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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, thank you so much for joining me! 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 Segments are split up by short, narrated sequences that either attack an outdated cultural item, or use a montage of clips of media personalities and politicians doing silly things.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.

And Now, These Tropes:

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    Tropes A to G 
  • Aborted Arc: The episode on "Stupid Watergate" ends with what would be the main segment, on the TSA, shortened to just three minutes but still featuring most of the research, weird background graphics, and Muppet penguins.
  • Accidental Aesopinvoked: John played a portion of Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue (as a depiction of how much of an Anti-Drug fervor we were in the 80s and 90s) before mentioning this:
    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?"
  • Actor Allusion: Once referred to his show as "Sad Zazu's Mildly Interesting Explain Train."
  • Actor/Role Confusion:
  • 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.
    • He finds that the name of Mike Pence's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, is actually a pretty clever name for a rabbit.
    • After the show did a bit about buying stuff from Russell Crowe's divorce auction, Crowe responded by donating the money to an Australian zoo's Koala Chlamydia ward ... on the condition that they name it after Oliver. The show added an entire segment in the next episode just to appreciate that joke.
  • Adam Westing: Deconstructed in his segment of the Green New Deal and global warming, where John brings in Bill Nye and asks the latter to explain global warming using whimsical special effects in a manner similar to Nye's old show. Nye then goes into a foul-mouthed tirade against the adults who grew up watching his show (including John) and fail to take his warnings on global warming seriously, much to John's displeasure.
  • Adjacent to This Complete Breakfast: John compares the ineffectiveness of "FDA Cleared" certification to this trope, saying that even heroin can be part of a balanced breakfast if you put it with enough healthy foodstuffs.
  • 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.
    • A whole segment was dedicated to this trope, known as Sponsored Content, which takes a look at this trope. He even makes a fake product called Venus Veil, a blanket which promoted sexual activity and had it promoted on local news. One thing that should have tipped off anyone off in doing just quick research is "cutting-edge technology developed in Germany about 80 years ago" which was during Nazi Germany. Oliver estimated the total cost of achieving everything at just $7,200.
  • 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 Donald. There just wasn't enough proof yet either way.
  • The Alleged Expert: Discussed in the episode on lethal injections. Since doctors aren't involved in executions for moral reasons, people with little to no experience in how the drugs work are used instead (despite their claims to the contrary), with horrifying results.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Discussed when covering Chief Justice John 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.
  • "Anger Is Healthy" Aesop: In an episode about North Dakota, John encouraged North Dakotans to be angry after discovering how much damage is being done to them by the oil industry. To encourage their anger, John produced a video encouraging North Dakotans to get angry at the oil industry instead of welcoming them. He even had a billboard put up telling them "Be Angry. (Please.)"
  • Animal Athlete Loophole: Cites this trope in his segment on the Italian election — just like there's no rule that says a dog can't play basketball, there's no law that says he can't run for Prime Minister.
  • Animal Motifs: Both John himself and others note  have frequently compared his appearance to that of a rat or a bird (particularly big-billed birds like puffins, parrots and toucans).
  • 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!
  • Anthropomorphic Vice: His segment on tobacco features Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat as an ironic mascot of Marlboro "compromising" between their desire to have mascots and countries' desire to have anti-smoking advertisement.
  • 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.
    • Coal mining magnate Bob Murray seems to have usurped Warner's position as John's nemesis, Murray troubling HBO with a lawsuit after John did a segment on him. Come 2019 and John fired back spectacularly.
  • Arson, Murder, and Admiration: In a segment on tobacco, John notes that the Loophole Abuse used by a tobacco company's legal team to make it possible for them to sue the country of Australia was so ingenious that you want to give those lawyers a pat on the back. Followed by a punch to the face, of course, but still...
  • 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 governments) do things. John then adds that if Orbán were to 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 admit Christians only, 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 segment, 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."
    • In the journalism segment, John noted how the Best Picture win for Spotlight finally gave newspapers the recognition that we normally reserve for important subjects like the incredible bravery of real-life Hollywood filmmakers, the incredible bravery of fictional Hollywood filmmakers, and the incredible bravery of wanting to fuck your daughter's friend.
    • During "Eat Shit Bob: The Musical," John and company insult Robert Murray (see Bring It below) in as many absurd and ridiculous ways as possible, knowing that satire is legally protected. Of the many awful things Bob Murray is accused of (including staring World War I, masturbating to Schindler's List, and having sex with squirrels) are "He wrote the Macarena and dots his i's with hearts," and "He doesn't like Tom Hanks."
    • In the segment on the bidding for the host of the 2022 Winter Olympics between Beijing and Kazakhstan, John points out the problems in choosing either of them: Both have appalling human rights records, Beijing doesn’t have a mountain for skiing within 50 miles, and the world will be subjected to two weeks of America’s foremost douchebags doing Borat impressions if Kazakhstan wins out.
  • Artifact Title: Last Week Tonight was clearly intended to be a weekly version of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart when it was created and named. The parallel name suggests Oliver's weekly show was, like its daily predecessor, to feature humorous discussions of current news first and foremost. However, Oliver's episodes are now mostly dedicated to deep-dives on topics of interest that usually (but not always) fall outside the week's news, with current events relegated to quick recaps at the start of the show. John lampshades this from time to time, such as in the episode about both the 2020 Republican National Convention and unrest in Kenosha, Wisconsin:
    John: We're actually going to dive straight in with our main story this week, which, unusually for us, concerns the week that we just had. It's one of the rare times we're actually living up to our show's title, unlike what should probably be called "28 Minutes on the Corn Tax or Whatever the Fuck with John Oliver".
  • 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".
    • Trump's questionable grasp on economics returns in an episode which discusses his obsession with the trade deficit in China. Oliver shows Trump talking about how the trade deficit means that not trading with China at all would save money.note  The guy spearheading the issue in the administration seems to be Peter Navarro. When an interviewer asked him to name any economists who agree with his views about international trade, he gave two names. One was a professor who said there is no evidence to support Navarro's claims, the other was a blogger whose response was that he has no degree in economics.
  • 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 Nicolás Maduro being sent mangoes written with demands for him to provide services, this time highlighting two wrong countries (Bolivia and Uruguay) before revealing that he 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 then 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 to the east of it, 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 Scottish terrier, 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 don't even realize that's not Bolivia, that's Colombia. Except it isn't, that's Venezuela, that is Colombia; except it isn't, that's Bolivia, which is the one we were looking for in the first place. Which one's Colombia? There is simply no way to know!
    • 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.
    • Another variant is during his endorsement web-exclusive, where he brings up how Trump is endorsed by Stephen Baldwin, showing a different one of the Baldwin brothers.
    • In his story about Facebook usage in Myanmar, John reveals that the graphic he's using for the country is actually Mikhail Gorbachev's birthmark.
  • Artistic License – Law:
    • John 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 John was in no trouble in any way, since "inducement" must involve offering some kind of material good like money to voters. By contrast, all John 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.
    • The September 11, 2022 segment is devoted to, of all things, Law & Order and its use of this trope, particularly in its depiction of the police. Namely, John deconstructs how Law And Order has, for decades, shaped the American public's understanding of how the criminal justice system works. Namely, John criticizes the franchise for side-stepping many of the realities that law enforcement has struggled with (e.g., police conduct towards people of color, rather low conviction rates, etc.), even if such artistic license would be necessary for the Police Procedural format. John also points out that, if a Medical Drama such as Grey's Anatomy had adopted a similar course of action regarding its subject matter, the conversation would be quite different.
    • While recounting the Murray Energy lawsuit, Oliver states that "all four Justices" of the West Virginia Supreme Court were impeached in a scandal over inappropriate spending. There are actually five positions on the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and while four Justices were indeed impeached, Justice Beth Walker escaped with little more than a reprimand for her part in the scandal. In addition, Justice Workman's impeachment trial has been postponed and she is still serving as a Justice on the court.
  • Artistic License – Religion: When reporting on Arkady Babchenko's faked death, Oliver compared the subsequent anger from his coworkers over being put through emotional turmoil to the Apostle Paul being peeved upon seeing Jesus at the resurrection. However, Paul never met Jesus in person during the latter's lifetime, was not at the resurrection, and wasn't an apostle yet. According to The Book of Acts, Paul's only encounter with Jesus was a divine vision that took place well after Christ had resurrected and returned to heaven, and during which Paul was an enemy of Christians.
  • 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.
  • AstroTurf: Oliver dedicated the August 12, 2018 episode to this. Oliver states that large corporations fund groups that look like grassroots organizations to counter actual grassroots movements that seek to bring attention to issues that affect society (global climate change, environmental protection, gun violence, etc.).
  • 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). One time, he simulates a viewer doing a picture-in-picture to the Entourage movie rather than watch a discussion on Economic Development Incentives, only for them to return following an awful one-liner.
  • Awesome Mc Cool Name: Argues that a major part of Donald Trump's success as a businessman and as a politician is connected to the inherently "rich", successful-sounding name "Trump" ("Trump! — It's the sound produced when a mouthy servant is slapped across the face with a wad of $1,000 bills!"), and upon learning about his family history, as what became #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain, tries to reintroduce viewers to the man and his known negative qualities under the name "Donald Drumpf".
  • Backhanded Apology: Done for laughs when John "apologized" for being snarky about Fifty Shades of Grey.
    John: 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.
