Series / Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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A new episode every Sunday. Well, most Sundays. We'll be taking some Sundays off.

"Welcome, welcome, welcome, to Last Week Tonight! I'm John Oliver, time for a quick recap of the week!"

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is a weekly satirical news program on HBO, featuring former The Daily Show with Jon Stewart correspondent John Oliver.

Each week, Oliver tackles some of the most important news stories of the previous week, and then segues into a longer segment where he takes an in-depth look at some important overall issue, sometimes ending the show with it, other times ending with another shorter story that has a lighter tone to it. Segments are split up by short, narrated sequences that either attack an outdated cultural item, or use a montage of clips of media personalities and politicians doing silly things. Interviews appear sparingly and from a variety of personalities.

Because the show airs on HBO, it has more creative freedom than a late-night basic cable talk show; and, in an interview on The Daily Show, Oliver made fun of the fact he can curse as much as he likes without being censored. And with no commercials, Oliver has the full 30 minutes (and sometimes longer) to explore issues in greater depth.


Tropes:

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     A-G 
  • Aborted Arc: The episode on "Stupid Watergate" ends with what would be the main segment, on the TSA, shortened to just 3 minutes but still featuring most of the research, weird background graphics, and Muppet penguins.
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • After criticizing Pom Wonderful's product in his series premiere, the company sent him a mini-fridge full of the stuff along with a letter, concluding with the statement that they would take his suggestion of a pomegranate enema under advisement and that "what you do with the cooler full of Pom is your business."
      John: ...I seriously cannot think of a more elegant way to say "Here's a crate of our product − go ahead and shove it up your ass."
    • Invoked by John when he admitted that Donald Trump was funny when comparing a bottle of water he was emptying to Marco Rubio's sweat and in a tweet where Trump wished the best for his haters on 9/11.
  • Adult Fear: Many of the problems that John explores on the show are frightening, simply because they are disturbingly common and can happen to anyone.
    • The bail system: If you are poor and can't make bail, it means either pleading guilty to get out and having a criminal record, staying in jail and possibly losing your job, or being forced to pay a bail bondsman, which means fearing that he'll send a Bounty Hunter − a profession that requires no prior education − after you.
    • Mandatory minimum sentencing means if you are found guilty of a low level drug-related offense as a young adult, you can be kept in a prison until you are of retirement age.
  • Advertising Disguised as News: The subject of the August 3, 2015 episode's main story. The show humorously reverses it by having a male actor advertising Diet Coke mention some then-current news items within the commercial.
  • An Aesop: The segment on Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner explicitly concludes with one. John, et al examine the oft-repeated notion that Ivanka and Jared function as a sort of moderating influence on Donald Trump. After fifteen minutes of his usual snark, John implores the audience not to confuse the segment for an attack on Ivanka and Jared: he admits that even after thoroughly investigating them, he still doesn't feel he knows enough about either of them or their relationship to Donald to justify being critical, but asserts that that lack of good data on the subject means that Jared and Ivanka's defenders are also unjustified in blindly putting their faith in the idea that Ivanka and Jared can humanize Trump. There just isn't enough proof yet either way.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Discussed when covering Chief Justice Roberts' comments on Obamacare in the Supreme Court case challenging the legality of federal subsidies intended to allow lower-income residents to purchase health insurance at a discount rate. Using an example of the "inartful drafting" of the law's languagenote  that Roberts mentioned to point out that such snafus in language occur often, John shows an image of a banner used to support the England women's soccer team in the 2015 Women's World Cup − "Come On Our Girls!" − pointing out that it really could have used a comma.
  • Answers to the Name of God: Played for laughs in the "How Is This Still a Thing?" segment on Ayn Rand; after pointing out that conservatives love to quote her work, it's noted that she doesn't share their views on God. And not just that God, the other (conservative) god.
  • Anthropomorphic Personification: He goes in-depth regarding "Lumpy" during his segment on coal, finishing off with this.
    John: This is why we don't name them, because then we get attached!
  • Appeal to Obscurity: In his web video on going back to school, John compares the coverage of Asia and Africa in the curriculum to his knowledge of actor Penn Badgley. You can describe the general shape, but that's about it.
  • Arch-Enemy: Jack Warner, the disgraced FIFA Vice President, became this to John Oliver, trading barbs at each other over Trinidadian television station TV6 with increasingly good production values.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    • In a segment on a proposed internet tax in the eastern European nation, John notes several troubling things about Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán: he wants to end liberal democracy (admitting to attempting to shift the government toward an authoritarian-style illiberal democracy), he's a friend of Vladimir Putin (himself the head of an illiberal democracy), and he likes the way Turkey and China (which both have repressive illiberal goverments) do things. John then adds that if Orbán were to also like the smell at Hollister's, they could just go ahead and declare him a war criminal.
    • Home improvement stores are a lethal combination of everything that can ruin a relationship: spending money, reconciling tastes, long-term planning, and fluorescent lighting.
    • John lists several examples of television programs that have acclimated the public to same-sex marriage: Will & Grace, Ellen, Queer as Folk, and Spongebob Squarepants (Spongebob and Patrick).
      John: Oh, please; they hang out in a pineapple under the sea. Read between the lines!
    • John describes the Pope's itinerary while visiting the United States in September 2015:
      John: The Pope was in the United States this week: speaking before Congress, visiting the UN, riding through Central Park, going to Philly for no clear reason, and encountering adoring crowds everywhere.
    • John's criticisms of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper include rolling back environmental regulations, screening Syrian refugee applications to only admit Christians, and playing keyboard in his band and singing a terrible rendition of Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline".
    • John justifies why the U.S. Treasury Department should get rid of the penny.
      John: ...but because there are certain things we know are impossible to get rid of: terrorism, herpes, and Guy Fieri.
    • During his special districts rant, John says the only people who should have to pay $1,000 more than their neighbors across the street are people who blanket their houses with Christmas decorations. "They should be taxed, and then they should be imprisoned. And then they should be told their lights were better last year, because it's that one that would hurt them the most. That's the one that would sting."
  • Artistic License – Economics: John demonstrates how Donald Trump's much-vaunted border wall is built primarily of this trope, first by showing video clips of how Trump's own estimation of the cost of the wall tripled over time, then demonstrating how even that figure wouldn't cover the cost of engineering, construction, and maintenance. And even that figure would need to be increased, due to the border passing through large tracts of uninhabited desert, so a whole network of access roads would have to be built first. Then he takes on Trump's claim that the project could be paid for out of the US trade deficit with Mexico, which Oliver describes as "literally not how anything works".
  • Artistic License – Geography: Invokes this trope in a Running Gag in which he mentions a country, saying "a country you think about so little...", and then revealing that the map graphic he's using is highlighting the wrong country (exposing the viewers' unfamiliarity with such countries).
    • It started with his segment on smoking, in which John brings up a graphic of South America with Uruguay highlighted. He then points out that most of his viewers know so little about the country, they didn't realize he's actually highlighted Paraguay, at which point the highlight switches to the correct country.
    • The joke is repeated with Bolivia in the next week's segment on judicial elections, highlighting two wrong countries before moving to the right one and lampshading that it will always be funny. Perhaps because they reused the same graphic and didn't think to adjust it, the background flag is that of Uruguay.
    • And repeated again with Venezuela in a segment about embattled President Nicolas Maduro being sent mangos written with demands for him to provide services, this time highlighting two wrong countries (Bolivia and Uruguay) before revealing that he actually had it right the first time, but now that the viewers know the joke, they didn't realize it.
    • Done again with Nebraska. In a segment on the abolition of the death penalty in that state, he first highlights the neighboring state of South Dakota before switching to the correct state. John rightfully scolds the audience for not knowing the geography of their own country.
    • Repeated once again with Azerbaijan in a segment on the Olympics-analog European Games. This time, the false Azerbaijan he initially highlighted wasn't even a land mass but a body of water, the Caspian Sea, upping the element of surprise.
    • The joke is done again in a non-geographic context with the US Secretary of Transportation, using a made-up name and a stock photo.
    • Repeated yet again with Guatemala in a segment on that country's elections in 2015. This time he just shows a map of Central America with nothing highlighted at all, and tells us to just look it up for ourselves if we want to know which country Guatemala is.
    • When discussing the 2015 Canadian elections, the joke is subverted, as instead of showing a map, John refers to Canada as "the country you think about so little, that's it. End of sentence."
    • In the introduction of the segment about the release of the Panama Papers,note  the false Panama shown is a rough outline of a Scottie dog, which the actual country shown afterward strangely resembles.
    • In his student film on special districts, he has the kids pull this with the Nile in Egypt.
    • The Season 4 premiere goes completely meta with the gag, as he brings up various disappointing topics the show can cover that year, including special tax districts, "a topic so boring you didn't remember we actually did an episode on it last year."
    • When he actually returns to the map version of the gag at the start of his segment about the Bolivian "Zebras for Road Safety" program, he does a particularly elaborate version of it:
      John: Bolivia. A country you think about so little, you haven't realized that's not Bolivia, it's Colombia. Except no, it's not, it's Venezuela, this is Colombia; no, it's not, that's actually Bolivia. Where's Colombia? No one knows!
    • Another variant of this gag is done for which member of The Bee Gees is still alive in the segment on the American Health Care Act.
  • Artistic License – Law: Oliver puts up a grandiose display, complete with $5,000 in cash, with Mike Myers to supposedly break a Canadian law which states that foreigners cannot induce Canadians to influence their vote. The next day, the regulatory body for federal elections, Elections Canada, explained that Oliver was in no trouble in any way, since "inducement" must involve offering some kind of material good like money to voters. By contrast, all Oliver and Myers did with their stunt was to express an opinion, which is perfectly allowed under the law. Though it has still been noted that the wording was vague enough that it could indeed be taken as what he claimed, something even many Canadians were unaware of.
  • Ass Pull: Invoked intentionally when John shows a fake, non-canon episode of Days of Our Lives that they did in which it's "revealed" that EJ came back to life by his corpse being taken by his father and brought back to life by witch doctors.
  • Attack of the Political Ad:
    • After criticizing the attack ads in the 2014 Senate race in Kentucky between incumbent Republican congressman/Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes, John declares "there is no way things are going to get better until we collectively hit rock bottom" − so he decides to make the worst attack ads imaginable, using the full creative license that a premium cable network like HBO provides him. In the ad for McConnell, Grimes is shown slaughtering coal miners with a chainsaw; in the ad for Grimes, McConnell is represented by an old, white, wrinkled penis.
    • Later discussed in the segment on judicial elections, by showing an actual 2010 attack ad against Illinois Supreme Court justice Thomas Kilbride; the ad used three "evil shadows" representing violent killers that Kilbride supposedly sided with in their appeals, but − as John points out − Kilbride did not actually release them, but merely questioned procedural points in their trials.
      John: But there's no room in campaigns for nuance. That's why you don't see bumper stickers reading: "Justice is complicated, requiring the sublimation of our baser instincts, which − though difficult − is the only thing that separates us from the anarchy of the beasts, Kilbride 2015!"
  • Audience-Alienating Premise: Invoked. John knows when certain topics will drive viewers away. He promises more adorable things following the segment twice (in the death penalty segment, as compensation; in the abortion one, for those against the topic to return).
  • Backhanded Apology: Done for laughs when John "apologized" for being snarky about Fifty Shades Of Gray.
    Oliver: In the grand tradition of television personalities who've made mistakes, I would like to offer a condescending, half-hearted apology that I don't really mean.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • In his segment on chickens, John lampshades that the viewers expect it will be about animal cruelty. But there's enough of that in the news, so he reveals it's actually about chicken farmers, whose story is no less depressing.
    • In his segment on the American Health Care Act, he brings up the image of a man in a thong he used to demonstrate the Affordable Care Act, then says "take it down". Cue the thong being pulled halfway down.
  • Bald of Evil: While discussing Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts and his attempts to keep the death penalty from being abolished, John refers to him as a "dollar store Lex Luthor."
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: After an incident in which New Zealand economic development minister Steven Joyce was hit in the face with a dildo thrown by a woman protesting the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, he tweeted "Someone send the gif over to John Oliver so we can get it over with.." The show still had a field day with it, as shown by the top response of that tweet − from the Last Week Tonight account, Peter Jackson waving a modified New Zealand flag with an image of Joyce being hit by the sex toy (complete with "HERE'S YOUR GIF"). John notes that before the segment, the show planned to put the brakes on stories about New Zealand until they found out about Joyce's tweet, not only making the flag but also hiring a choir and two guys tethered by wire in dildo costumes.
    John: Is this what you wanted, Steven Joyce? Is this what you wanted?! CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR!
  • Beleaguered Bureaucrat:
    • The segment on the IRS shows the entire agency to be this, thanks to Congress constantly changing the tax code and responding to attention-getting scandals by cutting their budget by 20% over the past five years. He includes a clip of IRS commissioner John Koskinen testifying that his agency literally doesn't have enough people to do the job it needs to do.
    • Public defenders are also this. They are so overburdened with cases, that they have no time to help a client aside from suggesting they take a plea bargain.
    • Members of Congress are also this. Much of their time is taken up by fundraising, which is a dehumanizing, demoralizing process in which you actually have to beg strangers for money, and you spend too much time fundraising that you can't do your job.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: One of the Obviously Evil fake companies in the credit reports segment, Equifacks (not to be confused with credit reporting company Equifax), "specializes" in taking shelter animals in need of a good home, taking them to people's houses to lick peanut butter off the resident's genitals, then immediately taking them back to the shelter.
  • Big Bad:
    • John claims the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is this to his show, considering that they are directly and indirectly responsible for many of the issues he's covered. He even gives them a shout-out in the credits, as "Associate Producer of Creating Horrifying Things for Us to Talk About," thanking them for giving him so much material.
    • To a lesser extent, FIFA and the British Empire, both of which he has lamented in the past as "real-life supervillains".
    • Throughout the third and fourth season, Donald Trump appears to be filling in the roll.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: During his bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics, John claims the show is filmed in a "small studio in New York's historic carjacking district".
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: John took several shots at the film of fellow HBO series Entourage, has insulted Time Warner Cable,note  and the fantasy sports segment noted how Time Warner is a partner of FanDuel.
