Now, I like to highlight what is almost everybody’s favorite part of Last Week Tonight, the “main story”. It’s a good thing that these segments are saved on the show’s YouTube channel, then generate watercooler conversations all around–invariably news organizations would report about it, just like the Miss America piece I highlighted previously. Here are more of my favorite pieces:
Food Waste. It is quite appalling the amount of food America wastes–the amount can easily eradicate hunger in that country, and leave some to feed other hungry folks around the world. It is revealed that there was a bill passed in the U.S. congress to provide tax incentives for manufacturers and restaurants to give away their uneaten food so it can be sent to those who need it most, but the tragedy is after it was passed in congress, the Senate changed the law entirely by adding other provisions and removing the very purpose of the bill as it was originally passed in Congress. It may be more serious than amusing, but still very educational and I hope the outrage can stir people to take action to make the lawmakers finally do the right thing.
Gay Rights in Uganda. I’ve known for a long while that there are a lot of African countries that are homophobic, and the proposed policies in Uganda were no exception. But that it was fueled by a discredited American evangelist? Yikes! One of the standout sequences was a filmclip of a hysterical commentator debating and trying to discredit a sober gay rights activist, to the commentator’s discredit. That activist, Pepe Julian Onziema, was then present in John Oliver’s studios and sat down for an interview. But it was abbreviated for time constraints but good that they featured a web-exclusive extended interview here.
Transgender Rights. Even with Caitlyn Jenner’s media blitz and the rising celebrity of Laverne Cox, America still has a long way to go to understand transgender people, and John gave very useful basic tips that everyone should be able to follow, like: 1) Asking one if he/she had gender reassignment surgery? “It’s none of your f***ing business!”; and 2) How to address them? “Call them whatever they want to be called,” and cited U2’s the Edge and rapper/mogul Puff Daddy as examples. It’s eye opening what a transgender person endures, and how patronizing attitudes need to be changed as they are human beings, too. In his most recent episode, John also touches on the fact that there is still strong LGBT discrimination laws.
Takedown on Dr. Oz. I remember Dr. Oz when he was a guest resource person in Oprah. He was very credible then, and he was a big hit. He has since gotten his own talk show but he recently was probed in Congress over dubious medical claims aired on his show, particularly nutritional supplements. This made John explore how supplements are not properly regulated, mainly because of lobbying by those companies in Congress. There was a follow-up about a year later here.
IRS. It’s genius how John made people view things in the perspective of the IRS, an institution that is almost universally reviled (though I can argue that my countrymen probably revile this institution even more especially with what is common knowledge about the lifestyles of our public officials and politicians). What hassles they have to endure in the US, but what important role they play in the country. As John puts it, they are the country’s “asshole” and without them, the whole country would “go into s**t.” He then closes this with a performance by Michael Bolton singing a rewritten version of his smash hit ballad “How Am I Supposed to Live Without You?”
Sex Education. It is woeful how sex education is handled in US schools, mainly to try to appease any possible very conservative parents and communities, and because of the inadequate education in many areas, needless to say, there were troubling consequences. John makes strong arguments that simply teaching abstinence only is impractical and does not prepare students when they mature and get out of school, and came up with a solution–with the aid of celebrities like Orange is the New Black transgender star Laverne Cox, The Talk’s Aisha Tyler, Silicon Valley’s Kumail Nanjani, 30 Rock’s Jack MacBrayer, Last Man on Earth’s Kristen Schaal, husband-and-wife comedic actors Nick Offerman (Community) and Megan Mullaly (Will & Grace), they came up with a sex education video that effectively covers almost all of the basics, with some juicy wit (first, at first Will & Grace fans may not recognize the way Megan Mullaly looks now, but wow, she is for me the comic MVP of this clip–love her bits about how hand and mouth can be erotic, and her comments while putting a condom on a banana, that it’s “less curvier” than she’s used to, and then cut to a reaction shot by her husband). The video ends with Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul star Jonathan Banks, who disavowed the message of a previous sex education video he was in (which was highlighted in the beginning of the piece) about how menstruation makes women “better at bowling”. Another related topic that I like you guys to check out is his piece on standardized testing.
Paid Family Leave. This episode was aired during Mother’s Day, but John pointed out how hypocritical Americans are by all those commercial platitudes honoring mothers when these same companies do not even allow paid leave for mothers recovering from childbirth–this is one of the few instances that we Filipinos are better off than Americans as we have paid maternity leaves for new mothers. Only the U.S. and Papua New Guinea don’t have paid family leave. Capitalist-leaning lawmakers apparently constantly feel that granting such benefits would be detrimental to business, even if there is proof otherwise. Makes you hiss at how greedy the American capitalists could be…
Televangelists. You would think that this was a thing of the past, but televangelists preying on vulnerable believers still remain an ongoing concern. John also pointed out that because they are “churches”, they are exempted from taxes. John decided to explore and see what can qualify as a church, as he set up the “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” church and comically appealed for “seed” (not real seeds, as they would point out, but money, just like those televangelists) with the help of former Saturday Night Live comedienne Rachel Dratch playing his wife, “Wanda Jo Oliver”. (Take note: John’s wife in real-life is Kate Norley, a US Army medic who had a tour of duty in Iraq and is doing a lot of service in disaster zones with veterans’ groups–yes, she was also here in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan; she’s also way more attractive than “Wanda Jo Oliver”). The fundraising was reportedly a big success, and the proceeds will go to a legitimate cause: Doctors Without Borders.
Translators. John reveals how translators who provided invaluable help to the American-led troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are under grave threats in their homeland and need to be protected, but what the American government was doing in return so far was abysmal, forcing them to endure almost insurmountable bureaucratic obstacles before granting them any hope of asylum for themselves and their families. As us Filipinos would term this, “walang utang na loob.” If Americans keep doing this, they will not be able to get the valuable help they would need to be able to complete their missions and bring order to this world.
Torture. It is appalling how Americans had employed inhumane methods to try to get information on their enemies, sometimes employing this method on people who turn out to be innocent. It is so antithetical to what America supposedly stands for. There is also proof that these methods are ineffectual. Still, there are people in power who argue that these methods do generate results and are denial and refuse to read the report, even if John took the initiative of having actress Dame Helen Mirren read passages from that report. What a rotten society we’ll end up in if we continue pursuing those so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”.
COMING UP: The utterly very best of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.