    • One segment is introduced like this:
      John: Pornography: some people believe it should be available and accessible without stigma, others believe "well, it's not for me but its fine for other people in certain situations," and a few people believe it should be banned altogether. Oh I'm sorry, did I say pornography, I mean abortion. Our main story tonight is abortion.
    • After showing a Brazilian political ad with a spinning sign with the names of ex-president Lula and his candidate Haddad, John attempts this with a sign with (Gary) "Busey" and "Lucy" and states that "one is America's sweetheart and the other married Desi Arnaz".
  • 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."
    • In the beginning of the segment on Amazon's unions, John compares Jeff Bezos to Lex Luthor.
      John: Let's move on to Amazon, a company run by Jeff Bezos, who answers the question "What if Lex Luthor was-" And that's it. Just "What if Lex Luthor was?" He's a bald business maniac with too much money, zero empathy and weird supervillain vehicles. He is just Lex Luthor.
  • Barbershop Quartets Are Funny: Used to great effect during the musical number to celebrate the case filed against him by Bob Murray being officially dismissed. Accusing a man of being a furry who has sex with squirrels? Strange. Having a barbershop quartet of seven-foot squirrels do it? Hilarious!
  • 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.
  • Better the Devil You Know: Deconstructed in the episode about Medicare for All, as John discusses the reluctance of many Americans, including many American politicians, to retool the American health care system substantially into a universal health care system like the UK's National Health Service, pointing out how this reluctance only exacerbates the problems with the current system.
    John: I get that big change is scary. It is human nature to prefer the devil you know over an uncertain alternative. But the devil you know is still a devil.
  • 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".
    • From Season 3 onwards, Donald Trump has cemented his position as this.
  • 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 in the fantasy sports segment noted how Time Warner is a partner of FanDuel. AT&T's purchase of Time Warner led to some potshots at them as well. The episodes paired with the last season of Game of Thrones add in some more shots against HBO and how they're gonna be without their biggest show.
    • From "Coronavirus V": John claims that cell phone towers in Britain that had been set on fire by conspiracy theorists is "ridiculous, although, not as ridiculous as the fact that those flaming cell-towers almost certainly still offered better cell coverage than AT&T".
      Oh, that's right, business-daddy! You thought a pandemic would bring us together? Of course not! Our feud must be an essential service, 'cause it's still in business. Seriously, though, BD, I-I do hope you're safe and healthy. I can't wait to talk to you as soon as this is over... and as soon as I can get more than one bar of service.
    • Season 7 episodes have offered potshots directed at HBO Max (which includes Last Week Tonight in its roster), with Oliver stating he still has no idea what it is even after its launch.
    • In "Sheriffs", he also heavily criticized Disney after learning that their Hotstar streaming service, which carries Last Week Tonight in India, was censoring content that made light of the company or its characters and aimed to double down on irking them.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • After being told he's now on the NSA's "list" for being "associated" with Edward Snowden, John insists that he never met him right after conducting a televised interview with him. And while a freezeframe of said interview is still on the screen.
    • He also compares many lawmaker's suspicious insistence that abortion laws are for protecting women's health is to a computer folder labeled "definitely not porn". In fact, a lot of it actually falls under Artistic License – Medicine such as requiring doctors to claim that abortions can cause breast cancer.
  • 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 victimless crimes.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick:
    • In the "Lead" episode, John reacts to an old clip describing the titular element as "humble" by suggesting some other personalities for metals: "Passionate zinc, whimsical copper, or incredibly racist tin."
    • One "And Now, This" segment featured the narrator giving new names to the dogs who participated in the 2021 Westminster Dog Show. Almost all of them were goofy names based on their appearance or just non-sensical, such as "Beef", "Good Carl", and "Bad Carl", except one of them, "Cuban Exile and CIA Asset Antonio Veciana Claimed He Witnessed a High-Ranking CIA Officer Meet with Lee Harvey Oswald in September of 1963."
  • 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 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, Opie!"
    • 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 program:
      Lloyd Austin: It's a small number and the ones that are left... er... we're talking... four or five.
  • Brick Joke: Employed often, as something shown at the beginning of the segment will be brought back for the payoff.
    • 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 make women somehow 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 a fucking idiot.
    • North Korea loves accordions, and John lists "Weird Al" Yankovic as one of the few people who share this opinion. So the segment ends with Al singing a polka asking North Korea not to nuke the U.S.
    • In the episode about the crisis in Venezuela, John introduces Venezuela as the country that "gave the world oil, seven Miss Universes, six Miss Worlds and one Wilmer Valderrama," and at one point mentions embattled Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro's infamous claim that his late predecessor Hugo Chávez appeared to him as a bird. So of course a bird appears at the end sending a message to President Maduro, and guess who plays the bird?
    • John says that the Brett Kavanaugh hearings are so bad he can't talk about the new Philadelphia Flyers mascot, Gritty, as much as he wishes to due to Gritty's really weird appearance. By the end of the episode-long segment, John decides that Gritty will stand in for Kavanaugh on their animal Supreme Court.
    • At various points during the Trump presidency, whenever he became embroiled in a scandal that seemed to be the end of him, John brought out a button and shouted "We got him!", unfurling a banner and triggering a celebration. When Trump lost the 2020 election, the Couch Gag of the next episode featured the "WE GOT HIM!" banner.
  • Brief Accent Imitation:
    • John 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.
    • John 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."
  • Bring It:
    • While discussing the 2015 Canadian federal election, 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 Prime Minister 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 the show not to badmouth him or his company, Murray Energy, on the grounds that if he did, he would sue. John 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". John 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 "Mr. Nutter Butter", a guy in a giant squirrel costume, holding a Giant Novelty Check with the phrase "Eat Shit Bob" written on it. Not surprisingly, Murray filed a defamation suit on John and Time Warner citing "character assassination," something he had done in the past against media outlets that criticized him and his company. Months later, the suit was thrown out of court, because the West Virginia State Supreme Court, where the case was filed, ruled that Murray had no basis to sue on the grounds that John's comments were satire, which is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution, and the segment criticizing Murray Energy's safety track record was based on public record.
  • 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.
    • The looming Brexit deadline with no deal in place seems to have finally broken it. One MP even defends Prime Minister Theresa May's reworked deal by calling it a "polished turd" in Parliament. Another MP refers to the remaining options as "a pig's ear, a dog's dinner, and a cat's anus."
  • Broken Aesop: In-Universe, he considers a Singaporean anti-gambling PSA about a kid whose father is a gambler 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.
  • Broken Pedestal: In the episode about the 2018 Mexican presidential elections, one candidate openly stating that he doesn't believe in Santa Claus somehow makes Santa himself appear on the show. John is overjoyed, but soon becomes pretty upset after he finds out that Santa Claus spends all year masturbating. And this is before he reveals that his yoga classes allow him to blow himself.
  • Buffy Speak: When introducing the Stand Your Ground Law segment, John describes guns as "big pew-pew sticks that go boom-boom".
  • Bully Hunter: John is a variation; while he does not actually go out to hunt down the corrupt, he is more than capable of humiliating said social-villains by exposing their cruelty and turning public opinion against them through his wicked wit and biting sense of humor.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • New Zealand, and by extension its prime minister (2008-2016) John Key. Also the state of Florida.
    • John himself sometimes takes his Self-Deprecation to this level. One example being the 2018 Italian election episode, where, after noting that one of the candidates for prime minister appeared on an Italian game show and lost (a received some harsh mockery from the host), he shows himself losing an old Italian game show and receiving similar harsh mockery. Look at how traumatized he appears.
  • The Caligula: In his segment of monarchies, John 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, John 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 because one of FIFA's sponsors is a beer company; 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 episode on S.L.A.P.P. (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) Suits, explains that these lawsuits rarely ever make it to court, with both parties either settling outside of the courtroom, or, more frequently, with the defendant deciding not to pursuit the matter any further, because the plaintiff is usually a large corporation with an Army of Lawyers and near unlimited cash supply. Oliver mentions that the S.L.A.P.P. suit filed by Robert Murray (who was covered in the episode about Coal) was dropped because Oliver's segment was ruled to be protected speech, and the claims he made against Murray were taken from the public record.
    • In the Season 3 finale, John detonated a sign saying 2016, claiming it to be a bad year. In the Season 7 finale, John did it again with 2020, claiming it to be an even worse year.
  • The Cameo:
    • To demonstrate pandering in the segment on Dr. Oz and his shilling of nutritional supplements, George R. R. Martin and a tap-dancing 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 again, Steve Buscemi.
    • Nick Offerman appears as a Home Depot sales associate trying to defuse a marital argument before it starts. H. Jon Benjamin is the husband in the couple.
      • H. Jon Benjamin later appears in the "Tot Bench" sketch of the Immigration Courts segment.
    • 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, Tobacco, Firearms, 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 mentions a number of important Puerto Ricans, 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 it, he shows a clip from the Mexican telenovela, La fea más 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 más 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.
    • During his piece on North Korea, John decides the best way to try and convince them not to nuke the US is by exploiting their love of the accordion. However, while he doesn’t play accordion, "Weird Al" Yankovic does.
    • John made one in the last episode of The Who Was Show, when Julius Caesar took over his show.
    • Whenever John shows footage that can't be shown in England (typically due to censorship laws around Parliament) they are treated instead to Gilbert Gottfried reading Brexit clauses or Bigfoot erotica.