  • Blatant Lies: After being told he's now on the NSA's "list" for being "associated" with Edward Snowden, Oliver insists that he never met him right after conducting a televised interview with him.
  • Bob from Accounting: Recurring character Janice in Accounting, who "doesn't give a fuck."
  • Bolt of Divine Retribution: The "Other Countries' Presidents" segment on French President François Hollande notes that he's one of a few world leaders to question the existence of God, then points out how much of a coincidence it is that his plane was struck by lightning on the day of his inauguration.
  • Boring, but Practical: One of the overarching themes of the show is the fact that many of our problems exist because either the problem itself or the solution is seen as too boring in order to warrant any media scrutiny or political resources. There are many segments (such as the one on bail) where the discussion of possible solutions boils down to Boring, but Practical versus Rule of Cool. The "boring" solution (pre-trial services) leads to a much more efficient outcome for most nonviolent crimes, but the "cool" solution (bail bonds and bounty hunters) gives us lots of TV shows.
    John: The cable companies have figured out the great truth of America: if you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring.
  • Bounty Hunter: Deconstructed in a segment on bail. Shows like Dog the Bounty Hunter have glamorized them, but bounty hunting is a profession that requires no real qualifications, tests, or even background checks, and they often endanger people who for the most part have been accused of victim-less crimes.
  • Breaking Bad News Gently:
    • President Barack Obama's admission of the practices that U.S. intelligence agents used to interrogate terror suspects in the CIA torture report is criticized by John Oliver for being an unsuccessful attempt at this:
      Obama: In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong. We did a whole lot of things that were right... but we tortured some folks.
      John: That's a weird way to phrase that. You sound like you're quoting a horrifying Andy Griffith episode. "You see Opie, things got a little out of hand down at the jailhouse, and Barney and I, well, we tortured some folks. We tortured those folks good, Ope!"
    • There's also Commander Lloyd Austin's admission of the overall failure of the U.S. military to train rebels to fight ISIS, by reluctantly admitting the actual number of rebels left to fight after a very expensive programme:
      Lloyd Austin: It's a small number and the ones that are left... er... we're talking... four or five.
  • Brief Accent Imitation:
    • Oliver is very good at accents, and has no problem mimicking them quite successfully − Australian, Russian, French, etc. His Valley Girl, however, is absolutely terrible, which, in turn, just makes it funnier. His Surfer Dude impression is also unspeakably awful, sounding more like an old man than a surfer.
    • Oliver himself parodies this in the segment on Scotland's ballot referendum for independence from the United Kingdom, when he refers to Scottish as "that accent you think you can do, but really can't."
  • Brick Joke: Invoked in the segment on the problems with the instruction of sex education in American schools, which starts with John showing an old sex ed video staring a young Jonathan Banks in which having a period is shown to somehow make women super good at bowling. The parody sex ed video at the end of the segment ends with Banks showing up and telling the viewer that anyone who says that having a period makes you good at bowling is an idiot.
  • Bring It:
    • While discussing the 2015 Canadian elections for Prime Minister, John mentions that there are stiff penalties for non-Canadians who make statements that might influence their politics, such as fines and even prison time. To which he laid down some money, saying he was willing to risk it in urging people to vote out incumbent PM Stephen Harper.
    • Part of his profanity-filled tirade after the Paris terrorist attacks:
      John: It is important to remember: nothing about what these arseholes are trying to do is going to work. France is going to endure, and I'll tell you why: if you're in a war of culture and lifestyle with France, good fucking luck! Because go ahead! Go ahead! Bring your bankrupt ideology. They'll bring Jean-Paul Sartre, Edith Piaf, fine wine, Gauloises cigarettes, Camus, Camembert, madeleines, macarons, Marcel Proust, and the fucking croquembouche! The croquembouche! You just brought a philosophy of rigorous self-abnegation to a pastry fight, my friend! You are fucked! (pointing to an image of a croquembouche) That is a French freedom tower!
    • When talking about Coal, he specifically went after Robert Murray, who had warned Oliver not to bad mouth him or his company, Murray Energy on the grounds that if he did, he would sue. John Oliver deliberately defied the order, and talked about how Murray Energy had been cited for its lax enforcement of safety regulations, specifically how a mine collapse in Utah left six miners, and three rescuers dead. He also mentioned how employees were offered an optional meager overtime instead of benefits, with one employee giving back his check with the sentence "Eat Shit Bob". Oliver also talked about how Murray is an ardent supporter of Donald Trump, since Trump has promised to reinvigorate the coal industry, despite the fact it has been in steep decline in recent decades, and because Trump promised to decrease environmental regulations. He also mentions that an insider stated that Murray got the idea to create his company after a squirrel told him to. The episode ends with a guy in a giant squirrel holding a giant novelty check with the phrase "Eat Shit Bob" written on it. Not surprisingly, Murray filed a defamation suit on Oliver and Time Warner citing "character assassination," something he had done in the past against media outlets that criticized him and his company.
  • British Stuffiness:
    • Occasionally parodied, along with Stiff Upper Lip. For instance, after the 2015 UK election:
      Newsreader: Hmmm... total shock, really, from where we started in the evening.
      John: Now, to be fair, that is about as emotional as a British newsreader is capable of being. The American equivalent of what you just saw would be Wolf Blitzer stripping naked and setting fire to his own beard.
    • Lampshaded but ultimately subverted in his IRS segment, when he says that the IRS deserves a supportive gesture but claims that he's ill-suited to performing such an emotional display seeing as how he's British. Despite that, he shows considerable enthusiasm during the ensuing musical number by Michael Bolton.
    • In a segment about alleged wiretapping in Trump Tower:
      John: ...Now that is going to piss off the British, and you do not want to piss off the British because if you do, we will say, "Oh, dear", shake our heads, swallow the anger, and carry it around until we die.
  • Broken Aesop: In-Universe, he considers a Singaporean anti-gambling PSA released during the 2014 World Cup to be this, since even with the one made after Germany won (which was what the child's father is betting on), it accidentally implied that the father was too good at gambling for the family to be at serious financial risk.
  • Butt-Monkey: New Zealand, and by extension its Prime Minister John Key. Also the state of Florida.
  • The Caligula: In his segment of Monarchies, Oliver discussed this trope by arguing that one of the flaws to having a system of inherited power is the possibility that the country would be stuck with the person who, in any other family, would be the Black Sheep. To provide an example, Oliver presented a Emirati sheikh who was convicted of torturing a man.
  • Call-Back:
    • In a discussion on net neutrality, John likens having Tom Wheeler, a lobbyist for the cable industry, as the chairman of the FCC to hiring a dingo as a babysitter. In a discussion on payday lenders, he explains that the vice president of a payday loan company is the head of the Texas finance commission overseeing that very industry.
      John: I call dingo!
    • As part of a segment on the negative impact of the World Cup, there was a clip of FIFA official Jérôme Valcke asserting that, in spite of safety regulations, beer would be served at the games; inevitably, as John himself predicted, there were a fair number of injuries and brawls. When Valcke later expressed rather insincere and hypocritical concern about the alcohol intake and disorderly nature of intoxicated fans, there was an entire follow-up segment devoted to the matter, entitled "Fuck That Guy".
    • Calls back to nearly every serious issue his show has covered when mentioning that ALEC is partially responsible for all of them.
    • The Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption letter to donors calls back on the flyers Robert Tilton sent John asking for blessing money.
    • The prisoner re-entry episode starts by bringing back all topics related to incarceration the show discussed.
    • During the October 2, 2016 segment on Police Accountability, John mentions that criminal justice that the show's signature bit. On the over-the-shoulder graphic box are the title screens for the segments on Civil Forfeiture, Municipal Violations, Mandatory Minimums and Police Militarization.
  • The Cameo:
    • To demonstrate pandering in the segment on Dr. Oz and his shilling of nutritional supplements, George R.R. Martin and a tapdancing Steve Buscemi drop by.
    • Law and Order: Civil Asset Forfeiture Unit features more than a few cameos from the cast of Criminal Intent, along with a great appearance by Jeff Goldblum.
    • Oh, so many in the season one finale from 2014, including Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Homer Simpson, J. J. Abrams and R2-D2 on the set of The Force Awakens, Tom Hanks, Seth Meyers, Anderson Cooper, Rachael Ray, Michelle Beadle, Dwight Howard...
    • Edward Norton in the fake movie trailer for Infrastructure, along with host of other actors including Vincent D'Onofrio, Hope Davis, and once again, Steve Buscemi.
    • Nick Offerman appears as a Lowe's sales associate trying to defuse a marital argument before it starts. H. Jon Benjamin is the husband in the couple.
    • A segment featuring mascots created by Japanese government departments is followed by John bringing out mascots for several US Federal departments. The mascot for the Bureau of Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco, and Explosives is Bob Balaban... that is, the real Bob Balaban, standing there in a jacket and tie, looking awfully confused.
    • Rachel Dratch thrice appeared as "Wanda Jo", wife/co-owner of the Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.
    • In the season 2 finale, the opening theme was performed by its band, Valley Lodge.
    • Celebrating how New Zealand economic development minister Steven Joyce had a dildo thrown in his face, John sent a version of the NZ flag featuring that image to famed Kiwi Peter Jackson, who was then shown waving said flag.
    • After the Panama Papers revealed a cellist that was close to Vladimir Putin controlled an enormous amount of wealth in some of those shell corporations, John pondered what a cellist was doing running an investment program... and followed that with a purported message from an investment phone line run by Yo-Yo Ma... who urges the caller to invest in a cello, "because with many years of practice, you'll be able to do this".
    • In the segment discussing Puerto Rico's economic crisis, John Oliver mentions a number of important Puerto Rican Americans, pausing briefly to gush about Lin-Manuel Miranda and Hamilton. Sure enough, at the end of the episode he states that he isn't really the right person to advocate on Puerto Rico's behalf, and introduces Lin-Manuel to do an original rap on the subject.
    • In the episode that discussed how companies that engage in Multilevel marketing are basically Pyramid Schemes in all but name, he centers his criticism on Herbalife, which frequently targets the Latino community with its Spanish advertising. To demonstrate, he shows a clip from the Mexican telenovela, La Fea mas Bella (a Remake of Colombia's Yo soy Betty, la fea, the same telenovela that was the basis for Ugly Betty) where some characters talk about the benefits of Herbalife. At the end of the episode, he creates his own recruitment video to warn people about multilevel marketing, with Jaime Camil, star of Jane the Virgin and the male romantic lead of La Fea mas Bella, recording a similar video in Spanish.
    • While discussing the topic of statues honoring the Confederacy, John shows some suggestions of what various locations could honor instead, including famous people and even mascots from those locations. When he gets to Charleston, South Carolina, he removes the tarp from the last monument, to reveal the real-life Stephen Colbert.
  • Canada, Eh?: In response to the 2015 hack of the Canada-based affair hookup website AshleyMadison.com, John notes that close to 1/5th of the population of Ottawa (and 1/2 the married population) are members. So in response, they play a video with a comically exaggerated Canadian narrator extolling the virtues of Ottawa and suggesting that people there not "Cheat with some guy named Gordon" but instead "Fuck their own husband named Gordon."
  • Canis Latinicus: The opening has plenty of it, aside from the occasional right Latin (over time there's "Tempus Fugit" - 'time flees').
  • Cargo Ship: invokedUpon seeing the The Beau Rivage Palace, where negotiations with Iran were hosted, John says he wants to have sex with it. Not in it, with it.
    • After playing several clips of Donald Trump bragging about how wonderful and even beautiful his proposed border wall will be, John posits that Trump is sexually fantasizing about the wall.
  • Catch-Phrase:
    • John starts every show with "Welcome, welcome, welcome!"
    • "Holy shit!," said with bewilderment by John at least Once an Episode following a surprising statement in the preceding clip.
    • "What are you doing?!," said whenever the subject of a clip makes a statement that exposes the person's inability to see the issue with it.
    • "Cool," said sarcastically whenever the previous clip features a statement indicating the subject is trying too hard to be cool.
    • "Praise be!" said whenever Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption is brought up.
    • "...#Feminism".
    • "What are you talking about?!" whenever someone, usually Donald Trump, says something nonsensical or contradictory.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: John often calls Steve Mnuchin handsome before tearing into him, due to their strong resemblance.
  • Character Development: Seeing how absurd HBO's retirement plan was caused Janice in Accounting to give a fuck and become a changed person, to the point of baking cupcakes for her co-workers and adopting a kitten.
  • Church of Happyology: Oliver explicitly compares multilevel marketing companies to the Trope Namer. The parallels are pretty chilling, including strangely named levels which can be obtained (such as Double Black Diamond) as well as almost fanatical entrances of the leaders of the MLMs at corporate events.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: John sometimes comes off as one, with his insistence that there's only one Olsen twin, his love of penguins, and various other eccentricities that pop up while he's giving the news. All in-character, of course, and it works really well; it's funny as hell, and it provides some levity to otherwise horrifying topics.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: John Oliver decides to respond to the ISIS attack on Paris with the sort of profanity HBO allows him.
  • The Comically Serious:
    • C-SPAN's Steve Scully, "the most patient man on television." There's an entire series of "And Now..." compilation segments which gets laughs out of his unflinching reactions to bizarre callers.
    • Edward Snowden, of all people; this is best shown when John asks him questions to gauge American loyalty.
  • Comically Missing the Point:
    • The NY/NJ Port Authority claims that the small commemorative plates featuring the New York City skyline being sold by local kitchenware chain Fishs Eddy are potentially damaging to its control of its own public image, while ignoring the Wretched Hive that is the Port Authority Bus Terminal, which multiple people interviewed on the street describe as "scuzzy", "fucking disgusting", and "kind of like a dumpy shithole from the '80s".
    • John details a school field trip in New Hampshire to the state legislature, where they introduced a bill to make the red-tailed hawk the official state raptor. Rather than just humor the kids and pass what was essentially a meaningless bit of fluff, the merit of even reviewing another bill was debated at length, with State Rep. John Burt sarcastically remarking "Bottom line, if we keep bringing more of these bills [forward]... we'll be picking a state hot dog next", and Rep. Warren Groen even using the characteristics of said hawk as an out-of left-field swipe at Planned Parenthood. The bill was ultimately defeated by a narrow margin; worse, as John notes, it all took place with that same class of children in attendance.
