Last Week Tonight: Charter Schools (August 21)

While Last Week Tonight often dives into under-represented topics, the things that he talks about are rarely that controversial (particularly for his audience). It’s not that shocking to learn that debt buyers are a little shady, you know? If John Oliver’s discussion of a certain topic gets some people upset, he’s usually happy about it, since the people who get upset are the people he was hoping to make upset. But this week’s look at charter schools was a little bit different, as John noted that people on both sides of the political spectrum have praised charter schools and their benefits. However, Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Auto Lending (August 14)

Over the past couple of years, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has shed a lot of light on the various predatory practices that target poor people and contribute to making it difficult to get and stay out of debt. Past stories have focused on debt buyersmunicipal violations, and payday loans. This week John took a look at the auto industry, in particular the trend towards sub-prime auto loans, and the scary ways the prevalence of these types of loans reflects the sub-prime mortgage bubble that caused the 2008 recession. As usual, John used the experiences of real people to help to drive his point home and demonstrate the ways that bad auto loans can have a snowball effect on people’s financial futures. And, in the end, he enlisted the help of Keegan-Michael Key and Bob Balaban to create his own advertisement for auto loans (from “Crazy Johnny’s”) that’s just a little bit more truthful than the others.


Last Week Tonight: Journalism (August 7)

While the past couple of episodes of Last Week Tonight have delved deeply into the presidential race, this week it was back to business as usual, as John Oliver took on a topic that doesn’t get as much media play: print journalism. John explored the many challenges that print journalism faces and the reasons why the failure of print journalism is problematic to everyone. He drove his point home by focusing in part on The Oregonian, a newspaper that he cited back in his discussion of state lotteries, and which is now facing major cutbacks. He also made fun of the Tribune Corporation’s rebranding itself as “tronc”, which is just too ridiculous not to make fun of. And finally, he ended up with a remake of Spotlight called Stoplight, in which Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, and Jason Sudeikis portray what it’s really like to be a print journalist these days.

Last Week Tonight: DNC (July 31)

Back in the day when Donald Trump’s candidacy for president seemed like a big joke that brought along high ratings but no actual legitimacy, John Oliver refused to cover it (or even really talk about it). Instead, he did long form pieces about issues that did not get nearly as much press as the latest crazy thing that Donald Trump just said. As Trump slowly gained traction, however, John Oliver had no choice but to cover it. While the latest episode of Last Week Tonight was technically focused on Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: RNC (July 24)

John Oliver missed an awful lot during his few weeks off. After reviewing Hillary Clinton’s VP pick, the appointment of Boris Johnson to Foreign Secretary, and a look back at Roger Ailes’ tenure as Fox News CEO, John Oliver’s main story focused on the Republican National Convention. While almost everything that John touched on had already been broken down by the plethora of other late night shows dedicated to covering the conventions, John looked at the phenomenon of “emphasizing feelings over facts”, whereby facts Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Endorsements (Web Exclusive)

John Oliver is still (yes, still) on holidays from Last Week Tonight, but he released another web video to at least give us something to hold on to while we wait for his return (next weekend). He’s actually only been off for a few weeks, but these weeks have been very eventful (and depressing) and his absence during these major world events has really been felt. Anyway, the latest web exclusive has John Oliver looking at political endorsements, as we continue our headfirst dive into the 2016 presidential election, or, as John calls it, Uncle Sam’s Rock-Bottom Yankee Doodle Suicide Pact of 2016. John even got in on the endorsement game himself, although rather than endorsing politicians, he Continue reading

John Oliver Responds to Fan Mail

Last Week Tonight was off again last night (it’s back with new episodes on July 24 – only two more weeks!), but John Oliver keeps giving us web exclusives to tide us over. Last week, he took his inspiration from the Fourth of July to talk about some of the differences between Americans and the British. This week, he took the opportunity to responds to the fan mail he received. Of course, since it’s 2016, it wasn’t so much fan mail as YouTube comments. While it initially looked like it was going to be the cousin of Jimmy Kimmel’s Mean Tweets segment, it of course turned into more than that, as John broke down supposed insults and uncovered one comment in particular that could make him a very wealthy man.