    • When discussing Richard Sackler, John noted that there is hardly any video or audio of him available, so he brought in several actors to do dramatic readings of his testimonies: Michael Keaton, Bryan Cranston, Michael K. Williams and finally (when realizing the other three are too cool to really stand in for Sackler) Richard Kind.
  • Canada, Eh?: In response to the 2015 hack of the Canada-based affair hookup website, John notes that close to a fifth of the population of Ottawa (and ½ 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:invoked
    • Upon seeing 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.
  • Catchphrase:
    • John starts every show with "Welcome, welcome, welcome!"
    • "Holy shit!", said with bewilderment by John at least Once per 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.
    • "...Hashtag #Feminism", a somewhat tongue-in-cheek note of female inclusion and equality even in the most ridiculous circumstances.
    • "What are you talking about?!" whenever someone, usually Donald Trump, says something nonsensical or contradictory.
    • "...and this is true," said before statements that are true in nearly all cases, but also some that might be or are anything but.
    • When the show moved out of their normal studio due to the COVID-19 pandemic, John opened nearly every show with some variation of "Hi there, welcome to the show. Still taking place in this white void...", followed by a joke on the depressing look of the new set.
    • Seguing into a different segment, he always says: "And now, this."
  • Catharsis Factor: Invoked when doing a piece on WWE and the practices of Vince McMahon, where they showed various clips of the sketched abuse he received. John admitted that while certain things could be faked, you couldn't fake having your face pressed against a wrestler's ass.
  • Celebrity Resemblance:
    • John often calls Steve Mnuchin handsome before tearing into him, after media reports noted a resemblance between Mnuchin and John.
    • John is good in spotting and describing those in general. For example he refers to UK Conservative leadership candidate candidate Rory Stewart as looking like "Willem Dafoe fucked Eddie Redmayne in a Wallace & Gromit cartoon."
  • 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.
  • Chariot Pulled by Cats: The idea that someone might try to pull off driving a sleigh pulled by 400 hamsters in real life is used as a gag in the episode on climate change.
    John Oliver: We've universally agreed that polluting is bad and yet, it’s free to do it. When you litter, you pay a fine. When you drive above the speed limit, you pay a fine. When you steal 400 hamsters from PetSmart, tie them to a sled and race through the streets on a hamster sleigh, you pay a fine. Is that fine worth it? Of course it is! But you do pay it.
  • Chewing the Scenery: The segment on cryptocurrency features a clip of Carlos Matos at a conference of the company Bitconnect giving a presentation brimming with this. That clip was parodied at the end of the episode, with Keegan-Michael Key playing Matos with the same level of over the top enthusiasm.
  • Child Hater: Zig-zagged: While John's onstage personality frequently mocks children as spoiled, stupid and entitled brats and rants how they have nothing to say worth an adult's time listening, the sure fire way to get his character enraged is to harm innocent/decent children; such as when he angrily chews out the dancing monkey mascot of Standardized Tests for fooling a talented 14-year-old girl into having faith in a system that destroyed her dreams of higher education and drove her into tears of despair. The apparent disdain for children is likely an act, as John is a father in real life.
  • Church of Happyology: John 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.
  • City of Everywhere: The city in the background is a composite, containing landmarks from New York, D.C., London, and many other cities, with what may be the tip of a pyramid looming in the background.
  • Clickbait Gag: The segment on journalism ends with a spoof of Spotlight where the cunning investigator finds opposition in his click-bait-minded management, which wants him to focus on click-attractive topics like cats who look like raccoons.
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: 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 decides to respond to the ISIS attack on Paris with the sort of profanity HBO allows him.
    • After the escape of ISIS fighters from prison, he boasts that they know exactly where they are and directs everyone's attention to "THE ISIS FIGHTERS!", at which point the curtains open on an empty cell. His reaction is being reduced to swearing and "Why did we give them shovels?!..."
  • 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 President Vladimir Putin unintentionally brings up the Double Standard of women having to control their emotions in the workplace. Turkish President Recep Tayyip 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").
  • 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.
    • David Kaye's announcer. Whether it's a single sentence, such as in the "And Now...", or extensive voiceovers, the text is often ridiculous, and the deadpan delivery only makes them funnier.
  • 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 the latter's 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 invoked 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 Abraham 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 in a Cowboy Hat, 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 John, 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.
  • Cool vs. Awesome: The Robot/Bear war (a reference to less-than-cool robots puncturing cans of bear spray and sickening Amazon warehouse workers).
  • 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).
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • The show portrayed several real people as Corrupt Corporate Executives, but a special dishonorable mention goes to Bob Murray. His disregard for safety standards caused a mine to collapse (which he also claimed to have been caused by an earthquake). He also yelled at distraught families of the victims who asked for answers and sends Frivolous Lawsuits to anyone who criticizes him, including Last Week Tonight after the segment on him aired. All the while claiming that he just wants the best for miners.
    • In the beginning of the segment on Amazon's unions, John compares Jeff Bezos to Lex Luthor.
      John: Let's move on to Amazon, a company run by Jeff Bezos, who answers the question "What if Lex Luthor was-" And that's it. Just "What if Lex Luthor was?" He's a bald business maniac with too much money, zero empathy and weird supervillain vehicles. He is just Lex Luthor.
  • 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 August 11, 2014 episode, which aired just after the 40th 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.
    • John merely mentions that the slang term for political sabotage or dirty tricks, particularly pertaining to election interference is "ratfucking" while showing furry art of the more literal meaning and displaying the email where the GOP wants evidence of alleged election fraud sent. What the viewers choose to do with that information is up to them.
  • 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.
    • In between seasons 9 and 10, there's a couple of short web exclusives relating to the creepy dolls that keep washing up on South Texas beaches, some of which are auctioned off by the Mission-Aransas Reserve as fundraising for their sea turtle preservation efforts. John finds them so viscerally creepy that he decides he must destroy them (although he was probably planning to make the donation anyway), so he gives the Reserve ten thousand dollars in exchange for all the dolls they currently have, so that he can destroy them. Eventually the dolls meet their end in the singing trash cans of Malmo.
  • Cringe Comedy: Most, if not all, of the "And Now, This" segments consist basically of this:
    • "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"note 
    • "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.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The segment about Lethal Injections is full of these.
    • For starters, the worst case scenario with the titular injections will result in you being paralyzed but still conscious, while your veins are filled with a chemical cocktail... and if the painkiller doesn't kick in, your final moments will consist of feeling incredible pain, still completely paralyzed.
    • When John describes other ways people have tried to execute prisoners, he mentions overdosing them with opioids, an idea which was abandoned because when tried, it took 2 hours during which the prisoner kept violently reacting to the drug. The trophy however goes to cyanide gas, which was so bad that the man tasked with the execution threatened to resign if the usage of gas wasn't abandoned.
  • 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!"
  • Darker and Edgier: Season 7 started taking this turn since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Public safety concerns forced the show to move into a White Void Room in John's home. This meant that the energy from the studio audience and the elaborate stunts/parodies (that often help take the edge of off serious topics) fell away. On top of that, many episodes dealt with particularly raw current issues.note  Instances of John dropping the jokes and becoming visibly angry and/or upset over the issues he discusses became a lot more common. Unfortunately, the same could be said for much of Season 8, despite having a Breather Episode in the beginning, as due to the pandemic still continuing for the time being, John was forced to remain in the "void.". At least until September 12, 2021, when he returned to the regular studio for the first time since March 2020.
  • 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.
  • Death of a Child: In the episode on coal, John shows a kid presenting during a coal fair about a piece of coal named Lumpy and what it will do when it "grows up" (with the air-quotes being added by said kid himself). John remarks that the quotes around "grow up" are well-placed, since Lumpy will inevitably not grow up but be burned to death along with his family in a ritual to produce energy.
  • 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 (John included) faulted it for being so mournful and depressing. Instead, John 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!"
  • 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'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?
  • The Dog Bites Back:
  • Double Entendre:
    • At the beginning of the first FIFA segment, John, 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.
    • At the end of his segment on televangelism scammers, "Wanda Jo", a parody of the archetypal televangelist wife, urges viewers to plant their seeds (ie, send money), enthusiastically veering into the other meaning of seed.
      Wanda Jo: Plant your seed in his mouth! Plant it all over his face!
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Up until late 2016, any instances of the word "fuck" had a Sound-Effect Bleep on the show, which can be a bit surprising for viewers to hear if they're used to John saying it uncensored in the present day.
  • 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 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:
      John: You know that things are not going well when you lose the moral high ground to a TMZ reporter.
    • He then offers a bit of redemption for Goodell (or twists the knife) in a spot on the NFL player protests, and Donald Trump's reaction to them.
      John: When you've lost the moral high ground to Roger fucking Goodell, something has gone seriously wrong.
    • When discussing how badly the WWE cares for its former wrestlers, John compares the company to the NFL, saying how the NFL at least has some forms of financial compensation for older players facing healthcare costs. He then goes on to say that if you've lost the moral high-ground to the NFL, you are 'morally subterranean'.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • In his segment on POM Wonderful and misleading food labels, John 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!" This isn't the only time Texas made progressive legislature either, they show up again in the Forensic Science episode as the source of a bill where convicts can request a re-trial if they feel the science doesn't add up.
    • 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.
    • When discussing the sexual misconduct allegations hitting Congressman Matt Gaetz, John plays a clip of an interview Gaetz did with Tucker Carlson where he tries to defend himself by citing a dinner he and a female acquaintance had with Carlson and his wife, only for Carlson to refuse to back him up by saying that he had no recollection of said dinner. This leads to John describing Gaetz as "the one white man Tucker Carlson won't defend."