    • In his short segment on International Women's Day 2016, John takes the time to highlight various figures who just don't quite get it. Russian Presient Vladimir Putin unintentionally brings up the Double Standard of women having to control their emotions in the workplace. Turkish President Recep Erdoğan says that he thinks women are mothers above all else, and that economic independence is bad for them. In China, a shopping mall offers discounts to women, but only those deemed sufficiently attractive by a facial scanner. Finally, Fox News commentator Greta Van Susteren decides to congratulate men for being better than the Taliban (or, as John puts it, giving them credit for "doing basically nothing").
  • Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch: John calls out Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) for their press remarks condemning President Obama's announcement of a deal with Iran regarding suspension of their nuclear research and development program, even though, in those same remarks, both congressmen admit that they haven't actually read the agreement, and don't know exactly what it contains... but they know that Obama definitely made a bad deal!
  • Continuity Cavalcade: The first two season finales had brief recaps of notable moments, and the return of some notable characters (Season 1: a breakdancing Abe Lincoln, a pageant contestant, the supreme court dogs, the Sesame Street knockoffs and costumed characters such as a unicorn; Season 2: the Bud Light Lime waiters, Wanda Jo, Jeff the diseased lung, three of the mascots for government departments, and Janice in Accounting).
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment: In his main segments, John will occasionally respond to the issue by crafting a hilarious response meant to shame the offender. For example, Phillip Morris International was given a new cartoon mascot to accurately represent their product while also allowing them to have brand recognition: Jeff, the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat.
  • Cool Old Lady:
    • Jane Goodall, famed primatologist. In her interview with Oliver, she is unfazed throughout by his ridiculous queries, yet cracks some great jokes of her own (such as suggesting the chimp name "Poothrow Wilson" become "Poothrow Hitler"), and chomps on a banana at the end through the skin like a chimp would, while John gags trying to do the same.
  • Corpsing:
    • If a clip ends in a particularly outrageous line, when it cuts back to John he'll be struggling to keep a straight face. In another example, during a skit featuring Sesame Street-like puppets singing about prison, once John says to a reptilian character complaining about his dad being locked up somewhere other than prison, "Those are zoos, your dad is an alligator in a zoo!"; as the puppet responds "I'm a crocodile. I'm a crocodile! Oh, we all look alike, right?", John is clearly covering his mouth.
    • When Kenny G was a guest, he was clearly trying not to laugh behind his sax. The only time he took the instrument out of his mouth was to crack up a bit!
    • David Kaye revealed it's hard to keep the serious announcer voice while recording his voiceovers for the gag trailer and commercial pieces given all the ridiculous stuff he has to say.
    • John Oliver catches Paul Ryan trying to suppress a laugh during Trump's speech at Congress.
  • Couch Gag: The last card of the opening credits montage usually has a reference to one of the previous week's big events (for example, the card on the episode that aired after the 30th anniversary of Watergate was of President Richard Nixon).
  • Could Say It, But...: John could get angry and call tobacco companies "assholes", "monsters", or "open sores on Satan's dick", but he won't do that.
  • Corrupt Church: He brings this up in his segment on televangelism with how there are an unsettling amount of churches out there who are trying to convince people to give them money. He even, in what is one of the more outrageous end-of-segment mock jokes he's done, created his own entirely legal church based on the idea of mocking predatory televangelism and jokingly endorsed people to pay him for it, emphasizing that yes, all of this was actually legal and totally tax-exempt (all donations he received were given to Doctors Without Borders once he shuttered his church—at least, those donations with monetary value; they kept the giant wooden dildo statue they were sent).
  • Crazy-Prepared: As John notes, standardized tests are so stressful that they have guidelines for if a student vomits on the test. He then says that, if students vomiting is so common that you've prepared an eventuality for it, then perhaps you need to consider that the test itself is the problem.
  • Creepy Doll: In his segment on nuclear waste, John keeps cutting to a shot of a doll collection in which one doll, Felicity, keeps moving around on the shelf. The third time, she's disappeared from the picture entirely, only for the camera to pan and reveal she's somehow moved to John's desk.
  • Cringe Comedy:
    • "And Now, CNN Weatherman Chad Myers Hates His Job, His Life, and Everyone Around Him".
    • "And Now, Excruciatingly Awkward Silences Caused by Technical Difficulties".
    • "And Now, CBS This Morning's Awkward Sex Talk", followed by "And Now, More of CBS This Morning's Awkward Sex Talk" and "Seriously, the Sexual Tension on CBS This Morning Is Through the Fucking Roof"
    • "And Now, the Inevitable, Sad Consequences of Morning Show Anchors Celebrating Halloween", which is followed by "And Now, Oh Sweet Jesus, They Put the Weather Forecasters in Costumes Too".
    • One of these has even produced enough material to become a recurring segment, as C-SPAN host Steve Scully − dubbed "The Most Patient Man in Television" − endures calls from rambling, inarticulate malcontents; paranoid, elderly racists; and the occasional Howard Stern fan, and yet never loses his composure.
  • Cuteness Proximity: Reasoning that, if the visual appeal of Keyboard Cat can make a bad Casio tune entertaining, the basic principle will hold true for anything, John stages an entire room of animals with costumes and fake paws to accompany audio from a Supreme Court hearing. It's a success.
  • Dare to Be Badass: He hijacks Phillip Morris' own slogan to encourage people to get the show's anti-cigarette mascot Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat trending worldwide: "Don't be a maybe about this!"
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: When discussing how President Obama's desire to interact with normal people is inherently impossible due to being the President, the narrator lists several things normal people do, with particular emphasis on masturbation.
  • Daylight Horror: The episode centered on military drone strikes, features the testimony of one Zubair Rehman, a 13 year old whose grandmother was killed during drone attack, stating that he preferred overcast skies because drones only fly on sunny days.
  • Deader Than Disco: Invoked and Discussed and during the "How Is This Still A Thing?" segments, examining ideas or trends that should have died out, but inexplicably persist.
  • Defiant to the End: The "Doomsday Video" section. When the news of Ted Turner's Crazy-Prepared idea for CNN's last broadcast in the event of an apocalypse was revealed, many commentators (Oliver included) faulted it for being so mournful and depressing. Instead, Oliver calls Martin Sheen to prepare a new broadcast where the attitude is that even if the world is ending, humanity should value what it did, good and bad, instead of feeling sorry.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Many of the issues John explores are often the product of the attitudes of different eras. In his segment on the U.S. Territories, John explains that their lack of national voting rights is due to the Insular Cases, which declared the residents of these territories to be "alien races" in 1901. The guy who wrote them? Henry Billings Brown, the man who wrote the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson − and even he only intended for the Cases to be a temporary measure, while they're still in effect 115 years later.
  • Didn't See That Coming: In his second segment on FIFA, John offered to sample the various products of FIFA's sponsors − most notably, a Bud Light Lime − if they would pressure Sepp Blatter into resigning. When Blatter actually did resign, John admits he never thought it would happen.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Conversed when talking about mandatory minimum sentencing laws. As an example, John talks about a man who, on his nonviolent first offense, got 55 years in prison without parole for a minor drug charge. He then shows an interview clip with the judge who passed that verdict and now deeply regrets doing so. In the interview, the judge lists several heinous crimes that would have gotten him lesser sentences (specifically 24 years for hijacking an aircraft, 20 years for terrorism, and 11 years for child rape), causing John to point out that, by combining them, this man would have gotten the exact same sentence as a hypothetical "plane-hijacking, child-raping terrorist, a person so evil I legitimately don't know if one has ever existed."
  • Distinction Without a Difference: The segment about infrastructure features a clip from a 60 Minutes segment including a comment from the former U.S. Secretary of Transportation regarding "structurally deficient" bridges: "I don't want to say they're unsafe, but, they're dangerous."
    John: What?! Hold on, hold on, hold on. When we're at a point where the Secretary of Transportation is struggling between using the word "unsafe" and the word "dangerous", we might have a problem worth fixing.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: During his segment on the Indian election.
    John: Rahul Gandhi, however, is— WOW that guy is handsome. Look at that vest! He's like an Indian Han Solo.
  • Do Not Do This Cool Thing: Invoked and discussed in a segment about an anti-gambling advert produced by the National Council on Problem Gambling in Singapore at the beginning of the 2014 World Cup. In it, a young boy bemoans that his father has stolen his life savings and bet them all on one particular country to win. It sounds like a good idea for an anti-gambling campaign in theory... if it wasn't for the fact that the advert's producers chose Germany, whose team ended up winning the World Cup, to be the country that the kid's father bet on. This, as John points out, makes the kid's father look less like a reckless addict ruining his son's future and more like an incredibly lucky gambler with a knack for picking a winner while on a hot streak. When the fact that Singapore later produced a follow-up ad to save face comes up (apparently, the kid's father is still going to gamble away the money he earned on the win), John then screens a series of parodies that show the father making increasingly outlandish and specific bets and the family growing ever richer. The kid's friends eventually lose pity and tell him to shut up, and then when the final absurd bet (the July 2014 announcement that Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes were expecting their first child) comes true, money starts raining from the sky and the two other kids say "Your dad is the best!" and "Gambling is awesome!"
  • The Dog Bites Back: When the American electronics chain Radioshack went out of business after 94 years (in actuality, its stores were folded into Sprint as extensions of its existing store chain), John offered the company use of a farewell video that consisted of about a minute and a half of the announcer giving a Cluster F-Bomb to America for making Radioshack's slow demise into a punchline.
  • Double Entendre:
    • At the beginning of the first FIFA segment, Oliver, a self-professed association football fan, explained his conflicted feelings about it thus:
      John: The Sausage Principle is where, if you love something, you never want to find out how it's made. Tonight, I'm going to show you my sausage...
    • The entire "#ShowUsYourPeanuts" speech. It starts off as a simple crude pun, then whips into a frenzied Hurricane of Euphemisms.
  • Downer Ending:
    • John called for humanity to unite behind saving a lost group of geckos on a Russian satellite, then made a web exclusive sketch when contact with the satellite was reestablished. Unfortunately, when it was brought back down it turned out the geckos had frozen to death.
  • Do Wrong, Right:
    • When Vice Admiral Tim Giardina − who until that point was in charge of America's nuclear weapons stockpile − was caught using fake poker chips, John Oliver's first comment was, ethical issues aside, if he were remotely competent for his position, he would never have been caught.
      John: I'm sorry, but a Vice Admiral has to have the mental fortitude to fool an Iowa pit boss. You have to!
    • Revisited when the Secret Service leaked Jason Chaffetz's failed application. Which is worse: that they acted like a table of high school mean girls, or that they didn't bother to learn he regularly embarrasses himself without outside help?
  • Eagleland: Mixed Flavor: John often remarks on how much he loves America and how glad he is to live there, while still making fun of it from an immigrant's perspective.
  • El Spanish "-o": In his segment on civil forfeiture, John plays a clip of a cop trying − and we use that word charitably − to ask a truck driver if he has a large amount of money in his truck. His attempt, "Tenny mucho mucho denero in su trucky-trailer" (though John Oliver mishears denero as De Niro), is so comically wrong that John loves it for just how terrible it is, even noting the sentence's mispronunciations and impromptu shift from Spanish to English. What the cop is trying to say is "Tiene mucho dinero en su truck y trailer?" ("Do you have much money in your truck and trailer?").
  • Embarrassing Old Photo: Actively invoked this on his segment on the so-called "Right to be Forgotten" (i.e. the argument that people should be able to take embarrassing pictures or stories about them off the internet, which, he points out, is pretty much impossible). He set up a campaign called "Mutually Assured Humiliation," asking everyone to post the most embarrassing pictures of themselves so that they would not be hidden or revealed against one's will. He even includes a couple of himself − one as a child with a sweater with his own name on it (which he says isn't an example, because he actually kind of likes it), and one of him as an incredibly dorky teenager.
    John: You better have fucking done that or I've made a horrible mistake. And I think I've just made a horrible mistake.
  • Enemy Mine: In his second story about net neutrality, John calls on all the diverse groups of Internet dwellers, even the trolls at 4chan and Reddit who hate him, to come together and support net neutrality, since it's the one thing they can all agree on.
  • Escalating War: After Jack Warner bought five minutes of airtime on Trinidadian television station TV6 to defend his horrible abuse of power at FIFA, John bought the same amount to produce a segment encouraging Warner to spill all the dirt on the rest of FIFA's illegal dealings. Warner replied with another video that he didn't need a "comedian fool" telling him what to do, scored with absurdly epic music. At this point John actively tried to keep it going by challenging Warner to respond to every one of his own videos in an increasingly epic way, using the same music plus flame jets. Unfortunately, Warner didn't respond and the incident has yet to be referenced again, not even by the show itself to celebrate John's victory.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: From his bit on Roger Goodell and the NFL domestic violence scandal, when Roger gets owned by an indignant reporter for TMZ: "You know that things are not going well when you lose the moral high ground to a TMZ reporter."
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • In his segment on POM Wonderful and misleading food labels, John Oliver had this to say regarding POM Wonderful's ludicrous health claims about pomegranates:
      John: The U.S. government will let you say just about anything about your products, but promising immortality was too much even for them.
    • The Russian army found Major General Michael Carey too drunk for them. And what was Carey in charge of? Nuclear missiles.
    • And then in his segment on North Dakota's oil business, he states that even Texas bans indemnification clauses (clauses in employee contracts that completely absolves the company of any legal fault or obligation to pay settlements in the event of said employee's injury or death) in the oil industry, and to emphasize the point, he jokingly states that Texas is so loosely regulated that "their speed limit is 'let 'er rip', and their age of consent is just a drawing of a wink!" And then later when their announcer guy does a speech to North Dakota, they say "in some ways, you're less regulated than Texas! Fucking Texas!! You're less regulated than... (shows a black and white film clip of a guy in an old west town forced to dance while his feet are being shot at) whatever this is!"
