictions, penalties for selling tobacco products to minors, and substantial health warnings on packaging. We're investing billions into developing and scientifically assessing a portfolio of products that have the potential to be less harmful and that are satisfying so smokers will switch to them. And, like any other company with a responsibility to its business partners, shareholders and employees, we ask only that laws protecting investments, including trademarks, be equally applied to us.
The segment received widespread media coverage, with several outlets praising Oliver's ability to launch successful marketing campaigns and change perceptions about smoking through the creation of the mascot. The mascot later made an appearance at a protest organized by the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids" in New York City in May 2015.
Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption
In August 2015, after delivering his "Televangelists" segment, Oliver hired lawyers to set up a church called Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption as a legal entity. He did this partly as a way to demonstrate how "disturbingly easy" it is, in terms of paperwork, to set up a tax-exempt religious organization as viewed by the Internal Revenue Service. As Oliver explained, the requirements needed to be defined as a "church" are quite broad. Since regulatory guidelines require an established location for a church, Oliver chose his studio location in New York City as its official location, although he registered the nonprofit organization in the state of Texas. Oliver's "megachurch" had a toll-free phone number and a website, both of which allowed callers to donate to the church. Oliver announced the formation of his church on the episode of the show that aired on August 16, 2015.
Matt Wilstein, writing for Mediaite, saw Oliver's stunt as being along the same lines as comedian Stephen Colbert's setting up of a 501(c)(4) organization—Colbert Super PAC—as a way to "test the absurd limits of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision"; Oliver's megachurch, in contrast, is a way to test whether the IRS might view his "megachurch" as a tax-exempt organization. Steve Thorngate, writing in The Christian Century, suggested that the question of the religious exemption from taxation was more difficult and nuanced than Oliver portrayed, and not a simple matter of government regulation, describing Oliver's pivot to IRS policy as "unhelpful." However, Thorngate agreed that Oliver's exposure and criticism of "manipulative sleazeballs" who "fleece the faithful" is "spot-on." Leonardo Blair, writing for Christian Post, described Oliver's segment as a "brutal takedown" of televangelists and churches which preach "the prosperity gospel," a message that dupes people into thinking that cash donations will solve medical or financial problems, while in fact the donations go to the personal aggrandizement of televangelists who buy expensive jets or large mansions.
A week later, on the following episode, Oliver devoted a short segment to the donations the church had received, which included money from around the world. Oliver said he had received "thousands of envelopes with thousands of dollars" from donors. Displayed were several US Post Office containers full of mail. Oliver told viewers that the more money they sent in, the more "blessings" would be returned to them, adding that "that is still something I'm — amazingly — legally allowed to say."
"Donald Trump" is a segment discussing American businessman Donald Trump. It aired on February 28, 2016, as part of the third episode of the third season. During the 22-minute segment, Oliver discusses Trump's 2016 presidential campaign and his long career in business. He also reveals that the Trump family name was changed at one point from the ancestral name 'Drumpf'. Although the changing of names was once a common practice among many non-English immigrants to the United States, the segment popularized the term "Donald Drumpf" and started a campaign urging viewers to "Make Donald Drumpf Again," a play on Trump's own campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." It is the most popular segment the show has ever done. The segment garnered more than 85 million views on Facebook and YouTube combined which, an HBO spokesman has said, "is a record for any piece of HBO content." Throughout the 2016 presidential election and following Trump's inauguration, Oliver made additional segments regarding Trump.
"Debt Buyers" is a segment discussing the business and questionable practice of debt buyers. It aired on June 5, 2016, as part of the fourteenth episode of the third season. Oliver announced he had purchased nearly $15 million in medical debt that belonged to 9,000 debtors. He did this through a company he had created, called "Central Asset Recovery Professionals Inc." (CARP), which he described as being "for the bottom-feeding fish." Oliver stated that it was "pretty clear by now [that] debt buying is a grimy business, and badly needs more oversight" and went to point out that starting such a business was "disturbingly easy." It cost him $50 to register the business in Mississippi, while it cost less than $60,000 to purchase almost $15 million in bad debt. Oliver forgave the debt in its entirety, and claimed that it was the largest single giveaway in the American television history, eclipsing that of General Motors on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2004 where it gifted cars to Winfrey's studio audience, worth an estimated $8 million in total. Writing for Slate, Jordan Weissmann disputed the $15 million figure: "[Oliver] says CARP paid around $60,000 [...] for its paper, which was 'out-of-statute'—meaning the debts were so old that creditors technically couldn't even sue over them anymore. That suggests the seller thought the debts were worth no more than, well, $60,000." The episode was highlighted in the academic journal Religions. The show partnered with RIP Medical Debt, Inc. to abolish the debt.
Coal mining and Bob Murray
On June 18, 2017, Last Week Tonight's main segment was about coal mining and Bob Murray. In his segment, Oliver talked about how the safety condition inside the coal mines specifically the 2007 Crandall Canyon Mine collapse, which killed six miners, in which Oliver criticized Murray for claiming the collapse was caused by an earthquake, despite all evidence demonstrating otherwise. The show ended with a costumed squirrel named "Mr. Nutterbutter" presenting Murray with a voided check for "3 acorns and 18 cents" in response to Murray's company presenting its employees with low sums of money as bonuses, and how the employees retaliate by voiding the checks, and in reference to a claim that stated that Murray supposedly got the idea to start his company from a talking squirrel. On June 22, Bob Murray presented a lawsuit against Oliver, HBO, and Time Warner for defamation. HBO believes Last Week Tonight has done nothing wrong, with a First Amendment lawyer describing the lawsuit as "frivolous." In February 2018, a West Virginia judge stated that he plans to dismiss the lawsuit filed by Murray as unfounded.
A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo
On March 18, 2018, Oliver announced the publication of a children's book, A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which parodies a book that Mike Pence's family wrote about their family rabbit, Marlon Bundo. Oliver used his book as a platform to criticize Pence's positions on LGBT issues, as it featured a rabbit in a same-sex relationship. The book became the number one book and e-book on Amazon the next day, and the top selling audiobook on Audible.
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver episode clips can be seen internationally on YouTube. It is broadcast on premium channel HBO Canada that is simulcast with HBO in the U.S.; around the same time it is shown on the international HBO channels. It airs in Australia on The Comedy Channel hours after the U.S. airing and airs in New Zealand on SoHo. In the United Kingdom and Ireland, it is broadcast on Mondays on the satellite-only channel Sky Atlantic. In Belgium, it is broadcast on Thursdays by the Telenet cable-only channel PRIME Series. It airs in South Africa on M-Net and in Portugal on RTP3.
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- Last Week Tonight channel
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