    • In one segment, John shows an interview in which John Stossel mentions the word "pirate" in front of a guy with an eyepatch. While John is a shameless troll, he finds this a bit unfair and underhanded.
  • 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, John 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?
  • Evolving Credits: The opening titles were the same for the first two seasons, last slide aside. Then every year some of the cards are either replaced, more often than not with references to past segments, or have the Canis Latinicus description above changed (Vladimir Putin was changed from "Adversarius Maximus" to “POTUS Operandi” during Trump's government, Facebook went from “Mathematiculus Potentissimus” to "Dislikeum") - although in one case it was the text that remained, as before 2017 "Caesar" was Hillary, and then it was Trump. John's card also started having him as he looked at the season's start.
  • Exact Words: During a story on corporate tax evasions, John plays a clip from a statement by the CEO of Apple to Congress, where he denies hiding the company's money in "some Caribbean island". John then points out that the money was actually hidden first in Ireland, then the Isle of Jersey, which are islands, but not Caribbean islands.
  • 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.
    • After getting wrapped up in figuring out exactly which person in a 1993 video of Princes William and Harry playing football is current Prime Minister candidate Rory Stewart, it turns out some staff members have created a "Second Rory Theory."
      John: It's far too complicated to go into fully, but basically, we think there's a second Rory.
  • 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-theater preview for The Notebook.
  • Eyedscreen: Used when John is about to detonate a sign saying 2020 in the Season 7 finale.
  • Fan Community Nicknames: Parodied when John coins the name “Officious Birdwatchers” for the show’s fanbase, taking the phrase from a Fox News clip he's commenting on (where it was used in a completely different context). John is the officious bird, the fans are the watchers.
  • 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.
  • Fan Fic: A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, a Take That! story about Mike Pence's pet rabbit falling in love with a boy rabbit made in response towards Pence's homophobic views after it was announced that the Pences would release a children's book based on their pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo.
  • 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.
  • Feghoot: The segment on the lethal injection is interrupted thrice to compare it to "planning to have sex with your mother". The ending shows that was a build-up to "That was a long way to say that if we choose to continue killing people that way, we're some real motherfuckers!".
  • 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?
  • Frivolous Lawsuit: After John heavily criticized coal CEO Bob Murray in a segment on coal, Murray sued him for defamation, despite all of the information presented on Murray being either factual or clearly satirical. True to this trope, a judge dismissed the case in February 2018 arguing that the plaintiff's side lacked merit.
  • Frivolous Summoning: One episode had a running gag about John Oliver being able to summon George Clooney whenever he wanted and irritating him with pointless summons.
  • Fully Automatic Clip Show: Most of the "And Now, This" segments.
  • 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.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: Discussed in his discussion on the idea of "Spreading out" vaccines over a longer period of time, as opposed to immediate vaccination on schedule or no vaccination
    John: The problem is, it's the middle ground between sense and nonsense. It's like saying "It would be crazy to eat that entire bar of soap, so I'll just eat half of it."
  • 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?
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: The segment on Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs) mentions that in order to keep the abortion rate low, and eventually non-existent, they set themselves as alternatives to places like Planned Parenthood. John also mentions that although they do provide some worthwhile services like parenting classes and free diapers, the attitude of some of these places is, "once the baby baby is born, the mother and child are on their own, lest they become parasites to our organization." John also mentions that although CPCs laud themselves for wanting to make sure every woman carries on to full term, they also vehemently oppose contraception, a service available at places like Planned Parenthood, believing that sexual intercourse must lead to pregnancy and birth.
  • 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 well below my standards of quality."
  • 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.
  • Gratuitous French: Invoked in the segment on the 2017 French presidential election. At the end, John launches an appeal to the French people urging them not to vote for Marine Le Pen. In an attempt to make his speech more effective, he does the entire thing in French, while admitting his accent makes it sound like "a Guy Ritchie remake of Amélie".
  • Greedy Televangelist: An episode in 2015 focused on televangelists and the ways they are exploiting people for monetary gain. At the end of the episode, John Oliver and his wife (played by Rachel Dratch) parodied this by using a lot of the same language used by the televangelists they covered to set up a fake religious entity ("Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption") and an associated televangelism website and donation line, adding that any donations would be redirected to Doctors Without Borders. When the church was eventually shut down a few weeks later, Oliver announced that tens of thousands of dollars had been donated and were indeed forwarded to Doctors Without Borders.
  • 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.
  • Guinness Episode: The episode on Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is a deconstruction - he discusses how a lot of world records are not made by random people who just want crazy records, but by large corporations or human rights-abusing dictators like Berdimuhamedov, all who are aided by Guinness themselves in picking just the right record to boost publicity. When Guinness refused to help John Oliver get his own, rather hypocritically citing their need to be family-friendly, John responds by beating the record for the largest marble cake, without Guinness's help, and puts a picture on it of the time when Berdimuhamedov infamously fell off a horse
  • 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.
  • Internet Jerk: Discussed in-depth during the segment on online harassment.

    Tropes H to 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.
  • Harsher in Hindsightinvoked: Invoked and Played for Laughs in the November 18, 2018 episode. Before reporting on the main story, we see the segment "And Now, This" titled "And Now: News Clips That Haven't Aged Well" and shows clips of Mario Batali, Harvey Weinstein, Jared Fogel, Bill Cosby, and Kevin Spacey being interviewed by reporters from CBS, NBC among other networks, while talking about their love lives, and using soundbites that sound like they had a double meaning when talking about other subjects. Some clips often showed them being interviewed by Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer, the former of whom ended the segment by asking about a question about sexual harassment.
  • #HashtagForLaughs: John sometimes does this.
    • One of the show's Running Gags is to tackle "#Feminism" to completely unrelated topics as a tongue-in-cheek parody of attempts at female inclusion and equality even in the most ridiculous circumstances.
      John: 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.note 
  • 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.
  • Head Desk: The poster for season five shows John with his head on his desk, looking absolutely exhausted.
  • 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."
    • A bizarre inversion is discussed during the episode on lethal injection. One senator argues that the death penalty is a good thing because Jesus died that way.
  • Hollywood Accounting: Discussed in his segment on The NCAA, where university athletic departments use this to justify not paying their players.
  • 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 it,note  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.
    • John points out how NBA players are being transparently forced to praise China in advertisments, only to follow that make making an equally forced plug for HBO's HBO Max service.
    • When pointing out how Hotstar (a Disney subsidiary in India which distrubutes the show there) made ham-fisted edits to the program to hide parts mocking Disney, John criticizes their editing for being obvious in how it diverges from the show's standard camera angle while deliberately switching to odd angles each time he brings one of the edits up.
  • I Am Very British: Played for Laughs. Even though John is, of course, British, he will sometimes adopt an comically exaggerated upper-class British accent when addressing issues related to British culture and/or history.
  • I Can't Believe I'm Saying This: Said by John as he realizes that, by complying to the Paris Climate accords — unlike Trump — "Wal-Mart and Philip Morris are the good guys"!
  • I Have a Family: When talking about Putin, John says that he was voted the sexiest man alive by a magazine which says in the title that it will say anything Putin wants, because it has a family.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: He'll mock America like no one's business, but he's made it clear he does love living there, and thinks the country has a lot of great things about it.
  • Impressive Pyrotechnics:
  • 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.
    • When a teacher in Myanmar compares Facebook to a toilet, John considers it an insult to toilets. Toilets are designed to remove waste. Facebook retains it forever, and often brings it back up.
  • Internet Safety Aesop: Discussed on the topic of Right to be Forgotten, John ends the segment by telling the audience that nothing on the internet is going away and everyone has something on the internet that they aren't proud of. The best you can do is embrace what happened and accept it.
    John: Nothing you are embarrassed of on the internet is ever going away and we all have a horrifying photo from our past that undermines the very person we are now. Professionally and personally and we can all live in fear of that thing ever surfacing or we can all hold hands, jump at the same time and save each other.
  • Intimidating Revenue Service: Everybody thinks of IRS employees as an invoked 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:
    • At the beginning of his segment on diplomatic translators, he claims that the segment 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.
    • Implied in the COVID segment attached to the ransomware episode:
      John: And the thing is, you can't help thinking that some of the fuss over masks is more about the parents than it is about their kids. In fact, just watch as one basically admits that.
      Caleb Schoth: Well, I mean, honestly it's just crazy, I mean, last time I checked, this is America, and you can't make anyone do anything. I mean, I thought that's what people died for, freedom. Last year, he did have to wear a mask. And, you know, honestly, he thinks it's cool. I'm just, I'm not gonna lie. You know, he thinks he's a ninja. And I say "son, don't say that when they ask you if you like to wear a mask." But, you know, I guess it doesn't really affect him right now. But, you know, he doesn't know what's going on.
  • 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. Similarly, he's a parent, so stories where children are mistreated, especially by those who are supposed to be taking care of them, will get him pissed.
  • It Was with You All Along: When discussing medical devices:
    "All these years, we've been waiting anxiously for the robot apocalypse and it turns out, the robot apocalypse was inside us the whole time"
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique:
    • Deconstructed in his segment on torture. Despite most people, even Antonin Scalia, an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, 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...
    • In a later episode, Jack Bauer himself appears in order to to threaten this on corrupt compound pharmacy executives, in response to them using "Jack Bauer" as one of many names for made-up patients.