    • In yet another instance, he pointed out the very telling irony that now-former British prime minister David Cameron's tax credit reform legislation − which many financial experts said would unfairly hurt the working class and especially single-parent households − was struck down by the House of Lords, the most hilariously, ridiculously "privileged rich British" organization imaginable, because even they felt it was too hard on low-income individuals.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: In his episode on standardized testing, John watches a pep rally revolving around standardized testing that featured a guy in a monkey suit. He decides that's pretty good, and brings his own dancing monkey on the set. However, after seeing the video about a girl who couldn't get into an advanced course because of a standardized test, he explodes at the monkey for making the child cry, and tells him to scram. He then brings the monkey back as a way to encourage policy makers on how to fix the system.
  • Everything's Better with Penguins: Penguins are featured in the shortened TSA segment (partly because as flightless birds, they could only fly with the TSA's help), with John admitting their appearance helps make things happier after a depressing episode.
  • Everything's Louder with Bagpipes: John feigns love for bagpipe music while trying to woo Scotland into remaining part of the United Kingdom in his segment about the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
  • Everything's Precious with Puppies:
    • In order to make Supreme Court hearings more interesting to the general public (as the Supreme Court doesn't allow cameras into the hearings), the show staged a hearing using dogs as the justices and lawyers, dropped the raw footage on YouTube, and then basically sat around to allow the internet to do its thing.
    • In order to prove to Dr. Oz that you can pander without making false claims about products, Oliver brought out an adorable puppy that he literally calls precious.
      John: And look! Neither I nor the puppy am making unsubstantiated claims about potentially harmful dietary supplements! You're not doing that, are you, puppy? Look! Because you don't need to, do you, precious?
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: John showing tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos at the end of a segment on capital punishment. He even invokes this trope with the following quote:
    John: There was a YouTube video this week of tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos, and it's as magical and as uncomplicated as you think.
  • The Exile: John jokingly says that crying in public is punishable by banishment in Britain, and states that the only reason he is in the U.S. is because he cried when watching an in-theatre preview for The Notebook.
  • Fan Disservice:
    • John's hypothetical campaign ad against Mitch McConnell features nothing but an old man's wrinkled penis.
    • In order to demonstrate the coverage of the Affordable Care Act, John shows a picture of a middle-aged man in a thong, shot from the back: Terrible, but better than nothing. To demonstrate its potential replacement, the American Health Care Act, he has the thong lowered halfway.
  • Fascist, but Inefficient:
    • In collecting money from municipal violations from those who are too poor to pay, the system will often waste an inordinate amount of resources prosecuting them for that inability, including jail time, the overall cost of which far exceeds any money they might recoup from the offender.
    • On a similar note, John explains that, due to the ineptitude of the Florida justice system, a sickly, non-violent offender was imprisoned because he could not cover the cost for a public defender, which contradicts the constituional right to be provided a free, public defender if a person cannot pay for a lawyer on their own. While the state was eventually paid the fee, John notes that it was much less than the money the state paid to imprison him.
  • Fetish Retardant: Invoked deliberately for comedy, mostly coming from external sources; given that the show is uncensored, it often gets downright disgusting.
    • The fake Mitch McConnell attack ad uses of footage of an old man's naked, flappy dick.
    • In the ALEC segment, two California state legislators excitedly discussing their fondness for spanking into a hot mic; as John himself puts it, they're simply not very good at telling when things are turned on.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: The Canis Latinicus opening. Season 3 even adds many a Call-Back to past episodes − the salmon cannon, the dogs dressed as the Supreme Court; Wanda Jo; Jeff, the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat; and a lot of segment subjects.
  • French Jerk: When discussing FIFA's request that Brazil change the law in order to allow alcohol in sports stadiums, they played a clip of a French FIFA official, Jérôme Valcke, asking them to do so in a thick French accent, while cautioning that he may sound "a bit arrogant" in doing so. It's not surprising how John continued by mocking him in a thick French accent:note 
    John: [in French accent] Maybe I look a beet arrogahnt, but uh, how you say, fuck your laws, and your pooblic saff-ty. Is zat right?
  • Gaia's Lament:
    • In his segment on food waste, John is aghast at how excess food production is not only wasting precious water supplies, but all that thrown out food is producing methane, which is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
    • The North Dakotan oil industry has damaged farmland throughout the state.
  • G.I.F.T.: Discussed in-depth during the segment on online harassment.
  • Gone Horribly Right:
    • During the inaugural episode's profile of India's election, the country's cable news networks are shown to not only have mimicked the American formula (pointless cross-talk, quickly moving graphics), but taken everything Up to Eleven in the process.
    • Also the adoption of homophobic rhetoric by Ugandan politicians to push for an anti-homosexual agenda, which only came to fruition after a lengthy visit by American pastor Scott Lively. This led to a lot of misinformation about LGBTI practices commonly used by American anti-gay movements spread through Ugandan society, death threats made against LGBTI activists there, and the use of arguments such as "It's Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve", when 'Adam', 'Eve' and 'Steve' are, as you might have guessed, not typical Ugandan names.
      John: All you [Scott Lively] were saying was "Gay people are evil, insidious Nazis... do with that information what you will! Lively out, Lively out!"
    • In undertaking the "Race Together" campaign, Starbucks was hoping to spark a meaningful national debate about racial discrimination in America, and indeed it did − by hundreds of people pointing out the systematic white male privilege of the company and its executives, to the point where the company's senior vice president of communications Corey duBrowa − also a white man − had to delete his Twitter account.
      John: [cheerfully] Hey, how's that conversation on race going, Starbucks? Lots of fun, right? What if this could be EVERY morning?
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: The third season finale ends with a montage of comedians and random New Yorkers declaring "Fuck you, 2016!" When it's "Weird Al" Yankovic's turn, Al, who prefers to keep his material somewhat family friendly, declares that "2016... falls short of my expectations."
  • Grand Romantic Gesture: Invoked by John in the segment on the Scottish independence referendum. After citing examples from romantic comedies, he tries to convince Scotland to stay in the United Kingdom by eating a bite of haggis, drinking Scotch whisky, bringing out a pantomime unicorn and listening to bagpipe music. The vote ended with the majority of Scots voting against independence, so mission accomplished.
  • Groin Attack: John's proposed streaming video network Nutflix, where it mostly shows people getting kicked in the balls, which he mentions in his segment about net neutrality.
  • Gut Punch: John notes how season 2 delivered one after another of those regarding prisoners − mandatory minimums overcrowd prisons, bail punishes the poor, public defenders are overworked and understaffed, and people get arrested due to minor municipal violations − and if one binge watches those four segments, it's better to go after some ice cream.

    H-L 
  • Haggis Is Horrible: John feigns love for haggis while trying to woo Scotland back to remaining part of the United Kingdom in his segment talking about the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.
  • #HashtagForLaughs: John Oliver sometimes does this.
    • "Adolf Hitler, or as I like to call him: Mister Eva Braun. #FEMINISM #HITLER"
    • While complaining about corporations making offensive tweets about social issues for advertising purposes, he unveiled the hashtag "#WeUnderstandThatAsCorporateEntitiesOurPresenceInCertainDiscussionsIsNotAlwaysRequired SoWeWillStriveToLimitOurActivitiesToJustSellingYouShit." It's even exactly 140 characters long to make sure it's idiot proof.
  • Hellhole Prison: How John sees Guantanamo Bay. In the October 9, 2016 episode's segment on the Cuban detainment camp, he argued that it would be better for the United States to close the facility due to the conditions and the somewhat shaky legal justifications for its existence.
  • Here We Go Again:
    • After the 2015 elections in the UK, which occurred less than nine months after the failed referendum on Scottish independence, John is aghast that the Scottish National Party has won nearly all the Scottish seats in the UK Parliament, meaning another referendum in the near future is very likely.
    • The montage of all the times conservatives said Obamacare would soon be repealed ended with one Republican asked whether he'd still try to repeal it, all but saying that he would.
  • Hitler Ate Sugar: Invoked in his segment on misleading labels, where one of the printable banners reads "Contains 2% or less of wheat starch. You know what else contains less than 2% of wheat starch? Adolf Hitler."
  • Hollywood Science: Discussed in his May 8, 2016 segment on scientific studies seen on daytime network shows. The message of that segment is that the general public frequently misuses science (either intentionally or unintentionally)to draw conclusions that serve their interests and fail to accurately check the research.
  • Honor Before Reason: Discussed in relation with the Mosquito Control District Board of Litchfield, New Hampshire − an administrative body comprised entirely of two men in a completely empty room, who nonetheless go through all the proper procedure demanded of their jobs, including reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, calling the roll, and opening the floor to input from a non-existent audience. John even mentions that their admirable level of dedication to a thankless job just makes the apathy they face even more heartbreaking.
  • Hope Spot: The saga of five geckos stranded on a Russian satellite, as told in three hashtags: #GoGetThoseGeckos, #WeGotThoseGeckos, and #GoodbyeGeckos.
  • Honest John's Dealership: The segment on auto-lending primarily focuses on these types of dealerships and discusses the major problems they cause. The segment ends with a fake advert for Crazy Johnny's Used Cars, complete with his cousin Crazy Jimmy (Keegan-Michael Key) and their accountant Crazy Walter (Bob Balaban).
  • Hot-Blooded: Mike Bost doesn't quite appreciate sifting through all the bills the Illinois General Assembly has to pass every day. After reading the statistics on itnote , John is inclined to agree.
  • Hypocrite: In his segment on voting, John points out that lawmakers who push restrictive voter ID laws in the name of preventing fraud are often guilty of stealing the votes of their fellow lawmakers during legislative sessions, some even using sticks to log in the vote of their fellow legislators while they're not even looking.
  • Hypocritical Humor: Deliberately invoked. John mocks Senator Orrin Hatch for being obviously fed lines by an aide during a hearing on the American Health Care Act. He then loses his train of thought and an intern does the same thing for him.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: Said by John as he realizes that by - unlike Trump - complying to the Paris Climate accords, "Wal-Mart and Philip Morris are the good guys"!
  • Idiot Plot: John portrays Trump's Russia scandal as this, referring to it as "Stupid Watergate", as it has "all the intrigue of Watergate, except everyone involved is really bad at everything." (in another episode, everyone involved "is too stupid to even feel ashamed")
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics:
    • John taunted Jack Warner while pillars of fire rose behind him (he later acknowledged the set nearly burned that day).
    • The "Fuck You 2016" piece in the season three finale earned an explosive visual translation.
  • Insane Equals Violent:
    • Discussed during the segment on mental illness. One of the only times people − Republican legislators, in particular − appear to be willing to talk about it is in the aftermath of mass shootings, even though statistics acknowledge that mentally ill people are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes rather than the perpetrators, and each discussion comes off as a diversion in debates over gun control as ultimately neither problem is resolved.
    • Played straight during the May 22, 2016 segment on Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov (and his lost cat), with John insinuating that Kadyrov is psychotic for his human rights abuses and his authoritarianism.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: In the "How Is This Still a Thing?" segment on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, which outsells the actual magazine by leagues (an average of 800,000 copies compared to 68,000 for any standard issue during the rest of the year), it's pondered why the magazine has such spectacular sales when a simple Google search will turn up far more actual nudity at the press of a button and with no cost, and further posits that their attempts to stay relevant mean the issue will inevitably lose the swimsuits entirely.
  • Insult Backfire:
    • After Jack Warner called him a "comedian fool", John replied that that wasn't an insult so much as his business card.
    • During the Season 3 trailer, John actually agrees with the criticism thrown at him, and he seems less perturbed by the fact that Cher said he had a "wee rat face", and more amazed that Cher acknowledged that he existed! (for context, she said that to finish a praising tweet, of all things!)
    • In both the Season 3 trailer and subsequent social media covers for the show, there are four negative assessments they had to be proud of − along with "comedian fool", there was "more unpleasant than a diuretic", "very boring", and "Makes people dumb".
  • Insult to Rocks: When a British reporter compares Queen Elizabeth II to a train, in that they both just keep chugging along (she's Britain's longest-serving monarch), John finds the comparison insulting. Trains serve a purpose.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Everybody thinks of IRS employees as an Acceptable Target, but John explains that IRS employees are not a bunch of evil Obstructive Bureaucrats who take all your money, but an underfunded, understaffed, overworked group of Beleaguered Bureaucrats who are Just Following Orders − and not orders from their superiors in the IRS, but orders given to them by Congress; orders that they are constantly changing. He also says that there's something heroic about doing an important job that is that soul-crushingly boring.
  • I Reject Your Reality: John says that the unintentional message of the 2016 Republican National Convention is that politicians can treat feelings as fact, regardless of how much the actual facts contradict them.
  • Is the Answer to This Question "Yes"?: When interviewing General Keith Alexander of the National Security Agency, John asked if he believes the NSA is suffering from a perception problem with the American people, telling him to keep in mind that the answer is "yes."
  • It Makes Sense in Context:
    • In his segment on diplomatic translators, he claims it will end with you getting mad at a donkey. Why? Because the donkey, named Smoke, was able to be processed and sent to America faster than a person after being taken in by an army base in the Middle East, while a translator who aided the military and is now being hunted for it has taken more than three-and-a-half years. Yes, a donkey was able to get into America in eight months but the translator took over three-and-a-half years.
    • In the season one finale, John plays a bunch of clips of his sillier moments in the show, such as a breakdancing Abe Lincoln. He then reminds viewers that Lincoln actually went hand in hand with a segment on gay rights in Uganda.
    • Many of the background graphics. A web video on unused graphics instead was John showing those while saying "Makes As Much Sense In Context".
  • It's All About Me: John loves mocking people with extreme egos. See Hue Sen, the Cambodian Prime Minister who demanded a rematch between Mayweather and Pacquiao citing "foul play". The thing is that Sen's only concern was that he bet money on Pacquiao, and he's not exactly someone who can complain about being unfair, considering the corruption and repression that has defined his regime.
  • It's Personal: John's wife is a combat veteran, so any segment referring to mistreatment of military personnel or veterans is likely to cause him to stop the jokes and become legitimately angry.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Deconstructed in his segment on torture. Despite most people, even Antonin Scalia, thinking Jack Bauer's methods work in Real Life, studies have proven that torture is not only damaging to America's reputation, but is completely useless at getting out real information from terrorism suspects, as people will say just about anything their tormentors want to make the pain stop, even if it means making stuff up...
