Sunday night Jon Oliver wrapped up his first season of Last Week Tonight, the HBO faux news program that did a better job of reporting news stories than some real news outlets (cough cough FOX). At first I was skeptical of this noisy British man, but his show quickly became a staple of my Sunday night. Not only was it (mostly) funny, it was surprisingly informative. Each episode usually featured one long well researched 15 minute news story that always left me running to Google for more information. From Oliver I learned all about the Indian presidential election, dietary supplements, LGBT laws in Uganda, and the Argentine debt restructuring. Even more impressive, I didn’t realize I WANTED to know about these things until I watched Last Week Tonight.
It’s clear that Oliver knows how to reach the millennial generation, whether it be through his creative use of social media or the numerous pop culture based puns he uses on his program. The depth of research in his stories can rival that of 60 Minutes, who basically invented the well researched news story. But his delivery is what takes the cake. Mixing serious news that has national and sometimes global implications with wry humor and ridiculous comparisons has proven to be a highly effective formula for informing the two second attention spans of generation Y.
Sure Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert have been doing it for longer, but you never learned about for-profit schools, special immigrant visas, or civil forfeiture while watching The Daily Show or the Colbert Report. And to be fair, 30 minute shows on Comedy Central with multiple commercial breaks don’t lend themselves to the type of stories that Oliver reports on. Which means that Last Week Tonight has clearly found a niche in the mock news industry.
All this is to say that I highly recommend the show. And if my opinion wasn’t nearly enough to sway your’s, then I recommend watching the following three clips, as they are my favorite stories that Jon Oliver reported on in his first season. If nothing else, you might just learn something.
Episode 5 – Net Neutrality
This was the first real drop-the-mic moment for Oliver in my opinion. If you don’t know about net neutrality, I suggest you watch this because it will be a front line issue very soon.
Episode 11 – Prison
“Our drug laws are a little draconian, and a lot racist. Because while white people and African Americans use drugs about the same amount, a study has found that African Americans have been sent to prison for drug offenses at up to 10 times the rate for some utterly known reason.”
Episode 21 – Special Immigrant Visas
Easily the hardest hitting story Oliver reported on. Looking forward to Season 2 of Last Week Tonight.