  • Jaw Drop: In "Family Separation", after the harrowing scene of son and mother's strained relationship due to Trump's policy, you can briefly see John's mouth wide open in shock and disgust.
  • 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.note 
    • Earlier on, in the episode about infrastructure, John had to concede to Trump with regards of infrastructure, even if he disagreed with his surly approach to it:
      John: Here's how obvious our need is — just two days ago, even a total idiot agreed.
      [cut to Trump at the 2015 CPAC]
      Trump: We have to rebuild our infrastructure! Our roads are crumbling; everything's crumbling, and we're rebuilding China!
      John: Okay, now, glossing over whatever the fuck he was talking about regarding "rebuilding China", that upside-down piece of candy corn in a wig made of used medical gauze is right!
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: John's stage persona appears to be a caustically bitter cynic who does not hesitate to tear into human stupidity with misanthropic Gallows Humor and caustic sarcasm; this is however an act to hide the fact he is actually a Sad Clown whose true fury is reserved for the cruel-selfish-and-corrupt who victimize innocent and decent people.
  • 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.
    • Done more seriously in his segment on automation, which delves into the practice of automation and its effects on the job market.
  • Just Like Making Love: "Foreign affairs is like sex. If you loudly announce that you will always come first, you're going to have trouble finding partners."
  • Kangaroo Court: While John has gone into many dissections of the flaws in America's legal system, he especially views their immigration courts like this. "Immigration Courts" ends with "Tot Bench" a parody of American daytime court shows where children ran everything. The narration at the end comments that it makes only slightly less sense than real American immigration courts.
  • Kayfabe: In his piece on the WWE, John admits he likes wrestling and never directly references out loud the scripted nature of wrestling, but makes a brief reference to it when he shows a moment that could not be faked: Vince McMahon getting his face shoved into the ass of Rikishi. Instead, they focus on the mistreatment of wrestlers.
  • Konami Code: Referenced in the "Nintendo Gay Marriage" segment where he jokes about a "civil union cheat code" which was this except with the "B-A" at the end with "Be Gay".
  • 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.
  • Large Ham: In contrast to The Comically Serious narrator, a really overblown voiceover is warranted for pumpkin spice latte and hating peeps.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • John points out that the same day that Britain voted for the "Brexit" from the European Union, which some supporters, such as the UKIP, 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.
    • On a more personal level, your sympathy for a flower vendor whose supply is about to be completely wrecked by Brexit likely evaporates when you find out he voted for it, not considering at all how it might affect his business.
      John: Well, you should have done, shouldn't you? Because now you've gone and fucked yourself with a rusty piece of rebar.
  • 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 deliver the closing monologue in French, smoking cigarettes, and with an accordion player right beside him, while sitting in a bistro overlooking the Eiffel 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.
  • Long List: After airing a clip of Donald Trump saying American jobs are going to places Americans haven't even heard of, John makes the observation that he called Nepal and Bhutan "nipple" and "button", he rattles off an extremely long list of mispronounced country names of countries "Americans haven't even heard of". Highlights include "Urethra" (Eritrea), "Fat Hamster" (Guinea), "Ballsinya and Hatavagina" (Bosnia and Herzegovina), "Gay Water" (Fiji), "Pocahontas" (India), "Hot Girl with Jizz in Her Hair" (Cameroon) "MAH WIFE!" (Kazakhstan), "Daddy Fat Hamster" (Papua New Guinea), "Jared’s Friends" (Saudi Arabia), and "Hotel for Dogs, no wait, the other one, the one that’s not for dogs, Hotel That One" (Rwanda). The only ones he says right are Lesotho and Russia...and then he also uses "Russia" for Ukraine.
    • During the episode on lethal injections, John shows a clip of an interviewer asking a supposed expert whether he has ever done research into a very long list of drugs that can potentially be used in lethal injections, which he says no to every time.
  • 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.note 
    • When researching the Italian 2018 election, John discovered that there is no rule saying that a non-Italian national cannot run for Prime Minister of Italy. So John promptly put himself forward as a candidate for Prime Minister of Italy.
  • Loud of War: After featuring the Attorney General of Arkansas warbling an off-key rendition of "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy", John ends the show on state Attorneys General with two minutes to go at the end, imploring viewers to research their state's AG for the upcoming election, and then invokes this trope with that same song played on the bagpipes, then adding an accordion, then a theremin, and finally six children playing recorders.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: When talking about Ashley Madison — a dating website for adulterers — John plays one of their commercials: a poppy, auto-tuned piano melody... whose lyrics consist of an all-male chorus celebrating how the website helps them cheat on their wives. John calls the ad “the catchiest song about being a complete monster I’ve ever heard since the Monster Mash.”

    Tropes M to 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."
  • 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.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: The episode focusing on Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs') mentions that they market themselves as alternatives to places like Planned Parenthood to make sure women don't get abortions. John also mentions that these places offer parenting classes and even free diapers. He then explains that CPCs' not only oppose abortion, but also don't provide contraceptives, which are provided by places like Planned Parenthood, since the operators of CPCs' believe that once pregnant everything must be done to make sure a woman must give birth, but once the baby is born, they are on their own since they risk becoming parasites to the CPC.
  • 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?!
  • Manly Tears:
    • Played for Laughs in "Olympics Opening Ceremony", in which John claims that this is how he cries. However the way he describes it, as well as the graphic accompanying it (an edited image of John crying in the way a toddler would), is not exactly the dignified manly tears you would expect from this trope.
      John: When something goes wrong, I don't cry like a baby. I cry like a grown man. And I'll tell you why: it's louder, it terrifies strangers, and nobody comforts me. It's better.
    • A straight example comes up in "Mandatory Minimums". Jason Hernandez, a low-level offender sentenced to life in prison, was pardoned by president Obama. A clip shows him struggling to read this announcement because he is so overcome with emotion. When it cuts back to the studio, John is clearly moved as well.
  • Mathematician's Answer: John thirsting over Adam Driver is a Running Gag season seven. After one spiel, he offers a quick sidenote:
    John: A lot of you might well be wondering where I'm going with this bit. If you're anything like my staff, you're asking questions like, "Is this sexual, or is it violent?", and you're then unsatisfied when the answer comes back, "Yes".
  • 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 mustached and overtly theatrical guy) as a substitute. invoked
    • On a more terrifying note, one of the people that believes the Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique works in real life is Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.
    • In an episode discussing the aftermath of Parkland, FL school shooting, John showed a clip of an anti-gun control advocate attempting to shift the blame by going on a tangent of complaining that modern pop culture wasn't as wholesome as The Andy Griffith Show. John countered this by showing a clip from said show where the title character explains why he Does Not Like Guns, since by carrying a gun his authority as a sheriff would come from fear rather than respect.
  • Mis-blamed: Invoked in a segment on pennies, 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.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: As John notes, when Trump ordered the withdrawal of US forces in Syria, he alienated the Kurds, who had been allied with the US during the Iraq War, who subsequently allied with the Syrian and Russian governments.
  • Mondegreen Gag: An "And now... This" segment shows a montage of news anchors saying "mask debate," the point of the joke being that it sounds like "masturbate."
  • 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.
    • In the episode of medical devices, John shows a serious-looking clip of a woman talking about her fears about getting a hip replacement, which ends with her break dancing with a bunch of other middle-aged women called "Momz N Da Hood", and comments on the Mood Whiplash of the video.
  • 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.
  • Muppet Cameo: It became a Running Gag during the COVID-19 Pandemic that John could summon George Clooney with a snap of his fingers, and at one point, Clooney gets annoyed with him and reveals that he has a similar power to summon Kermit the Frog, but he doesn't abuse it because he respects Kermit. John convinces him to do it anyway and Kermit is summoned in the middle of tuning his banjo.
  • Musical Episode: The end of the SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) episode, after Oliver explains that the West Virginia court where Murray was suing him threw out the defamation lawsuit, has Oliver put on a Broadway Musical daring Murray, who is currently facing bankruptcy, to go ahead and sue for defamation again for singing shit about him.
  • 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.
  • My New Gift Is Lame: John notes that, besides the more pressing diplomatic implications of Jared Kushner's gift of a map of Israel featuring the Golan Heights to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a map is a very boring gift.
  • 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.
  • 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, which occurred shortly after his death, 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.
  • 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.
    • In the episode about the 2022 Brazilian election, John discusses how incumbent Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is violently threatening to contest the results if he loses the election, similar to how Donald Trump orchestrated an insurrection after losing the 2020 American election, but explains that, unlike Trump, Bolsonaro has the backing of Brazilian military leaders, adding "Generally, when someone threatens democracy, it's a lot easier to say 'You and What Army?' When you're absolutely certain that person doesn't have an actual army behind them.".
  • "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!"
  • Not Me This Time: In the 2018 segment on Venezuela, John makes the argument that while the U.S.'s actions in Latin America have led to instability in many countries in the region, the then-current Venezuelan economic crisis was not actually caused by American interference.
    John: Accusing America of creating Venezuela's crisis is about as fair as accusing O.J. Simpson of murdering Princess Diana. I'm not saying it would be completely out of character, it just happens to not be true in this particular instance.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: John argues that crisis pregnancy centers are basically this for abortion. An anti-abortion activist got caught on tape admitting that such centers are "not a charity," are critically short on supplies compared to the number of women they're attempting to help, and (in her opinion) should cut women off from receiving any supplies at all after they give birth.