  • Jaywalking Will Ruin Your Life: Several lead stories are about how mostly small offenses can lead to huge problems when low-income people have trouble paying the fines. If someone can't pay the fine off immediately, many additional fines will be added until paying the fine off is all but impossible, at which time they will be jailed for failure to comply; if the defendant attempts to contest the charge in court, they're more often than not issued a court-appointed lawyer who is so overworked they have no time to actually look at a case, and instead prompt their clients to just settle with a plea deal that is usually horribly unfair. There is also the problem that some states require you to pay for these lawyers yourself − if you can't, you're fined, and the process starts all over again.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: John concedes that Donald Trump had every right to be annoyed at the quirks in the political primary system, which rewarded more delegates to Ted Cruz in Louisiana despite that fact that he lost the state in the popular vote.
  • Job-Stealing Robot: John bemoans an attempt by Lowe's to replace their sales associates with robots. Not because he inherently disapproves of using robots in place of humans, but because robots are fundamentally incapable of performing the real job sales associates are there for: keeping couples from ruining their marriages over petty arguments.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: John eventually shutters Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption after receiving several bottles of semen, some of which are presumed to be fake and others... not so much. He considers this the point at which any endeavor has met its end. All the (monetary) donations were in turn given to Doctors Without Borders.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: John points out that the same day that Britain voted for the "Brexit" from the European Union, which some praised as "Britain's Independence Day" − in contradiction to the fact that Britain was already an independent nation, and as John points out, several other countries celebrate the anniversary of their independence from Britain − London itself got trashed in the actual sequel to Independence Day.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others: In the Canadian anti-adultery advert, the narrator tells lumberjacks to turn off their chainsaws and hockey players to stop skating around. Then it switches to a moose, whom the narrator tells to keep moosing because it doesn't concern him.
  • Le Film Artistique: John's monologue at the end of the French presidential election episode was filmed in black and white, has him speaking in French, smoking cigarettes, and with an accordion player right beside him, while dining in a bistro overlooking the Eifel tower.
  • Lie Back and Think of England: John claims that "feelings are supposed to be irrelevant" is printed on every British marriage certificate.
  • Like an Old Married Couple: To celebrate the marriage of Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, the show has the segment "And Now, A Look Back at the Romance Between Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski", which is a series of old clips of them arguing.
  • Limey Goes to Hollywood: Invoked; a Running Gag in his show is that John frequently discusses his success in the States when compared to his native UK.note 
    John: The United Kingdom, where I am more commonly known as... "Who?"
  • Limited Wardrobe: The Los Angeles Times even asked if the costume designer is so overwhelmed in the creation of silly costumes that as consequence, John only has a wide array of checkered shirts.
  • Literal Metaphor: Using the same "seed faith" rhetoric as several televangelists, John and Wanda Jo urge viewers to "sow their seeds" by donating to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, while explicitly stating they want actual money, not seeds. They receive at least two bags of seeds anyway. This also played a part in why the church was eventually shut down: People mailing them semen.
  • Loophole Abuse: Canadian law prohibits non-Canadians from making statements to influence their national politics. So, to urge Canadians to vote out Prime Minister Stephen Harper, John had Mike Myers make a statement to viewers. Evidently, it worked, since the next day, Harper lost his re-election.

     M-R 
  • Made from Real Girl Scouts: Comes up during one of John's digs at Guy Fieri.
    John: [as a hypothetical French guy] Ziss 'Donkey Sauce', is it made wiss actual donkey? Why do you do ziss to yourselves? Why? Why?
  • Magic Floppy Disk: One of the many ridiculous things John points out about America's nuclear weapons. As in, the launch computers in nuclear missile silos use them. Oh, and they're not those memorable 3½ inch plastic ones that made a mess of Sandra Bullock's life in The Net. They're the 8-inch wide ones.
    John: Holy shit! Those things barely look powerful enough to run Oregon Trail, much less Earth-ending weaponry! People who work there must watch WarGames and go, "One day, one day we'll get to play with that stuff."
  • Magnificent Bastard: invoked This is how John views Philip Morris International for its ability to take a sovereign nation like Australia to court over the country's attempt to pass anti-smoking legislation; as the segment goes on, Philip Morris takes bastardry to new levels when they cite the results of the Australian case − which were overwhelmingly against them − in legal threats made against impoverished African countries.
    John: They did it by digging up a 1993 trade agreement between Australia and Hong Kong, which had a provision that Australia couldn't seize Hong Kong-based companies' properties. So nine months before the lawsuit started, it put its Australian business in the hands of its Hong Kong-based Philip Morris Asia division, and then they sued claiming that the seized property in question were the trade marks on their cigarette packages. And you've got to give it to them, that's impressive. Someone should really give those lawyers a pat on the back and a punch in the face. But a pat on the back first; pat then punch, pat-punch.
  • Male Frontal Nudity:
    • In the fake attack ad against Mitch McConnell.
    • In his interview with Edward Snowden, he uses a dick pic as an example of how the NSA could use parts of the PATRIOT Act to snoop on your data even if you have no foreign connections or probable cause. John then hands Snowden a folder containing (so we are told) a picture of John's dick. Snowden's reaction suggests John isn't kidding.
  • Manipulative Editing: Invoked and played for laughs in the chicken industry segment.
    John: Look, I know this story has been depressing, and you might be wondering, what can you do? [...] You could say, 'Well, I'll vote against Congressman Steve Womack', but you won't, because you don't live there, and also, for the last two elections, he's had no major opponent. The only small satisfaction I can give you is letting Sean Connery voice your feelings.
    John Patrick Mason: Womack?! Why am I not shurprished, you piece of shit?!
  • Meaningful Echo: When Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption was first introduced, Pastor John and Wanda Jo make clear that they don't want actual seeds, they want money. A few weeks later, the church is shut down because they received vials and jars of sperm in the mail, and Wanda Jo and John utter the same statement they made the first time, "We ain't interested in your seeds!".
  • Metaphorically True:
    • Discovered when attempting to debunk the Miss America Pageant's boast of being the largest provider of scholarships for women; despite learning that the organization's monetary claims are severely overinflated and hard to acquire, they nevertheless are technically correct about their base claim, even if the amount is total bunk. John is disappointed by this.
    • In discussing state lotteries, which often claim that the revenue goes to funding education, John points out that most states fail to actually spend more money on education with these programs in place. Rather, the existence of this revenue is used as an excuse to remove other forms of revenue while allowing education to break even. Lower corporate taxes are just one example of a cut going hand in hand with the gain.
    • In his segment on smoking, John brings out a correspondence between the tiny country of Togo and Philip Morris International, in which Togo is warned that they would lose any court case, citing the decision of an Australian judge in a previous legal battle. What they failed to mention is that said judge was the lone dissenting voice on a panel that harshly condemned their business practices, and that PMI actually lost that case.
  • Mind Screw: One school in the Standardized Testing segment ended up having a reading section on their test about a talking pineapple and hare that was so surreal that it was taken off the test, especially since it was so bizarre no one was able to understand it.
  • Misaimed Fandom: Thailand's unhealthy to the point of hilarity obsession with Hitler. John even suggests entertainer Rip Taylor (a moustached and overtly theatrical guy) as a substitute. invoked
  • Mis-blamed: Invoked in a segment on student debt, when a student was expected to pay a fine he thought was unfair, he paid the entire $110 fine in pennies and watched two people count the fine for three-and-a-half hours. John immediately quips: "Wow, that college kid sure taught those two employees who had nothing to do with the policy he was protesting a lesson".
  • Mistaken Identity:
    • In a segment on torture, John recounts how an innocent man, due to being mistaken for a terrorist, was chained to a wall and left to die of hypothermia.
    • In a segment about credit report, is shown that two different women named Judy Thomas were denied credit after wrong reports that mistook each for other Judys with another surname. And it somehow goes From Bad to Worse, as another one was mistaken for a terrorist and another mistaken for not just a sex offender]... but three at the same time, and all of them operated at a time when he was barely a toddler.
  • Money, Dear Boy: Invoked by John when he sometimes makes jokes at the expense of Nicolas Cage and Robert De Niro regarding some of their more recent work.
  • Monster Clown:
    • Ronald McDonald, who apparently blacks out periodically and awakes with his hands covered in human blood.
    • While John refused to apologize to Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa for insulting him, he did apologize to Ecuadorian celebrity clown Tiko Tiko for assuming him to be a generic clown (as any good Non-Ironic Clown, Tiko Tiko was offended when John made Monster Clown jokes), because Tiko Tiko scares the crap of him.
      John: ...When a clown calls you 'grotesque', it HURTS.
    • When discussing standardized tests, John claims the only other way to inspire such terror in your kids with five letters (referring to the "a" through "e" multiple choice bubbles) is to whisper "clown", complete with appropriate image.
    • After watching a commercial for an auto loan company, John insists that they not approve the clown featured in it, since clowns are genetically programmed for murder.
    • When a Scranton area native accuses John of treating them like clowns for his amusement after he did a segment on the train set used by a local news station, John responds that he wouldn't do that, if only because he doesn't think clowns are amusing:
      John: Clowns are for murder threats, attempted murder, and actual murder.
  • Mood Whiplash: The main stories often have a lot of this, going from jokes about how ridiculous the subject is to emphasizing just how terrifying the subject is.
  • Moral Myopia: John argues this is part of the problem with reforming the primary election process: people generally only care about it when their preferred candidate is losing and don't when their candidate is winning.
  • Mouthing the Profanity: In a segment parodying the hypocrisy of Mother's Day coupled with very little rights and benefits given to mothers in the U.S., one mother is seen mouthing (or screaming, made inaudible by the voice-over) an Atomic F-Bomb in frustration at one point.
  • Multiple-Choice Past: John in one episode, as a joke, claims he was exiled from England for crying during a screening of The Notebook, while in a later episode he claims that the only times he has ever cried as a grown man was during the rousing speeches given by coaches in sports movies.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Infrastructure, a movie where if nothing happens, it's a good thing.
    • After discussing the problems of the bail system, he thinks the reason why many communities haven't implemented pre-trial services is because most people think of bounty hunters like Dog the Bounty Hunter, so John created Pre-Trial Services.
      Announcer: It's cost effective, motherfuckers.
  • Must Make Amends: When looking for a retirement plan for the show's employees, one of the production companies behind the show, Avalon Television, started with John Hancock. But the researchers looked further into the plan and realized how much of their money would be gobbled up in fees. After ditching them and setting up a new retirement plan, the show agreed to cover most of the fees because of how embarrassed they were by the crap they put their employees through.
  • Named Like My Name: During the segment on charter schools, John mentions the school Harambee Institute, which was named long before. He also immediately lampshaded this and pointed out the difference, before he then said "Rest in Peace" to Harambe.
  • Name's the Same: invoked During the segment on credit reports, this is shown to be a major problem when someone is wrongfully rejected. For example, a man called Sam Jackson (no, not him) was mistaken for three sex offenders that shared the same name, one of whom was convicted when he was 3 years old. The show also found two news segments about different women named Judy Thomas who spent years trying to correct errors on their credit reports.
  • Narm: Invoked when John considers the ridiculous line "Socks don't protect my heart", from a sex education video promoting abstinence which compared a woman who had already lost her virginity to heavily used shoes, to be the funniest thing ever said on the show, and he's furious that his people didn't write it.
  • A Nazi by Any Other Name: Discussed when far-right groups won in European elections in 2014.
    John: In terms of phrases you never want to hear, ["far-right election victories in Europe"] is right up there with "it's malignant" and "we're losing cabin pressure." Because, lest we forget, when Europe goes far-right, they go far right through Belgium!
  • Never Accepted In His Home Town: Whenever the United Kingdom is discussed, John will say something related to this. Once he even declared he's known in Britain as "Who?"
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Although Justice Antonin Scalia was a frequent punching bag on the show (see Take That!), John does manage to avoid making fun of him in the third season premiere, noting that his family is currently going through a bad time; instead, the segment mainly focuses on how the vacancy caused by his death has thrown the Supreme Court into jeopardy and the GOP is determined to block all of Obama's potential appointments (they are going to have to kill Pickles the bulldog, however).
  • N.G.O. Superpower: John occasionally highlights these. Examples include Eliot Management Corporation boat-jacking an Argentine warship and Phillip Morris International bullying several small countries into backing off from tobacco legislation that might hurt their international sales.
  • Nice Hat: "And Now, Some More Descriptions of the Queen's Ridiculous Hats."
  • Nightmare Fuel: invoked "Melon Kuma", a yurukyaranote  from Hokkaido meant to promote Yubari melons; because the region is also known for its wild Ussuri brown bear population, the creature is a snarling chibi grizzly with a huge melon helmet. John, struggling to keep from laughing, even plays a clip of Melon Kuma's visit to a kindergarten class, where he pretends to bite the screaming, crying children.
  • No OSHA Compliance: Literally in his segment on the North Dakota oil industry. OSHA's inspection division is woefully understaffed and overworked, so the oil industry can get away with a lot of violations.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity: Invoked, solely for Rule of Funny, in the ads promoting Season 3, by using negative quotes from internationally hated or criticized figures the show has made enemies of in the past (and, uh, Cher, for whatever reasontaken from a complimentary tweet, no less!).
  • Not Hyperbole: In a web exclusive, after getting tired of news websites using click-bait headlines that claim he's "destroyed" the various topics on the show, John takes out his frustrations on something which can be objectively broken, not just metaphorically − a piñata.
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: Much like Jon Stewart, he'll preface particularly outrageous truths with "and this is true" or "and this is real!"
  • N-Word Privileges: After making a joke about black hair, John tries to Invoke it by finding out if the joke writer was black. When the writer is revealed to be a white man, he's distraught.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: John Oliver's view of the SVI program, which should give up to 1,500 translators in Afghanistan − people who have had to risk their lives aiding the U.S. military − visas to America, only gave out three.
    John: What the fuck? By now, the ghost of Franz Kafka is thinking, "Don't you dare call this Kafka-esque, I don't want my name anywhere near this shit!"
  • Obviously Evil:
  • Oddly Small Organization: John thinks this of the NRA, which wields outsized influence for an organization whose membership lags behind that of some national gym chains. He then explains that the reason they're so effective is because their membership is really motivated and has an extremely specific message about gun legislation: "No!"
