Why John Oliver Should Be Your New Favorite Celebrity

Do you love being informed but find it irritating that all the major news networks tend to cover the same stories?  Are you interested in hearing about relevant stories told by a passionate, sarcastic, down-to-earth newscaster?

Well then let me introduce you to John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight.

Known for his Emmy-Award winning writing on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Oliver was noticed by HBO when he guest-hosted the Daily Show in 2013.  His show, Last Week Tonight, is reminiscent of Stewart’s, but with the benefit of HBO’s loosened restrictions.  He and his team pick out the top stories they want to cover from the past seven days and Oliver delivers them in his strong, satirical voice.  As Jorge Ramos puts it, “he’s using comedy as a delivery method for serious, underreported news… and it’s working.”  Here’s a clip of Oliver tackling the Charleston church shooting—a story that was covered on all the major networks, but Oliver teases out an underlying issue:

Oliver becomes very persuasive—backing up his humor with hard facts.  Oliver says he has“very aggressive fact checkers and very thorough researchers so that we’re not wrong,” which holds up the humor as well as heightens the legitimacy of his position as, what some would call, a journalist.  Oliver himself says in an interview with Jorge Ramos, “I’m not a journalist, I’m a comedian,” although as Ramos points out, he has “more credibility than most journalist in the United States.”

This past year, Oliver was picked as one of TIME’s Top 100 Most Influential People because he is a “comedic agent of change,” which is a very concise way to describe just what Oliver is doing.

During Oliver’s segment on the Miss America pageant, he unveils just how the organization can make the unbelievable claim that they are able to provide $45 million dollars annually in scholarships for women.  During the end of the segment, Oliver mentions three other organizations that provide scholarships for women with links to their websites telling viewers that they can donate if they want “to change the fact that currently, the biggest scholarship program exclusively for women in America requires you to be unmarried, with a mint-condition uterus, and also rewards working knowledge of buttock-adhesive technology—which is just a little bit unsettling.”  Fortunately many of the viewers agreed and Oliver’s call to action was able to help the Society of Women Engineers raise a lot of money. In the TIME article, the society is quoted saying he helped them “raise more funds than we could have hoped for—money that would otherwise have taken our society years to raise”—and how amazing is that.

Oliver’s impact is truly a gift.  During his segment on the Tobacco Industry, Oliver fights back against tobacco companies bullying countries out of plain-packaging laws.  Using his satirical wit, he suggests that Marlboro should be allowed to put branding on its packaging—as long as it is their new mascot Jeff the Diseased Lung.  Oliver and his team then proceeded to take out an ad at a bus stop in Uruguay, ship a box full of Jeff t-shirts to Togo, and encourage viewers to spread the word about Jeff using the hashtag #Jeffwecan.  If you watch this clip, you can see just how supportive Oliver’s fans are of this fight back against tobacco companies. 

Fun Fact: if you google Marlboro, Jeff will be the first thing to show up!

While John Oliver simply considers himself a comedian, it is apparent that he is doing much more than comedy.  He informs us of real issues we otherwise wouldn’t hear or think deeply about, which in and of itself is brilliant, but what really sets him apart is his way of calling his audience to action about these issues. He shows us that there really is something we can do and helps us to see how we can enact change.

And he so wonderfully sums up most of our feelings about our country, whether we were born here or immigrated by saying, “I’m frustrated with it [America] acting badly because I’ve fallen in love with it so much.”


Photo sources: 1, 2, 3, 4