    John: So the basic argument there is: "We're just not in a position where we can take care of a baby forever. We don't have the time or the resources, so we're choosing not to make that commitment right now." To which I would say: "Yeah! Exactly!"
  • 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.
    • At one point, he goes on a long tangent about the life of the only old white man officially allowed to say the full N-word. He was chosen because he never actually says it.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: John'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:
    • Raymond "Shrimp Boy" Chow, a San Francisco Triad leader and arms trafficker who actually took Scarface-esque glamour shots of himself at one point.
    • John notes that among the shell companies revealed in the "Panama Papers" were some named Goldfinger, GoldenEye, Moonraker, Spectre, and Blofeld.
    • Roger Stone, who dresses bizarrely like a cartoon '40s gangster.
      John: I'm usually against profiling, but look at this guy! Look! At! This! Guy! He looks like a mannequin in a department store for Dick Tracy villains. He looks like his day planner is just one entry that says "Frame Roger Rabbit."
  • 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. John 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, John 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 John's native England.
  • Old Shame:
    In my defense, I have no defense for that and was hoping to think of one before finishing this sentence, and oh shit, it's over.
    • In the segment on public shaming, John expressed regret about another Daily Show piece he participated in. It was a bit commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, which featured a graphic reading "Ten Suckin' Years". Looking back, John calls it "gross", feeling that it just added to the intense and disproportionate amount of humiliation the media put Lewinsky through.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten: Discussed regarding New Zealand politician Steven Joyce getting a dildo thrown in his face.
    John: So let us, as you put it, get this over with. Although I think we both know this will never be over for you. From now on, your entire life is going to be viewed through a dildonic prism.
  • Only in Florida: A Running Gag, such as referring once to North Korea as "Earth's Florida", and saying that Tennessee is "rated one of the forty-nine best states in the country by Obvious References to Florida Magazine".
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business:
    • The episode "American Healthcare Act" brings up how Trump is so distant from the bill, he hadn't gone out of his way to name it "Trumpcare". And as John points out, that is a major red flag, considering the sheer amount of shitty things he has put his name on, like Trump Vodka, Trump Ties and Donald Trump Jr.
    • How do you emphasize the seriousness of global warming? Invite over kids' edutainment icon Bill Nye and have him drop a Cluster F-Bomb on the viewer.
    • The end of the "Police" episode in 2020 hits hard with this. After getting more angered and more torn about the issue during the episode, John plays a clip of Kimberly Jones' speech. When it cuts back to the studio, there's no skits or stunts like usual; just a devastated John who ends the show with a somber "That's our show. Thanks for watching. Goodnight."
  • 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.note 
  • 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 likable man. Even Benedict Cumberbatch could not make him likable! He's un-Cumberbatchable!
  • The Peter Principle: Discussed. On the episode about Boris Johnson, John fully explains that Boris relies on self-mockery and bumbling charm to avoid the consequences of his actions. While those traits did help win over the public when he was in a lower position of government but as soon as he became prime minister, however, his lack of preparation and over-reliance on buffoonish charm quickly fell flat. As people were now relying on him for competent leadership and he had to deliver on his promise of Brexit within 30 days, something that EU was more clear about when they were talking about their terms on the matter.
  • 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 fury when talking about black students needing classes to understand how not to suffer police brutality.
  • Powered by a Forsaken Child: A kid's presentation on an anthropomorphic piece of coal in the episode on coal mining gets turned into this as its logical conclusion.
  • Precision F-Strike: John occasionally begins a rant about some person he finds objectionable with "First of all, fuck you, (name)".
  • 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's why it's funny! Wake up your children and explain that joke to them, they'll love it!
  • Properly Paranoid:
    • If you're getting high in your house, there is a SWAT team outside your house coming to get you, and they have military grade weaponry which they're not properly trained to use.
    • People in Yemen and Pakistan are terrified of sunny days, and probably check the skies more often than an adventurer in Skyrim. Drones are practically invisible in them.
  • Punctuation Changes the Meaning: John mentions a missed piece of punctuation when covering Chief Justice Roberts' comments on Obamacare, then bringing up a banner used to support the London women's soccer team — "Come On Our Girls!" — pointing out that it really could have used a comma.
  • 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 aggressively 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 successfully 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."
    • On NRA TV: "I didn't think this was possible, but I think that guy just slut-shamed marijuana."
    • In the story about COVID-19 conspiracy theories (and conspiracy theories in general), John plays a clip of Rush Limbaugh, of all people, saying that Trump spreads conspiracy theories in such a way that he never says he actually believes them, as a way of deflecting backlash.
    John: Rush Limbaugh gets it, which is a sentence I thought I'd only ever say about toilet-based chlamydia.
    • In the story about Texas' 2021 anti-abortion law, John recounts how some Tik-Tok users are protesting it via posting links to Shrek porn on the website set up to report people violating it.
    John: "Tik Tok users bombard anti-abortion website with Shrek porn" is one of those sentences I never thought I'd have to say, like "Everyone needs to stop talking about Kim Jong-un's sexy bod"note  and "Ben Affleck looks so happy right now."note 
  • This Is Reality: Watch An Actual American Tail, Fievel's journey through the hellish reality of immigration.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: An Indian news presenter delivered one of these to John in a clip from Indian TV that condemned western shows criticizing president Modi. The presenter directs all kinds of ad hominem attacks towards him, before telling him he should be ashamed of himself. After watching the clip, John triumphantly replies that he has embarrassed himself on TV so many times, that he has become immune to feelings of shame.
  • 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.
  • Refuge in Audacity: John points out that slander laws give an exception to speech that is clearly ridiculous and not meant to be taken as factual, which he then realizes can be used to say purposefully ridiculous and over-the-top things about Bob Murray without it affecting his lawsuit against him. He does this in spectacular musical fashion.
  • 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.
  • Retroactive Recognitioninvoked: Discussed. The "Sex Education" episode reveals that Jonathan Banks, who played Professional Killer Mike Ehrmantraut on Breaking Bad, played an awkward teenage boy in a 1970s' sex ed film. At the end of the segment, Banks corrects a "fact" from that clip by clearly stating, "If anyone tells you that their period makes them better at bowling, they're a fucking idiot."
  • Right on the Tick: John plays a video on Cade Cothren's texts that reveal he was doing drugs, and makes fun of the attention the clip puts on the exact time that these texts were sent despite the fact that the time has no real significance, rather than the actual content of said texts.
  • 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 John 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.
    • The third episode about Brexit, in the Season 6 premiere, has a pseudo-Churchillian parody of Churchill's "We shall fight them on the beaches" speech (narrated by Stephen Fry, no less!) in regards of the consequences of Brexit.
      "Churchill": We shall fuck ourselves at the ports, we shall fuck ourselves in the shops, we shall fuck ourselves in the hospitals and in the fields. We shall never surrender!
  • Run for the Border: In the parody advertisement for a timeshare exit service, Wanda Jo informs the viewers that they can reach her in her van, at least until she crosses the Mexican border, a spoof on how such businesses tend to shutter their offices by the time anyone thinks to start asking questions.
  • Running Gag:
    • Highlighting a country on a map, then saying "a country you think about so little...", and then revealing that the map graphic he's using is highlighting the wrong country, then chastising the audience for knowing so little about the country that they didn't notice. Sometimes this is coupled with showing the wrong flag in the background of the map, which goes uncommented.
    • "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!"
    • Whenever John watches a video of any kind that tries to portray its topic as hip, badass, interesting or intimidating, John simply replies emotionlessly with a bored expression, "Cool".
    • 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]" as a tongue-in-cheek note of female inclusion and equality even in the most ridiculous circumstances.
    • 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".
    • Speaking of Tilda Swinton, there have been multiple gags about John being creeped out by her.
    • 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. It even showed up in the segment about Facebook, where a scene when various people mention conspiracy theories lists the Olsen twin among them.
    • The Celebrity Resemblance between John and U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, usually combined with John gushing over how handsome Mnuchin is.
    • In season four, after catching Donald Trump in a lie or mistake, John will sometimes proclaim "We got him!" and start a celebration, only to be informed that he's still President regardless. Eventually, the tiger mascot loses his temper and smashes the button. Then he switches it up with a "We got her!" button after the Olsen twins being unable to prove him wrong in person is taken as proof they're actually one person.
    • Post-Game of Thrones finale, repeated jabs at HBO's status as a network taking a nosedive. That began during the final season's airing.
    • Responding to fearmongering about crime rates with, "Is this The Purge?", followed by him wondering how exactly the Purge works.
    • Since AT&T purchased Time Warner John's made a sport of taking cheap shots at AT&T as part of a(n often unrelated) joke, and then gleefully saying things like "You like that, Business Daddy? I got you good!"
    • During the 2020 season, John thirsting over Adam Driver, intensely ordering him to attack him.
    • Every year since 2017, when the news note pumpkin spice latte has returned there is a montage glorifying that.
    • Talking about how fuckable horses are whenever a horse is mentioned.
    • As a nod to how Texas senator Ted Cruz filibustered against Obamacare by reading Green Eggs and Ham in 2013, John often uses Green Eggs and Ham-eseque rhymes to denounce Cruz whenever he's discussing him.