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • John's reaction when he learns that the Thai military government is angry with him, thanks to a previous segment where he made fun of Thailand's then Crown Prince, including calling him an idiot and showing a video with him and his topless wife feeding their dog cake, something so ridiculous he considers it entrapment, because Thailand has a law against lèse-majesté. Of course, his reaction is to then mock the royal families of the Netherlands, Kuwait, and Denmark, which have similar laws.
    • John has this reaction in his second episode when he finds out that he's going to have to talk about an issue as serious and controversial as the death penalty.
    • He reacts this way to all the stories of America's mismanagement of its nuclear missiles, from near nuclear mishaps to incompetent officials to the ridiculously outdated equipment.
    • A very genuine, non-rehearsed example: after personally mocking Russia for over 25 episodes, John learns while waiting to interview Edward Snowden that their hotel is right across the street from the old KGB offices, now the location of the country's Federal Security Service. And they know he's there.
    • He looks terrified again later in the same segment after Snowden informs him that John is probably on the NSA's "list" now. Oliver takes a while to digest the terror of either being hunted by the NSA or being stuck in Moscow forever.
  • Old Money: In his segment on the wealth gap, Oliver argues that the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of a rich elite coupled with fewer taxes on inheritance may lead to America developing a "landed gentry" reminiscent of the one that traditionally ruled Oliver's native England.
  • Only in Florida: A recurring gag. John even takes it a step further, referring to North Korea as "Earth's Florida".
  • Overly Long Gag:
    • The "Other Countries' Presidents" segment on Tony Abbott naturally features the infamous 2011 clip in which Tony, then leader of the opposition party in the Australian Parliament, is questioned by news reporter Mark Riley to contextualize his remark of "shit happens" about a soldier killed in a firefight; Abbott, in response, falls into a silent panic for half a minute, bobbing his head up and down with his mouth open, then weakly counters, "I've given you the response you deserve".
    • John plays a clip of Benjamin Netanyahu's speech to the UN, in which he complains about the deal with Iran, and then spends 45 seconds just staring at the delegates.
    • "And Now, John McCain's Favorite Joke", where he tells the exact same dumb quipnote  over and over to multiple news outlets and talk show hosts, even years after his 2008 run as a Presidential candidate. At one point, three separate tellings are played simultaneously, and his delivery barely changes.
    • "John McCain Has Another Favorite Joke", in which, for years on end, he relates a bogus anecdote about having arrived at the airport that very morningnote  and being mistaken for someone who merely resembles John McCain.
    • "And Now, Basketball enthusiast Pat Roberts spends 12 minutes fantasizing about shooting hoops with the President" (which is thankfully edited down during the program).
  • Pandering to the Base:
    • Invoked in the Dr. Oz segment; as John demonstrates, you don't need to give unscrupulous testimony to please your audience − George R.R. Martin, adorable puppies, ladies catfighting, free T-shirts, Steve Buscemi tap dancing, and a marching corps will do the job even better.
    • Invoked again in the Scottish Independence segment (see Grand Romantic Gesture); when trying to win back Scotland's heart, John does the most stereotypical things imaginable − reluctantly eating haggis, downing a swig of Glenlivet, and enduring bagpipe music.
    • Once he learns Kenny G is very popular in China, John brings him along to play his sax while trying to calm the Chinese down regarding a naval dispute.
  • Parallel Porn Titles: When he hears about an auction of pornographic toys in Kansas, John rattles off a number of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz-themed porn titles.
  • Paranoia Fuel: invoked In his segment on drones, John shows that their increasing overseas use has turned clear, blue skies into a terrifying omen of death, while grey skies are seen as good because drones don't fly in them.
  • Parody Assistance: Right Said Fred sung a version of "I'm Too Sexy" against Bashar al-Assad (who was revealed to have purchased the group's songs), Michael Bolton did a version of "How Am I Supposed To Live Without You" praising the IRS, and Days of Our Lives actors Alison Sweeney and James Scott did a sketch reuniting their characters in homage to a Syrian immigrant who learned English through the soap opera.
  • Parody Commercial: Done in either segments about certain companies (General Motors denying their cars are death traps, Fanta struggling to not remind viewers of its Nazi Germany origins) or to mock the concepts of others (tourists are causing damage to Antarctica, so the show made an ad asking "Don't go there!").
  • Parody Religion: Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. With the kicker that − despite being a totally obvious parody of televangelism that says outright its only purpose is to receive donations − it's completely legitimate under current U.S. tax codes.
  • The Password is Always "Swordfish": Discussed with Edward Snowden in a web exclusive outtake from John's interview for the segment on government surveillance, when Snowden notes that simple passwords are so ineffective they are basically pointless. As an example of a strong passphrase he 'spontaneously' suggests MargaretThatcheris110%SEXY, which leaves John speechless.
  • Perpetual Frowner: According to John, Queen Elizabeth II's resting expression is "total contempt."
  • Persona Non Grata:
    • After discovering he's been put on the Thai government's shit list for mocking the crown prince, John realizes his Thailand vacation is going to be suspended indefinitely.
    • Edward Snowden. John himself fears not being able to return to America after speaking to Snowden.
  • Person as Verb: In response to random people on the street confusing Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor who leaked many of their secrets, for Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks.
    John: Edward Snowden is not the WikiLeaks guy. The WikiLeaks guy is Julian Assange, and you do not want to be confused with him. Partly because he was far less careful than Snowden in what he released and how, and partly because he resembles a sandwich bag full of biscuit dough wearing a Stevie Nicks wig. And, that is— that is critical, Julian Assange is not a likeable man. Even Benedict Cumberbatch could not make him likable! He's un-Cumberbatchable!
  • Pink Means Feminine: Discussed and parodied in a segment on the UK Labour Party's misguided use of this for a campaign minibus to attract female voters in the run-up to the 2015 Parliamentary elections − while it helps sell toys, the color pink does not automatically garner votes, especially for a leftist party.
  • Place Worse Than Death: New Hampshire, "where 'live free or die' is a legitimately difficult choice."
  • Police Brutality: An entire segment focused on police brutality and accountability, due to the crumbling relations between police and the citizens they are assigned to protect, complete with Precision F-Strike when talking about black students needing classes to understand how not to suffer police brutality.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • Combined with Captain Obvious when John decides to troll the New York Yankees by reselling premium seats for 25 cents each to buyers who can best dress like they've never sat in a premium seat, in an effort to lower the prestige of the seats.
      John: We are legally bound to [...] mention the Yankees are not involved in this contest in any way, although that should be pretty fucking obvious by now.
  • Prison Rape: John presents a montage of jokes about prison rape from sitcoms and comedy films (mostly puerile "dropping the soap" gags) to demonstrate that Americans care about prisoners so little, they can comfortably joke about a horrifying thing that potentially could happen to any of them.
    John: D'you get it? The egg's going to get fucked against its will! That − that's why it's funny! Wake up your children and explain that joke to them, they'll love it!
  • Properly Paranoid:
  • Purple Prose: John is briefly taken aback at how Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) describes Mexican drug runners as having "calves the size of cantaloupes" from hauling bales of marijuana across the border − it may be an abhorrent, factually incorrect message, but it's still such a beautiful, poetic way to say it.
    John: Cantaloupe calf; they did burrow across the border / Their arms moist and sinewy like ropes upon a ship's mast...
  • Putting on the Reich: Invoked in mentioning the swastika-like flag and fascist salute of Greece's nationalist Golden Dawn party, which are so similar to Nazi Germany's symbols and rallies that Hitler could conceivably sue them for infringement of copyright.
    John: Lest we forget, when Europe goes far-right, they go far right through Belgium.
  • Racist Grandma: When John brings out people from all walks of life to demonstrate why gerrymandering is harmful to democracy, one is a racist grandma. He's quick to warn her not to say anything.
  • A Rare Sentence:
    • In the segment on the NCAA, following an MTV Cribs-style clip showing the opulent football facilities at the University of Alabama illustrating how colleges aggresively use their funds to build stadiums and sports facilities:
      John: I never thought I'd say this, but Alabama, stop showing off your ostentatious wealth.
    • The sentence, "We did it perfectly at the end of The Vietnam War", regarding resettling refugees who helped the U.S. during the war, which he comments, "There is a sentence you don’t often get to say out loud."
    • "Scorpions, what is wrong with you? Stop hiding in bananas in Pittsburg area Walmarts, get your shit together, and fight terrorism like snakes and bees! What a sentence!"
    • After a segment about Hungary in which protests led to sucessfully postpone the making of a law that would've taxed the internet, John notes that "the protest worked," a sentence he immediately compares to "Great one-man show," "Guy Fieri, that was delicious," or "I met my wife at Dave & Buster's."
    • John noting how marijuana legislation being passed in several states and people celebrating it, the same night Donald Trump being elected President as "being a little weird."
    • When discussing Lord Buckethead, a joke candidate in the UK's 2017 snap election who's made public denouncements about both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn's lack of preparation for the upcoming Brexit talks:
      John: I never thought I'd say this, but that intergalactic space lord has a point!
    • On Equifax: "That angry business-casual farm animal on Fox Business is talking sense."
  • Reality Ensues: Watch An Actual American Tail, Fievel's journey through the hellish reality of immigration.
  • Real Song Theme Tune: The opening theme is the opening of "Go" by Valley Lodge.
  • Recycled Premise: The presentation and style are almost identical to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but concentrating on considerably fewer issues to write more cutting comedy, while The Daily Show runs a lot of fluff pieces. The two shows diverge in that Last Week Tonight does not have correspondents nor includes in-studio or on-location interviews in every episode.
  • Recurring Extra: John has mentioned a "Janice in Accounting" several times in his hypothetical pseudo-skits on the show, once as the only person who says "everything is wonderful" (and that she's so extremely dysfunctional that it's clear she's lying), and second − the typical depiction of her − as that person who "don't give a fuck", and will eat anything out of the employee freezer (including a euthanized lion corpse), give lame Secret Santa gifts, win an office fantasy league while not caring about sports, and take over China's artificial islands! Janice (played by writer Jill Twiss) even appeared in the season one finale.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: The segment on prisoner re-entry examines the numerous barriers which make it harder for parolees to start anew; most notably, being asked whether they'd ever been convicted, to the point that one state actually gives tips on how to answer such questions without directly referencing their prison time.
  • Relax-o-Vision:
    • As a reward for his viewers sitting through a segment on capital punishment only two episodes in, John shows a video of tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos.
    • Following his segment on abortion, John plays a video of sloths in a bucket, and subsequently brings out an animal trainer who puts a live sloth on his desk in a nightcap to help viewers sleep.
    • Steve Scully, "the most patient man on television," apparently deals with his crazy callers by retreating into images of space, animals, and plants before a spirit deer informs him that it's time to start paying attention again.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder: In the "How Is This Still a Thing?" segment on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit magazine, the show plays a clip from a segment from CNBC's Squawk on the Street of NBC News correspondent Carl Quintanilla asking "What's left?" in response to the cover of the 2015 issue, which features Hannah Davis pulling down her bikini bottom just enough so as to not fully expose her... nether region. The response?
    Narrator: The vagina. The vagina is what's left.
  • Rooting for the Empire: Invoked and discussed during the segment on municipal violations, where John plays a clip of a deputy in Orange County tossing out suspended traffic licenses (most of which were due to insolvent owners given small fines) while dressed in a Grinch costume, then remarks that it's not a good idea to try and garner sympathy for your cause when you're play-acting as a misanthropic villain who steals from people.
  • Royally Screwed Up: Deconstructed in his segment on monarchies, as Oliver argued that generations of inbreeding coupled with a privileged upbringing can result in the heir either being a potential tyrant or a weak monarch.
  • Rousing Speech:
    • John feels the only way to get people to do something about the hilariously exorbitant Loophole Abuse regarding stadiums and their troubles is to give a fake halftime speech. So he does.
    • In the segment about doping, John describes cyclists who have hidden urine-filled condoms in their anuses and covered them with fake hair, saying their coach must've given one hell of a pre-race speech to get them to do that.
  • Running Gag:
    • See Artistic License – Geography above.
    • "Fuck you, X!" / "Fuck this guy!" John will issue this proclamation tongue-in-cheek for various reasons. For example, when the race horse California Chrome lost the chance to win the Triple Crown, he puts up a picture of the other horse and says "I wanted a different horse! Fuck this horse!"
    • Assigning names and entire fictional backstories to characters played by stock photo models while using their pictures in jokes, such as "Declan", the goldbricking douchebag son of a successful lawyer ("You're the WORST, Declan!"), and "Gerald", a fat guy who will pay $750 for a gym membership he won't use ("This is learning to speak Korean all over again, Gerald!").note 
    • Making up Twitter hashtags based on random jokes (e.g. #HalfAHemsworth for his claim that Liam Hemsworth is worth half of his brother Chris Hemsworth). Their most common is to include the pair "#Feminism, #[completely unrelated topic]" to anything remotely related to women.
    • At the end of most episodes, blowing a bunch of HBO's money on ridiculous stuff like Japanese mascots or a decently star studded trailer for a fake film about infrastructure or buying up $15 million dollars in medical debt and forgiving it all in the biggest TV giveaway in history.
    • "John Oliver is a rat-faced bastard." After setting up his Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption church, John received a note and a t-shirt calling him such. Later, in fake advertisement for Peeble, an app in which users are rated by Mario van Peebles, Mario calls him a rat-faced bastard and gives him two stars. The trailer for the third season featured one of Cher's tweets, which said John has a "wee rat face" (with the rat represented by a rat emoji).
    • Saying that only a certain group can successfully make an article of clothing look good, then showing an image of Gwyneth Paltrow doing the same as a counterpoint.
      John: [...] The Secret Service, the only people on Earth who can pull off aviator sunglasses, Gwyneth.
    • "Janice in Accounting don't give a fuck."
    • As of 2017, mentions of "President Trump" are followed by examples of other words that just sound wrong together, with the latter generally being famous people with not-quite-common names, such as "walrus porn" or "Tilda Swinton".
    • John absolutely hates Caillou.
    • Referring to Sean Spicer as Melissa McCarthy, following her portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live.
    • Whenever John wants to relay a message to Donald Trump directly, he takes out an ad on programs Trump watches, always narrated by the Catheter Cowboy, a parody of catheter ads in which a cowboy shills said product.
