June 11, 2016

Why Everyone Who Gives a Sh*t should Watch “Last Week Tonight.”

John Oliver

I caught myself running down a Last Week Tonight rabbit hole yesterday.

Until yesterday, I had only seen one episode of John Oliver’s insanely informative yet satirical analysis of real life issues effecting our day-to-day lives that are somehow overlooked, many of which seem apparently common sense.

I started watching on my laptop, sitting at my desk. After having found him on a friend’s Facebook newsfeed, I hunted down HBO’s website. I blared the show through the Bluetooth speaker while I cleaned, then was still listening in my earbuds as I ran at the gym. The whole time I laughed out loud—even in public—while simultaneously feeling inspired and inundated with enough surface-level information to want to know more.

I equate him with what I call “closet Jesus bands”—bands like Lifehouse, Mumford & Sons and The Goo Goo Dolls who thrive and pulsate in the mainstream music scene but slip in lyrics such as “There’s one poor child who saved this world” and “but you say this is exactly how this grace things works” while they talk about rolling away one’s stone. Lifehouse‘s lyrics seem to be a bit more obscure, but there have been some arguments suggesting their song “Everything,” released on their debut album in 2000, possessed a christian undertone.

I highly doubt these bands’ popularity would have reached their current heights if they were out of their Jesus-loving closets. Too often, we allow our own pre-conceived notions, bias, and fears to regulate many things in our life. Many of their current fans probably wouldn’t be caught dead listening to “christian rock.” Therefore, to appeal to the masses and spread the message farther, they identify as folk rock or alternative rock. Much in the same way John Oliver on Last Week Tonight comes across as a comedy routine—if the message comes across as less heavy, there’s more of a chance of holding the attention of the the I-don’t-watch-the-news crowd.

It’s hard to see and accept some of the things happening all around us, and Oliver’s staff uses comedy to balance that density. Since it is terrifyingly easy to turn a blind eye fueled by our own uncomfortableness, denial, and guilt or shame, we need someone/something to hold our attention while we digest difficult truths and facts

I listened, literally for hours, to John talking about child labor, debt, voting, and human rights with factual and documented information making observations like, “Including two years ago this week after the Rana Plaza building collapse…ended up killing more than 1,100 people…everyone was justifiably horrified…and yet we get so blinded by low prices that just a few months later…”

This is news, and it’s eye-opening.

The show brings to light everything that stalls humanitarianism and equality that often hides just below the surface of our everyday lives. They inject common sense back into subjects that have come so far from it’s source no one really knows why we were all upset in the first place—it’s like fighting with your spouse for so long you’ve forgotten what your fighting about, all you know is your pissed and they’re the enemy.

After I felt I could absorb no more evidence of the extensive, “non-trending” issues—although still crucial and entitled to just as much energy and passion as our recent bathroom and gorilla arguments—I slowed down in my rabbit hole long enough to do a little research on the show and staff itself.

Apparently, HBO allows more freedom to be less politically correct which can sometimes muddy a point. The staff is able to be more creative with less fear of kickback from unhappy recipients of punchlines and exposure. Marisa Guthrie wrote in her piece for the Hollywood Reporter Last Week Tonight was granted “complete creative freedom (no obligatory interviews with celebrities promoting their latest film or TV project) and none of the ratings pressure (or potential for disgruntlement on the part of sponsors) inherent to commercial television” from HBO. And Although John Oliver insists he, nor the show, is a journalistic endeavor there have been staff dubbed “journalistic fact-checkers” to ensure the jokes are based on facts and accurate in nature.

That’s the kind of information I want to see—unjaded, untainted information that hasn’t been filtered and stripped of it’s vigor by the time it gets to me.

I was also tickled pink to find the producers of the popular HBO show took measures to create a process blinding their own potentially unconscious bias when hiring writers in an effort to promote diversity.

Two years ago, at the show’s debut, two female staff writers were hired giving them a 22 percent female team according to Inkoo Kang of indiewire.com. Kang also states, “Of the three 2014 Emmy-nominated late-night talk shows, Jon Stewart boasts a 19 percent female writing staff (three of 16 writers), Jimmy Fallon a 10 percent female writing staff (two of 20 writers), and Stephen Colbert a paltry five percent (only one of his 19 writers is female).”

I swooned.

And then just when I thought my diversity, equality loving heart couldn’t fall any more, I opened another episode and heard John describe Donald Trump as “America’s walking, talking brush fire.”

I was sold.





How Societies Self-Destruct Following Traumatic News.



Author: Dottie Hollingsworth

Photo: flickr/gabrielpollard and youtube.com 

Editors: Renée Picard: Ashleigh Hitchcock

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