    • During the 2021 season, John reveals that when he snaps his fingers, he can summon George Clooney. This has lead to several moments where he does it on accident and summons a very annoyed George. In one instance, George reveals that when he claps his hands, he can summon Kermit the Frog, but he doesn't do it out of respect. John dares him to do it anyway, whicn upsets both George and Kermit. In the season finale, George had gotten so sick of this that he gave John the power to call on any other celebrities, so he summons Jennifer Coolidge, Will Ferrell, Ru Paul, Cardi B, and Leslie Jones.
  • Running Gagged: The Adam Driver gag got a resolution in the Season Seven finale, with Adam himself showing up to chew John out about it.

    Tropes S to Z 
  • Sad Clown: John gives off this impression due to his cynical outlook, the often depressing nature of the topics he covers, the sheer amount of self-depreciating jokes, and frequent quips about his lack of emotional well-being. Particularly noticeable in season 7, in line with the Darker and Edgier tone the series started taking.
  • 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: After dealing with some in the Televangelists episode, John went on to create his own version for laughs, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, which makes it clear that their sole purpose was to get money. (which was donated to Doctors without Borders once it was closed the following month)
  • 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 John 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 never misses an opportunity to mock himself and the show:
    • John admits that his credit report is probably low, given he spends HBO's money on "silly costumes, pyrotechnics, and checkered shirts."
    • In the segment about abortion laws:
      John: Death by colonoscopy has to be one of the worst ways to die – right after having your mother catch you masturbating and while you're trying to pull your pants up you fall and hit your head so your dad has to carry you pantsless to the car to take you to the hospital and the girl next door you have a crush on tries to help but she's laughing so hard at the size of your penis that she closes the door on your hand startling your mother who slams her foot on the gas dragging you behind the car for several blocks while your father yells, "Your TV show is derivative, and you'll never escape the shadow of Jon Stewart!"
    • A brief opening segment has John show off an actual API advert that blatantly steals the design and presentation of his show's opening credits. He then plays the show's theme over the ad to make the comparison even more glaring.
      John: You took our shit, API! You took! Our! Shit! Everything! From the font to the design style! You have so thoroughly copied our credits, at the end of that ad I was honestly worried I was about to watch twenty-nine minutes of a rat-faced Englishman telling me sad news facts! And who wants that?
    • 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 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.
    • In the retirement episode a running gag was that the research staff was working hard while John and everybody else were wasting time googling pictures of teacup pigs.
    • He began one of the many stories relating to immigration with: "Immigration. The system that brought you: me. But, it's still good, and I promise that won't happen again."
    • John constantly makes fun of his "strength". Just for one example, in "Chiijohn", he decides to contact his friends overseas with a bottled message. He heads to the docks and throws the bottle as far as he physically can... the camera follows the bottle as it hits the water approx. 2-3 meters from John.
    • In the segment on Death Investigations, John notes that some U.S. counties have the local hairdresser serving as their coroner:
      John: No disrespect to hairdressers, but some have been known to drop the ball from time to time. (shows a picture of his old haircut) It has happened. Mistakes have been made.
    • When mentioning the four Hogwarts houses one time, John claims that if he were at Hogwarts he would be sorted into a separate, fifth house "specifically for cowards".
    • While covering the 2020 Republican National Convention, John mentions that calling Joe Biden a radical socialist is much like calling him history's greatest Zazu — "you can say I am all you want to, and, honestly, I wish I were, but the fact is, it's not even close."
    • A history book calling slavery "tasks" was compared to "calling Hitler 'a best-selling author', JFK's assassination 'a bad day', and this show a comedy."
    • After a clip where a man assigned for jury duty complains that he was locked in a place without HBO, John notes he doesn't get free HBO either "and I'm helping ruin it!"
    • In "Long Term Health Care", he says that choosing a haircut is the kind of thing you'd expect to figure out through trial-and-error (as opposed to figuring out long-term healthcare):
      John: (showing a series of images of his old haircuts, followed by his current one) And for the record: Error, error, error, and error.
    • In "Multilevel Marketing", John discusses an MLM representative selling the fantasy of telling a Bad Boss to go fuck themselves:
      John: The picture she paints is enticing. Who doesn't want to tell their boss to go fuck themselves? Half my staff would do it right now if they could.
    • After John mocked the city of Dunbury, the mayor said he'd rename the local sewage plant after him because "it's full of crap, just like you, John". Sure enough, John complimented this move and asked them to go through, even saying that had they not done so, he'd give donate to charities of neighbouring towns instead of Danbury's. And they did, on the condition of John being there to cut the ribbon.
    • Once Joe Biden was filmed sleeping at an environmental conference right right as the presenter noted the concerns:
    John: "This conference is one of the most important meetings in history" is one of the worst things someone can say as you nod off, right there with "you may now kiss the bride", "in one mile, exit highway" or "welcome to Last Week Tonight, I'm John Oliver'."
  • Series Fauxnale: At the end of the May 6, 2018 episode, it was revealed that the Blockbuster in Alaska accepted the Russell Crowe memorabilia the show bought for them, and Crowe then donated a large amount of money to the Australia Zoo, which is run by the family of the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter, and used it to set up the John Oliver Koala Chlamydia Ward. John then announced that having a Koala Chlamydia ward named after him was the goal of the show, and announced that he was stepping down, and thanked all his viewers for watching the show all these years, walking off set as it was being taken down. On May 13, 2018, he started his show by claiming that his contract with HBO is still in effect, and he can't just walk away like he tried to do. Also, he claimed that he visited the ward, and was disgusted by the koalas up close that he doesn't want anything to do with them.
  • Serious Business: A segment regarding the crown prince of Thailand landed John 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.
  • "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.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: In the OAN episode, he mocks host Chanel Rion have a word of the day calendar that in the end is basically imploring her viewers to use these words to seem smarter, which Oliver uses aganist her both by describing it with the word "Fanfaranode" and using a string of them at the end.
  • Sex Miseducation Class: Discussed by John. Due to there being no federal standard for sex education classes and certain conservative districts limit what can be said during sex education classes, many students wind up under or misinformed about sex. Attention is also pointed at creative workarounds, such as teachers who aren't allowed to show how to put on a condom instead give a demonstration on how to properly put on a sock.
  • 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.
  • Shady Scalper: "Tickets" is an episode on tickets to concerts and sports games. Of course it also talks about ticket scalpers, even claiming that Ticketmaster was accepting scalping resellers as partners.
  • Shamed by a Mob: Deconstructed during the segment on public shaming, as John notes that the alleged offense often gets warped out of context to the point that the backlash becomes highly excessive.
  • 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 (John'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.
    • Chiijohn Part 2 involves the titular mascot otter and his new friend visiting America to find John after they receive a message in a bottle from him. In New York, when someone finally helps them on their quest to find "TV's best late show host", they're sent to the set of Late Night to meet Seth Meyers.
  • Sickeningly Sweethearts: Whenever "Wanda Jo" appears, she and John act like this, addressing each other solely as "my John" and "my Wanda" and excessively praising each other (and God).
  • 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".
  • Significant Name Overlap: 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.
  • Silent Credits: After his O.O.C. Is Serious Business signoff in the "Police Brutality" episode, silent white-text-on-black-background credits play instead of the normal black-text-on-white-background credits set to the show's Instrumental Theme Tune.
  • 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").
  • Sins of the Father: Played With in his segment on The British Royal Family and the legacy of the British Empire. While going over the British monarchy's role as a symbol of both the United Kingdom itself and its former Empire, John does not suggest that the modern royals are responsible for events that took place generations (or, in the case of the Transatlantic slave trade, centuries) before their lifetimes. Rather, John faulted the modern royals for not properly reckoning with what the British government did in the Crown's name to the indigenous residents of former British colonies.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Since HBO is a privately owned cable company that does not have to adhere to as tightly to the moral standards of FCC censorship, John regularly swears like Eminem crossed with David Mamet, particularly if a particular act of cruelty/callousness angers him.
  • 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, John 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, John commented that he (Pittenger) did not: he had, at best, one Token Black 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.
  • So Okay, It's Average: Invoked, as this is John's opinion of the Scrub Jay's sound in the Stand Your Ground laws segment.
    John: See? That's fine. Is it great? No, it's not great, it's fine, it's perfectly fine. Sure, the bird is no Mariah, but it's also no Roseanne.note  If that bird is anyone, it's Fergie. You heard me, the scrub Jay is Fergie. Tweet it, Tok it, put it in your pocket, I've made a flimsy take and I'm proud of it.
  • Springtime for Hitler:
    • In a segment dedicated to Vice President Mike Pence, John mentioned that Pence's daughter wrote a book about their pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, which told the reader about what the Vice President does everyday through the rabbit's viewpoint. To comment on the fact that Pence was responsible for some homophobic legislation as Governor of Indiana, John revealed that the show wrote a book about Marlon Bundo as well, where the story centers on the bunny falling in love with another male bunny, and their trial and tribulations of how the animals around them, in particular a stinkbug that totally does not look like Pence at all, opposed their relationship. John expected to sell just a couple of books to a small number of curious readers, but was surprised that not only did his book outsell Pence's book, but had to order a reprint to meet demand.
    • Discussed in the Brexit segments. When the Brexit vote resulted in the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, John theorized that the Brexit collaborators note  weren't expecting the win the vote because of their actions after it. John showed that as soon as the Brexit vote came through, David Cameron stepped down as prime minister and Nigel Farage took back his promise the fund the NHS with the 350 million pounds that Britain was sending to the European Union.
  • 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.
