John Oliver began hosting “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” in April 2014 and has joined the small, exclusive group of engaging, educational and satirical newscasters. But after only two seasons, Oliver has proven himself and gone farther than his counterparts.
One of the most enjoyable parts of his episodes is the title sequence. Granted, if you do not have a basic understanding of Latin, his quirks might go over your head a little. But that is all that you will miss because one of the strongest qualities that Oliver has is his accessibility. He takes his time working through a topic, ensuring that his audience stays with him throughout the entire episode. He keeps the camera angle close to him and leans forward, keeping his audience locked in the episode. Before watching the episode “Jun 1, 2014,” I’ll admit to knowing not as much as I should have about net neutrality. But after watching, not only I had learned about this topic, but I was invested as well.
You know that mentally exhausted feeling you have after a particularly hard class? That feeling of despair and confusion that comes like waves and sometimes causes tears? “Last Week Tonight” does not cause that. You learn so much in such a compact amount of time that you would expect to feel a little brain dead. But Oliver’s patience with teasing out a topic and his inclusion of humor keeps you from exhaustion and moves you towards enthusiasm and passion for learning without feeling like you’re in a classroom.
Oliver’s humor is also done with delicacy. The humor doesn’t overpower the content, nor does the content overpower the humor. Just when you think that maybe he has been too serious for too long, he cracks some joke and the tension breaks. But not once has he picked the opportunity to be humourous over the opportunity to be informative.
Even though “The Daily Show” has a new host and “The Colbert Report” has ended, Oliver still differs from them in an important way. Because his show is aired on HBO, Oliver has free reign when it comes to content, something his predecessors will never have as long as they work for a station that is owned by a larger corporation. Is his audience limited by the fact that not everyone has access to HBO? Maybe, but much of his content is on Youtube.
Don’t believe me? Go back through the Monitor’s Clickbait and you’ll see that more often than not, one of us shared a link to a recent clip of his. Not sold yet? Try out Oliver’s bit on Fifa, but fair warning–it may ruin future World Cup for you.
“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is an incredibly engaging and important show. It allows for the audience to learn and become educated while making topics like the failing infrastructure of America or voting rights for U.S. territories hilariously serious.
A previous version of this review incorrectly dated Oliver’s time at Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show.” Thanks to a comment from a reader for correcting this.