    • Shilling DeWalt ladders and taking swipes at their competition, Werner, while insisting that he's only doing so out of a personal fondness for the former.
    • John insisting that the Olsen Twins are in fact one person who is moving back and forth at superhuman speeds to create the illusion of being two people, and that there is a grand conspiracy to convince the world there are two of them, for reasons he cannot understand.
    • The Celebrity Resemblance between John and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

     S-Z 
  • Sarcasm Mode: Anytime he ends a clip of people saying or doing Totally Radical stuff, he says "Cool" in the most flattened, forced inflection.
  • Scam Religion: See Corrupt Church above.
  • The Scapegoat: He calls out some Republican nominees for blaming mass shootings on mental illness so they won't have to address the issue of gun control; even though mentally ill people are more likely to the victims, rather than the perpetrators, of violent crimes.
  • Sdrawkcab Name: In the segment about multilevel marketing, Market America CEO JR Ridinger uses this to explain how his company isn't a pyramid; he calls it a 'dimaryp'.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: John lampshades this in the segment on stadiums, when he notes that a boastful rap about San Diego, created by a local rap artist to convince the city council to fund a new stadium for the San Diego Chargers,note  includes the line "San Diego...second largest city", which Oliver noted is a "strange boast for a rap song":
    John: "Yo, I got the second hottest car/'cause I'm the second most paid/when I walk into the club/I get the second most laid!"
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • John admits that his credit report is probably low, given he spends HBO's money on "silly costumes, Impressive Pyrotechnics and checkered shirts."
    • In the segment on journalism, while playing an old clip, to showcase the show's reliance on printed references:
      John: You probably didn't notice it at the time because you were too fixated on my bold choice of shiny gray tie with checkered dress shirt. The tie says "Matthew funeral", the shirt says "high school debate tournament" and the face says "I am not confident enough to carry this look off".
    • The season 4 trailer has the narrator dramatically announce the return of HBO's greatest/hit/whathaveyou show... which isn't Last Week Tonight show and John keeps showing up uninvited.
    • He does it again in the first episode of season four, referencing his haters about his show, saying that they most likely call it Last Cuck Tonight with Johnny Triggerwarning.
    • John refers to Britain as the place where he is "affectionately" known as "Who?"
    • When Alex Jones attributed John's popularity to the "legitimate" sound of his British accent, John was quick to issue a rebuttal the only way he knows how.
    John: My British accent does not sound intellectual. Believe me, I sound like a chimney sweep passing through a wood chipper.
  • "Sesame Street" Cred: Just in case a pastiche wasn't enough, here's him on the real thing. And in the segment on lead poisoning, Sesame Street characters came to the show.
  • Serious Business: A segment regarding the crown prince of Thailand landed John Oliver on their police watchlist, after he apparently violated a law prohibiting the mockery of that country's royalty. He decided to tempt fate further by insulting the royalty of Saudi Arabia, the Netherlands and Denmark, which have similar laws on the books.
  • Sexy Whatever Outfit: In the Halloween 2014 episode, John is shocked to discover that "sexy" female Halloween costume versions of both comedian Louis C.K.note  and himself are now available for purchase at the Playboy Store, commenting "I don't know if I've ever been as confused as I am right now" on the latter.
  • Shifting the Burden of Proof: Discussed in his segment on vaccines, where he lambasted Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) for employing the proving a negative version.
    John: Proving a negative is an impossible standard. And that is also a slippery slope, because that means that I can say to you, "You, Dan Burton, are a donkey fucker. You dress up donkeys in cheerleader outfits, and you fuck them. It's what you're into, and you do it all the time." And you will say to me, "Well wait, there is absolutely no evidence of me doing that", but I would say "Turn that around - there is no evidence of you not doing that, either."
  • Significant Anagram: "Soybean Wind", because Dabo Swinney, a college football coach with a $3 million salary and personal licensing deals sadly denouncing entitlement in the sport, "seems as pleasant as an edamame fart".
  • Sinister Minister: The televangelists, who have been shown to ask for large donations from people who can't afford them, and who use those donations for personal enrichment. One egregious example is Mike Murdock, who, in one clip, bragged about purchasing two jets with cash, then passive-aggressively chided the less-than-responsive crowd as being "jealous", and requested $1000 donations from people in another clip (explicitly promising those who donated despite being in deep debt that "God will wipe out your credit card indebtedness").
  • Shamu Fu: Upon seeing a video of a salmon catapult designed to launch them upstream, John decides he must make his own. He then decides to test it, resulting in a montage of many celebrities getting smacked by fake fish.
  • Shout-Out:
    • During the segment on student loans, John includes a reference to Community, on which he played Professor Duncan, much to the audience's glee.
      John: ...and you don't even get to hang out with a study group of lovable scamps for, let's say, six seasons and a movie.
    • In the title sequence, over a Gorilla, is the phrase "Damned Dirtius Apus".
    • Twice the opening had an homage to an retiring television host, Hostus Letterman and Hostus Maximus (Oliver's former employer Jon Stewart).
    • After Ronda Rousey won her bout in UFC 190 by knockout in 34 seconds, she was featured on the final slide with the title Gladiatrix.
    • Over John's shoulder in the collage of real landmarks is Dragonstone, Stannis' castle on Game of Thrones.
    • When referring to a St. Louis deputy who explicitly called for more racial profiling in an internal memo:
      John: Let's be fair here, "Let's have a black day" is an awesome thing to say − if you are Shaft.
  • Slut-Shaming: Discussed in the segment about sex education. Material for abstinence-only sex ed compares non-virgins (especially women) to a chewed-up stick of gum, an used shoe and so on. When he mentions Elizabeth Smart, who received abstinence-only sex education after having been kidnapped and raped as a child, John notes that she would have been better off if she had called in sick that day and learned nothing.
  • Smoking Hot Sex: Referenced in the segment about tobacco, when John is talking about how prevalent smoking used to be.
    John: It used to be a cornerstone of American life. It was how you knew sex was over before the female orgasm was invented.
  • Soccer-Hating Americans: John acknowledges that his American audience might not understand the epic scale of the FIFA scandals, as in America, "soccer is something you pick your 12-year-old daughter from."
  • Some of My Best Friends Are X: In his segment on the 2016 riots in Charlotte, Oliver comments that Representative Robert Pittenger should defy this trope when commenting on race relations. When Pittenger did claim that he did have several black friends, Oliver commented that he (Pittenger) did not: he had, at best, one Black Best Friend, and he was likely angry at those comments.
  • Song Parody:
    • In response to learning that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's music downloads include "I'm So Sexy" by Right Said Fred, and realizing that we're basically never getting rid of Assad because the alternative is even worse, John decides there is only one recourse: actually getting Right Said Fred to do a parody of their own song calling out Assad.
    • Michael Bolton also did "How Am I Are We Supposed to Live Without You", about the IRS.
  • Stage Mom: Argues that the reason that Sandy Hook was not a false flag attack (keep in mind that one supporter of this theory is a trusted source according to Donald Trump) is that if they had hired child actors, their stage moms still would not stop bragging about it.
  • Start My Own: Occasionally does this as part of any story about certain industries or businesses being too unregulated. Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption is probably the biggest example.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: John Oliver jokingly claims that crying in public is punishable by banishment in Britain. Doing so during in theatre preview for The Notebook is what got him exiled to the United States.
  • The Stoic: Steve Scully, "the most patient man on television."
  • Stock Footage: When John breaks down an attack ad against what it calls a bailout of Puerto Rico, he points out that the sad old people in the ad are stock footage models. And the entire stock footage of one of those people shows that he's smiling.
    John: Hey, Stock Footage Man, you've been used in a manipulative attack ad!
    [Stock Footage Man looks sad]
    John: Oh, don't be sad. Let's get some ice cream!
    [Stock Footage Man smiles]
    John: Oh, you know what? Bad news... They're out of ice cream.
    [Stock Footage Man looks sad again]
    John: But they have cake!
    [Stock Footage Man smiles again]
    John: Pound cake, though...
    [Stock Footage Man looks sad yet again]
    John: ...with strawberries!
    [Stock Footage Man smiles yet again]
    John: Oh, Stock Footage Man, you're America's greatest living actor!
  • Stop Being Stereotypical:
    • The segment on François Hollande details how he would sneak out after midnight to pick up his mistress on a moped, "a sequence of events so stereotypically French, it's almost offensive."
    • Even John Oliver thinks British Prime Minister David Cameron embodies everything that's wrong with England, and Oliver himself is English.
    • France's film ratings board greenlighting Fifty Shades of Grey as suitable for 12+ is perhaps the "Frenchest thing imaginable", and that's coming from a compromise decision because some thought it shouldn't have any age restriction.
      John: [as a cigarette-smoking, wine-drinking child in a striped shirt] "Yes, it was an amusing erotic trifle, I zuppose − ze lovemaking was passable, but, uh... belt-play is a leetle pedestrian, don't you zhink?"
    • During his segment on France's 2017 presidential election, he described Jean Lassalle as "almost offensively French".
      John: His entire life seems like an attempt to win the game show called "So You Think You Can France".
    • A British newscaster saying that the extremely close race between David Cameron and Ed Miliband could "potentially get a little bit exciting" is, according to John, "quintessentially British enthusiasm."
    • The entirety of the scandal facing Baron Sewel and the House of Lords, including Sewel's unflappably polite demeanor during a cocaine-fueled tryst with prostitutes, his insistence of turning a photograph of his wife face-down, The Sun coarsely referring to a woman's breasts as "boobs", and Sewel calling one of the prostitutes "luvvie darling" while indignantly replying that he doesn't waste taxpayers' money on lunch, he wastes it on them. The segment finally ends with a recitation of some of the Lords' Upper-Class Twit names, paired with fitting photographs of animals and scored by harpsichord music.
    • The Canadian senate scandal.
      John: Wow. Hockey and fishing trips. This scandal could not be any more Canadian if public money was used to get Drake to drink maple syrup on Niagara Falls.
      [later, after further footage of the scandal]
      John: A man named Terry going to a curling club anniversary. Kudos, Canada. You made this scandal more Canadian after I explicitly said that that could not be done. Well played. Well played, Canada.
  • Streisand Effect: invoked
    • Discussed in the segment on the "Right to be Forgotten", as Mario Costeja-Gonzalez, the man from Spain who petitioned the European Union for the rule to be legislated did so in regards to his personal debts from 1998.
      John: In doing so, he's now world-famous for being "That Spanish guy with debts from 1998". The only thing I know about him is the only thing he didn't want me to know.
    • This happened again during his segment about the Coal industry, as the show was sent a Cease & Desist letter by Murray Energy, which prompted them to focus even more on that particular company than they had initially planned to. The company filed a suit just 3 days later.
      John: Bob Murray, I didn't really plan for so much of this piece to be about you, but you kind of forced my hand on that one.
  • Stylistic Suck: The prosperity-gospel megachurch John set up, "Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption", had its very own website, and it was exactly as cheesy-looking as you'd expect.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial:
    • In discussing the right to remove embarrassing links from internet searches, John plays a clip of CNBC anchor Brian Sullivan hypothetically suggesting "that article of me running over a squirrel on my bicycle while drunk and naked" as something one might want removed. John concludes that Sullivan must have done this in the past, as it is too bizarrely specific to be a spontaneous, off-the-cuff example and not something he is personally familiar with − then, just in case there isn't a photo somewhere of Sullivan doing just that, he creates a Photoshopped approximation of it, and declares it will soon be everywhere on the Internet (true to form, "squirrel" shot up to the second Google Search suggestion when typing "Brian Sullivan", and remains near the top to this day).
    • Oliver maintains that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stating outright that he isn't secretly a dingo, then adding that he had to look up what the animal was on the Internet, is exactly how a dingo would lie about being a dingo disguised as a human being.
    • After British prime minister David Cameron was connected to a shell corporation mentioned in the Panama Papers, Cameron responded in a speech saying he "doesn't own shares in that company". The press took such wording as an invitation to look further, and found that yes, he was correct: Cameron didn't own shares in that company at the time he made the statement, because he had already sold them.
    • John pointed out that Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, had asked a rather bizarre question seemingly rhetorically, asking one of her critics whether they thought the government had paid for their European honeymoon. John pointed out that this was a suspicious thing to ask out of nowhere, and indeed, surprising absolutely no one, it ultimately surfaced that they indeed tried to get the government to pay for it (fortunately, it refused).
  • Take That!:
    • During a segment on native advertising in online news websites, he points out that HBO has no sponsors, meaning he doesn't need to watch what he says about various products, and promptly gives out take thats to Cadbury Creme Eggs, Old Navy clothing, and Snickers bars, just to show that he can. Later, he does a phony "native advertisement" for Mountain Dew Code Red, and afterwards bitterly refers to it as "the most disgusting fucking drink ever manufactured" (although, true to its name, it does taste a lot like the color red).
    • John is clearly one of the many people that is not incredibly fond of the New York Port Authority Bus Terminal, "also known as the single worst place on Planet Earth."
    • When making his bid to have the 2022 Winter Olympics hosted in his studio by complying with their bizarre demands, he offers a cooler with various Coca Cola products, including Vanilla Coke.
      John: It's like drinking a Glade plugin.
    • After watching the Turner Doomsday Video,note  he states the only comforting thought is that the marching band will also die. He also compares marching bands to jails: something that if you're in for at least a little while, will ruin you.
    • In the segment about Japanese mascots, he calls Japan "a nation so vibrant, not even Sofia Coppola and the band Air could make it boring."
    • He likens political scandals during election campaigns to raisins on cookies: they shouldn't be there, and they disgust people.
    • The segment on multi-level marketing, in which he gives proof that shows that most are pyramid schemes, ends with Oliver instructing people to pass on this video to others in what is basically... you guessed it... a pyramid scheme. The show even produces a Spanish language version of the same segment for its YouTube channel hosted by Jaime Camil for the same purpose, after noting how multi-level marketing schemes frequently recruit Latinos. To drive the point further, that episode featured a clip from the Mexican telenovela La Fea mas Bella (a Remake of the Colombian Yo soy Betty, la fea, the same telenovela that was the basis for Ugly Betty) where some of the main characters talk about the benefits of Herbalife products, and where Jaime Camil was the male romantic lead.