Last Week Tonight: Independence Day (Web Exclusive)

Last Week Tonight is on a bit of a break (new episodes return to HBO on July 24), but that didn’t stop John Oliver from recording a web exclusive in honor of Independence Day. This year, John took a look at all the things that Americans missed out on by winning that whole Revolutionary War thing (the original Brexit! We know we’re not first ones to make that joke, but it’s just so easy). John’s list of British things that Americans didn’t inherit included  Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Doping (June 26)

After John Oliver’s impassioned Brexit segment last week (which unfortunately couldn’t be seen in the UK until after the vote), we were eager to see his reaction to the result that the UK had, indeed, decided to Brexit. It wasn’t the main segment, but John’s incredulity at the vote and its aftermath was really great. He hit all of the unbelievable developments since the vote on Thursday, and ended with a warning to America: “There are no fucking do-overs.” We’ve Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Brexit (June 19)

Like most people, we’ve heard the term “Brexit” floating around for awhile now and while we knew that it had something to do with Britain voting whether or not to leave the European Union, we were pretty fuzzy on the details. With the vote coming up next week, it was the perfect time for John Oliver to devote the main segment of Last Week Tonight to the Brexit. He had two main goals: Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Retirement Plans (June 12)

Needless to say, it was a difficult weekend. John Oliver took a couple of minutes at the top of his show to address the attack on the LGBT club in Orlando, but then moved on to the regularly scheduled program of laughter and learning. There’s always a question of how to move on in the entertainment world after a tragedy, but we don’t think there was really anything else John could’ve done at this point. So, he moved on to talk about retirement plans, and how the fees charged by various companies and financial advisors can really eat into your savings without you noticing. But don’t worry, Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Debt Buyers (June 5)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver often talks about the ways that people’s personal finances can be preyed upon by various shady groups (see, for example, John’s takes on bail and credit report companies). This week, John Oliver talked about collection agencies (or, as they’re known now, debt buyers). As will surprise absolutely no one, when the banks sell your debt to other companies (who then sell it to other companies), the people who try to collect this debt become progressively less ethical and more aggressive. Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: 911 (May 15)

We can’t say we’ve ever really put that much thought into the way that 911 works, which means it’s the perfect segment for Last Week Tonight. John Oliver looked at the various ways that 911 maybe isn’t quite as reliable as we would like to think it is. In fact, even though Domino’s can figure out how to deliver us a pizza to our exact location, such technology is not available to 911 operators. Part of the reason for this is because our cell phone technology has changed faster than 911’s technology – they used to be able to track people by the landlines, but now with cell phones, they’re reliant on cell carriers and things are just not precise. The reason why 911 can’t catch up with that technology is because there is a lack of funding, since money intended for 911 can seemingly be diverted at any time to fund any number of other projects.  Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Scientific Studies (May 8)

Even though John Oliver has made a name for himself by looking at topics that aren’t normally covered in the media (or in the various comedy shows that satirize the media), the main segments of his episodes all usually relate in some way to the biggest news stories of the day. This week, though, John’s look at scientific studies and the way that these are reduced and rebranded in the media (especially in morning television shows). Continue reading

Last Week Tonight: Puerto Rico (April 24)

Hamilton creator/writer/star Lin-Manuel Miranda really is everywhere these days. He took a break from Broadway yesterday to hop over to Last Week Tonight‘s New York studios to help John Oliver explain what’s been going on in Puerto Rico. As a territory, Puerto Rico exists in a weird limbo where the people who live there are American citizens but since they’re not a full state, they’re subject to all kinds of loopholes that don’t affect states. John showed how some of these loopholes had been beneficial (bringing businesses to the island) and others were extremely damaging (allowing vulture funds to operate in the territory). What’s worse, some of these loopholes didn’t even have reasons to exist – no one could explain why they were introduced in the first place. It all seems very complicated but luckily everything is more understandable when it’s explained in song. No one is better at that kind of thing than Lin-Manuel Miranda, and his powerful song (“100 Miles Across”) advocating for the island isn’t one we’ll soon forget.