    • Really, it's easier to name a reference to a person, country... ice cream flavor ("Strawberry is for perverts!") or any other thing that hasn't received one. Once case being a subversion in which John said that the only one that could pull off being three different sex offenders is Neil Patrick Harris not as an insult, but because he's that amazing of an actor.
  • Talks Like a Simile: A major portion of the show's humor, where John constantly crafts absurd, outrageous metaphors just to properly describe the equally absurd, outrageous situations the show covers.
  • Tank Goodness: The segment on the racial discrimination by local police that led to the August 2015 riots in Ferguson, Missouri and police militarization has a part where John mocks an advertisement of the Doraville, Georgia police force's new tank with the original background music—Dope's "Die Motherfucker Die"—being switched out and replaced with Simon & Garfunkel's "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" to illustrate how the footage doesn't pair well with any other song than the former.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: Discussed when talking about chicken farmers. Various descriptions of a bunch of animals whose taste is likened to chicken leads John to state that there's no equivalent in other senses ("How weird would it seem if I said 'everything looks like tables'?").
  • Tastes Like Feet:
    • "Pumpkin-spice lattes taste like candles taste. Don't ask me how I know that."
    • The segment parodying Bud Light ads contains many such similes, comparing its taste to among other things "a liquid John Mayer song," "water spraying from a gutter full of dogs' teeth," "the ghost of a dead lemon" and "a racoon [ejaculating] carbonated vinegar inside of an old log".
    • John pleads with FIFA's sponsors to "Sepp Blatter go away", promising to drink a Bud Light Lime, which he describes as tasting like a puddle beneath a dumpster at a Long John Silver's restaurant. In a later segment when he keeps his promise, he has a few more things to say about Bud Light Lime before downing a bottle of it.
  • Teach Him Anger: John admires how polite and milquetoast North Dakotans are (including showing a picture of a real billboard there that simply says "Be Polite"), but after discovering how much damage is being done to them by the oil industry, John produced a video encouraging North Dakotans to get angry at the oil industry instead of welcoming them. He also had a billboard put up telling them "Be Angry. (Please.)"
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: John argues that the relationship between the American taxpayer and the IRS should be this. They're not a likable institution, and it sucks having to deal with them, but at the end of the day they are here to help you and it's not their fault that taxes are high or overly complicated. They definitely don't deserve to have their budget slashed by 20%, or to be compared to the Gestapo, or to be forced to wipe down checks soaked in mustard.
  • Tastes Like Purple: John mentions that Mountain Dew: Code Red actually does taste like the color red.
  • Tempting Fate:
    • When Justice Antonin Scalia notes that the media could easily distort the Supreme Court's sound bites if there were televised broadcasts, John uses the blue backdrop behind him to insert the orgy circle from Eyes Wide Shut.
    • Noting that former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg bought up multiple .nyc domain names related to himself, some with unflattering comments about his height, John reveals that some potential ones that Bloomberg didn't acquire which were purchased by Last Week Tonight to mock him, like Tiny, Tiny Mike Bloomberg, which contains nothing but a single Photoshop of him sleeping in a matchbox with a cotton swab for a pillow.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: Once the mayor of Paris states that any Americans sad that their president jumped off the Paris Agreements are welcome to France, John's reaction is:
  • Think of the Children!:
    • John notes that the argument for doing something about man-made climate change used to be so we could leave a better world for our children. He concludes, based on the fact that opposition to doing so is still so fierce, that they've decided "Eh, fuck 'em."
    • When the New Hampshire legislature introduced a bill written by a little girl requesting to make the Red-Tailed Hawk the state's official raptor, the legislature, against all common sense, proceeded to engage in ridiculous debates over it, and one of them proceeded to use it as a segue to say that the hawk's sharp talons, which it uses to tear into its prey, makes it a better mascot for Planned Parenthood. This naturally left John bewildered.
      John: What is wrong with you?! A) this doesn't matter, B) the children are in the room, and C), this doesn't matter. Just vote "yes" and make [the children] happy! Sadly, the story didn't end there, because state representative Warren Groan also decided it was appropriate to use the Red-Tailed Hawk to make a completely unnecessary point. [cue said point being shown, followed by the audience's collective shock] "What the fuck are you talking about?!"
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Edward Norton combines this with complicated engineering lingo in the fake movie trailer for Infrastructure:
    "I'm ordering uniaxial tests of the slab transverse to the deck corrugations with additional reinforcement and tension tests of the support fastener connections between the deck and the girders... bitch!"
  • This Is Going to Be Huge: New rules stripping net neutrality could mean John's web startup "Nutflix" may not get off the ground. It's going to be the top website for videos of guys getting hit in the nuts.
    John: You don't even know you want it yet. That's why it's brilliant!
  • Torture Is Ineffective: John discusses the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who revealed secrets of a terrorist plot in Montana, but nobody had realized that he was just lying until after a while.
    John: Yeah, of course he was lying. What part of the phrase, "Recruiting African-American Muslims in Montana" did not make you call "bullshit" instantly?!
  • Trailer Spoof: As said on Self-Deprecation, season 4 was promoted with a trailer that said Last Week Tonight wasn't HBO's "biggest show on Sundays" (Game of Thrones), "smash hit comedy that is debuting its fourth season" (Silicon Valley) or "long-awaited return" (the Un-Cancelled Curb Your Enthusiasm).
  • Tranquil Fury:
    • Upon viewing a clip where Clemson Tigers football coach Dabo Swinney refuses to entertain the notion of paying student athletes because "there's enough entitlement in this world as it is" − keeping in mind that he's making millions off the kids, and has trademarked his own name to make even more money − John brightly smiles and informs the audience that "Dabo Swinney" is an anagram of "Soybean Wind", a not-so-subtle call to action for his audience to humiliate Swinney on social media (#SoybeanWind).
    • Just watch his entire segment on transgender rights. For the entire segment, John's tone has an undercurrent of barely restrained fury, as though he desperately wants to hit some of the people in the clips he was lambasting. In particular is his reaction to Mike Huckabee's comments about transgender bathroom rights:
      Mike Huckabee: We are now in city after city, watching ordinances that say that your 7-year-old daughter, if she goes into the restroom, cannot be offended and you cannot be offended if she's greeted there by a 42-year-old man who feels like a woman more than he does a man. Now, I wish someone had told me when I was in high school that I could have felt like a woman when it came time to take showers in P.E. I'm pretty sure I would have found my feminine side and said, "Coach, I think I'd rather shower with the girls today." You're laughing because it sounds so ridiculous, doesn't it? There's something inherently wrong with forcing little children to be part of this social experiment.
      John: No. But, uh, there is something inherently wrong with forcing us to listen to your fucked up daydreams about all the sex crimes you would have committed as a teenager, had you just been able to find a legal loophole! That's weird!
  • Trapped in Villainy: In his segment on the return of prisoners to society, John notes how half of all prisoners eventually return to the prison system. In one instance, he notes because one parolee was charged a fee for a parole officer or be sent back to jail, that parolee could end up dealing drugs to pay back the parole officer.
  • The Triple:
    • The Cuban embargo.
      John: Cubans blame the embargo for everything. The economy, the weather, the complete collapse of Homeland in its second season...
    • Among Florida's many common misdemeanors: feeding meth to an alligator, feeding an alligator to a meth dealer, or being an alligator / meth dealer.
    • John manages to nest one triple inside another in response to Donald Trump's claim that Trump University had a 98% approval rating.
      John: The only things that have 98% approval ratings are dictatorships, Pixar movies, and Neopolitan ice cream: You have chocolate for the chocoholics, vanilla for the blands, and strawberry for the perverts.
  • Tyop on the Cover:
    • The Miss America Foundation website's "About Us" page would greet you with the sentence "We Fun Scholars!"
      John: You really might want to butt-glue a "d" onto the end of that word.
    • The segment on vaccines included a TV news report titled "Swapping Spit & Passing Pus." However, on the title graphic, the word "pus" was spelled with two S's.
      John: Swapping spit and passing puss sounds like the sex talk that Kid Rock would give his teenage son.
  • The Tyson Zone: John discusses it in reference to a rumor about Iraqi terrorist group ISIS.
  • Understatement: In the segment on nuclear weapons, when a report says that the North Dakota facilities housing the United States' nuclear stockpile are getting rid of personnel and the proficiency of the place is barely passable, the only thing John says is "that's not great".
  • Unicorn: In his Grand Romantic Gesture to woo Scotland back to remaining part of the United Kingdom near the end of his segment on the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, John brings out two guys dressed as Scotland's national animal, the unicorn.
  • Unishment: While discussing Mandatory Minimums, John demonstrates how much of an anti-drug fervor America was in the 1980s and 1990s by showing a couple of anti-drug PSAs and some choice clips from Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue. Afterwards, he points out:
    John: [Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue] had a clear message to kids: "If you do drugs, all your favorite cartoon characters will show up and talk to you. Is that what you want? Is that what you want?"
  • Unfortunate Implications: invoked Discussed. An anti-Scottish independence ad showed a housewife as clearly conflicted and unsure about the voting process. John took it as portraying women as lacking the mental fortitude to make the decision.
  • Unusual Euphemism: John coins the term "Libyan pool party" for any backfire of military action (Vietnam, Iraq, etc.), taken from a clip of Libyan rebels capturing an embassy and then having a pool party.
  • Upper-Class Twit: British Prime Minister David Cameron. Listening to him, John admits Scotland's bid for independence isn't unexpected.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: John's interpretation of the Egyptian tourism board, who managed to get the rest of the world to still associate the country with the pyramids of Giza rather than the region's widespread practice of female genital mutilation.
  • Violent Glaswegian: In the segment about the Scottish independence vote, John commented that Scotland's national flower is the thistle, and mused that they probably chose it becase it's a flower they can stab someone's throat with; and when he mentioned later that, if the vote succeeded, their currency would change from the British pound sterling to the one they had before joining the United Kingdom, he assumed that said currency was "sheep and threats."
  • Waxing Lyrical:
  • We All Live in America:
    • The opening sequence has a globe with the title "America Et Al".
    • Mocked with the segment "Other Countries' Presidents of the United States," which ironically profiles buffoonish and controversial Presidents and Prime Ministers from foreign countries.
  • We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties: The "Please Stand By" variant is used when John implores Thailand to google Hitler:
    "Please Stand By While Thailand Googles Hitler"
  • We Have Reserves: During the segment on nuclear weapons when talking about the (non-lethal) Goldsboro Incident, where the government accidentally threw two nuclear bombs on North Carolina.
    John: You're probably thinking: "OK, alright. We nearly blew up one of the Carolinas. But that's basically why we have two."
  • Wham Line: So far, twice.
    • While discussing the NSA, John points out that the best person to talk to on the subject is Edward Snowden, who's still in Moscow. Talking to him is not easy because of Russia's draconian travel restrictions, plus an uncomfortable ten-hour flight... and John knows all of this because he flew to Moscow to speak with Snowden.
    • The second time is about the Dalai Lama, where he again reveals that he traveled to India to meet up with him on a fourteen-hour flight.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Frequently, John will explode at a target of his criticism.
  • Why We Can't Have Nice Things: John and "Wanda Jo" use this phrase to explain why the mock ministry Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption is being shut down. Ultimately, people took the requests for "seeds" literally, in a bad way:
    Mega-Reverend John: We received—and this is all too true—not one, not two, not three, but four packages containing jars and/or vials of semen. And some looked fake, but others did not!
  • Worst News Judgment Ever:
    • Invoked by John in the segment on pennies and their obsolescence, admitting that it's not what you'd call an urgent matter, but since it's the last show of the second season, it's an easy, agreeable, low-effort note to go out on; he even goes on to point out that two different news teams from New York and L.A. have both run filler segments which just consisted of dumping a bag of pennies on the sidewalk and filming the indifference of passersby.
      John: Throwing pennies on the ground is essentially catnip to local news crews. "Hey, did an old woman celebrate a birthday?" "No." "Okay, did an animal do something funny?" "No." "Okay, get me a handful of pennies and a camera, I'm getting us to the 10:30 repeat of Friends! WHO WANTS A PENNY?!"
    • In his segment on journalism, John points out that the increasing financial difficulty of print news, especially local companies, can lead to them emphasizing less important "clickbait" stories over more relevant but boring stories about corruption or world events. This is exemplified by a clip of former Tribune Company owner Sam Zellnote  telling employees of the Orlando Sentinel that they need to focus on stories the readers want over the objections of a journalist insisting that they need to inform the community, which he punctuated by telling the journalist who raised the objection "fuck you".
  • WTH, Casting Agency?: Invoked by John when he complains about the mentally ill being placed in nursing homes.
    John: It's like casting Taylor Lautner in the new Best Exotic Marigold Hotel movie; it's unsuitable for everybody involved in it.
  • You Bastard: John isn't afraid to point out when the viewing audience might have some fault for the things he criticises. For example, at the end of his segment on native advertising, in which he criticises the insidious and increasingly unethical ways in which advertisers are slipping advertising into news content, he points out that the reason they are forced to go to such lengths is that the public has been spoiled by the easy availability of free news media thanks to the Internet, meaning that this is one of the only ways they can stay afloat.
  • You Have Got to Be Kidding Me!:
    • The "How Is This Still a Thing?" segments, which cover some kind of trend or event which has persisted despite perceived problems, outdated rhetoric, or waning public interest. Columbus Day and Ayn Rand are two examples.
    • The "People Who Somehow Got Elected" segments, which profile politicians who were elected to public office despite glaring personality flaws; Maine governor Paul LePage is the first subject. The "Other Countries' Presidents of the United States" segments similarly profile world leaders whose flaws also should have precluded them from becoming heads of state.
  • You Keep Using That Word:
  • You Monster!: John ends his second web segment on fan mail (YouTube comments, to be precise) by stating, "You're all monsters, goodnight!"
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: John Oliver notes that North Korea had the gall to call United States torture techniques "brutal medieval." And he says that probably the most insulting thing about it is that North Korea probably meant that as a compliment.

Alternative Title(s): Last Week Tonight

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Series/LastWeekTonightWithJohnOliver