  • Start X to Stop X:
    • In the episode about robocalls, with the FCC refusing to do anything to stop them, John sets up his own to send to all the organization's top people every 90 minutes until they decide it's worth addressing.
    • The episode about the filibuster ends with John giving a filibuster about abolishing the filibuster, arguing that it is a needless hindrance in American politics.
  • Stereotype: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 decide for themselves.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: John 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 gentleman in particular shows that he's in the process of 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:
    • Various segments centered around France end up recalling several stereotypes associated with the country, which surprises and annoys John.
      • The segment on then-French President 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."
      • 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".
    • Even segments related to John's native Britain end up being too British for John most of the time.
      • Even John thinks British Prime Minister David Cameron embodies everything that's wrong with England, and John himself is English. He even shows up a picture of Cameron at Oxford wearing a tailcoat.
      • 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 expenses 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.
    • When detailing Australia's ridiculous giant sculptures of objects, he brings up a crocodile with boxing gloves meant to attract tourists to the town of Humpty Do, "a statement so offensively Australian that, if it were not true, would actually be racist."
    • In detailing the video explaining Alaska's new ranked choice voting system, John takes note of the "offensively Alaskan" example ballot which uses a deer, a polar bear, a penguin, and an owl as the candidates.
  • Straw Hypocrite: John took Fox News to task for this over their early reporting on coronavirus.
    John: A lot of people underestimated the danger of [the coronavirus pandemic] early on, but Fox News was still doing it not just as the death toll mounted, but even as, behind the scenes, their own company was suspending non-essential business travel and encouraging employees to cancel all in person meetings and summits and conduct business via Skype or by phone because...they only pretend to believe these things on television for money.
  • 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.
  • Sudden Musical Ending: At the end of the "SLAPP Suits" Episode, John concludes with a big Broadway-style musical number filled with wild and crazy anecdotes about Bob Murray.
  • Suddenly Shouting: Often used by John in punchlines to emphasize how infuriating the cruelty/callousness of this week's stupid politician is.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: In the Season 3 finale, John Oliver detonated signs reading 2016, claiming it to be a bad year. This would be repeated in 2020 for the Season 7 finale, claiming it to be an even worse year.
  • 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).
    • John 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.
    • After Louise Linton, wife of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, asked one of her critics on social media whether they thought the government had paid for their European honeymoon, John pointed out that this was a suspiciously specific thing to ask out of nowhere, and indeed, surprising nobodyone, it transpired that they indeed tried to get the government to pay for it (fortunately, it refused).
  • Take a Third Option: On the August 21, 2016, episode, at which point almost everyone still expected Hillary Rodham Clinton to beat Trump in a landslide in the upcoming US presidential election, John notes that at that point, Trump seems to have two options. He can (1) keep going down his ostensibly losing path, thereby undercutting his brand as a successful businessman and perpetual winner, or (2) retool his campaign, win, and take on The Chains of Commanding, which would make him miserable because he's The Hedonist and likes to show off his wealth. In response, John proposes a third option that he drop out and admit his campaign was "a satire designed to expose the flaws in the system", such as the deleterious influence of big money in politics, a mediascape uninterested in issues that affect people, and how senior Republican officials and civilian Trump supporters alike continued to support him, openly or tacitly, despite or even because of all the appeals to bigotry he made. Of course, when Trump won a couple of months later, that suggestion became moot.
  • 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 plug-in.
    • 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 John 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.
    • After admitting that the topic of "economic development incentives" isn't an interesting topic, John is then promptly put into the corner as the "viewer" picture-in-pictures in Entourage. John then tells them to switch the audio, and listen to the first line, to see what they would prefer watching. One "I may have to jerk it before we even get there!" later, we are promptly returned to the episode.
    • When doing a story on the election fraud scandal surrounding Mark Harris' 2018 election in North Carolina, John says of the state "of all Carolinas, it is definitely a Carolina", suggesting there's nothing else positive to say about it.
    • While covering the controversial anti-abortion "heartbeat bill", we get this gem after a clip where Republican sponsor John Becker says that "people smarter than me can figure out what that means":
      John: Wow. "I just wrote the bill, someone smarter than me can figure out what it means." It seems like lawmakers should exhibit a little more awareness about what they're releasing than the makers of the Sonic the Hedgehog movie. (brings up Sonic's infamous initial design onscreen) "Look, I don't know. I just had the CGI team mock-up a furry potato with a corpse's face. Someone smarter than me can figure out if that's nostalgic for people."
    • In the Compounding Pharmacies segment, John took two jabs at Cats, the other movie at the time time with a widely mocked trailer showcasing infamously creepy CGI creations.
    • 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. One case being a subversion in which John said that the only person who 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.
    • In the "Televangelists" segement, John illustrates how the IRS definition of a religion as a "strongly held belief that is not illegal" can apply to literally any belief:
      John: If you believe that the greatest movie ever made is Lady in the Water, then your name is M. Night Shyamalan, but congratulations Mr. Shyamalan — that belief could be a religion.
      • He goes after Shyamalan again in "Pennies" upon showing how people often literally throw the titular coins away:
        John: ...[T]he US Mint is spending millions to make garbage, and that's not their job; that's M. Night Shyamalan's job [inset poster for After Earth].
    • In his segment on misinformation in foreign languages, John notes that "all it takes is a few superficial labels and style choices to convince people that something with no real substance is actually meaningful and good. Or as it's known in America, the Marvel Cinematic Universe." The audience actually groans at this one, which prompts John to tell them to grow up.
    • On his coverage of Critical Race Theory, John describes NFTs as "Ugly Monkey jpegs, sold by and for dipshits".
    • During his Home Ownership Association piece, John ends up making a reference to The Voice, at which point he goes on a tangent about how not a single person who has ever won it has become an actual celebrity.
  • 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 raccoon [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.
    • An offhand joke about Total cereal during his story on corporate tax evasion has John state that it tastes like your spoon somehow missed the cereal and you just started eating the box.
  • 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.
    • A Look Back at Al Roker Delivering the Thanksgiving Kiss of Death
  • 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:
  • The One Thing I Don't Hate About You: At the beginning of the episode about Vice President Mike Pence, John said that there was one positive thing that he would say about him, which he later reveals is the fact that he actually likes Pence's pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo (which John even says is an objectively good name for a bunny).
    John: The point is Marlon Bundo is the most likable thing of an otherwise unlikable man, like how George W. Bush is a perfectly fine painter, or Bill Cosby raised American's awareness of pudding, or how Roger Ailes is dead.
  • 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:
    Ed Norton: 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!
  • The Three Certainties in Life: John's introduction to a topic on death began, "Death, it's one of the few things you can't avoid, along with taxes and plugging in a flash drive upside-down on the first try."
  • Tomato in the Mirror: In the episode that delved into how modern-day schools are still segregated, a picture on the corner of the screen shows a smug-looking couple when John mentions how people in "liberal" New York City think the segment will talk about schools in the Southern U.S. John then shows a news-clip about how, because of income inequality and gentrification, schools in New York City are actually the most segregated in the country. The expressions of the couple in the corner picture then switches to alarmed confusion after being told that fact.
  • Torture Is Ineffective: John discusses the torture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who revealed secrets of an alleged terrorist plot in Montana, but nobody had realized that he was just lying until well after the fact.
    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?!
  • Touché: John has a moment of this in one of the fan mail videos after receiving one telling him "At least you serve your corporate masters well, Unfunny Live-Action Beaker". John claims it's one thing when someone merely insults him, and another when someone "out-comedians" him.
  • 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!
    • When doing an episode on sexual education, he was disgusted by teachers and guest speakers using Slut-Shaming against non-virgins to make students become abstinent. His fury was shown after showing a clip of a sexual abuse survivor telling her story of how her pro-abstinence teacher used a chewing gum metaphor to shame non-virgins. To quote the man himself "learning nothing would have been better than learning that."
    • When doing an update on the Brexit vote, he's visibly and verbally furious with the result. Due to the conspirators exaggerating the benefits, revoking their promises and then stepping down from their positions. The only time he's truly angry was when he summed up Brexit after an interview clip with a Portuguese migrant who asked the interviewer how should she explain the Brexit aftermath to her children.
      John: Perhaps I can help you with that, because it's easy. Just tell them that they might be screwed, because a pig fucker called for a vote, a bus had some bullshit written on it, and then two idiots named Nigel and Boris quoted President Bill Pullman. They'll get it. They'll totally understand!"
    • "Trump & the Coronavirus" is one, long rant towards former president Donald Trump and how he responded to the pandemic. The few times where John loses his composure are when he voices his concern for his staff and his concern for the medical groups breaking their backs carrying America through the pandemic. He's also barely restraining himself when he repeatedly points out Trump's callousness when he ignored advice from medical professionals, refused to set an example for the public, and sociopathically ignoring the pleas from the medical professionals for help with controlling mass infections. There's so much rage and hate in John's voice that there's barely any jokes in the episode to lighten the mood.
      John: ""Oh, Trump must be great for you comedians, right?" Yeah, not really, this has been a FUCKING nightmare."
  • 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 Neapolitan ice cream: You have chocolate for the chocoholics, vanilla for the blands, and strawberry for the perverts.
  • Troll Fic: Played with in regards of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo. Not a deliberately offensive fic, but to quote John:
  • Trying Not to Cry:
    • In the episode on Trump's family separation policy, John is visibly shaken after watching a gut-wrenching clip of a five year old from Honduras who is traumatized after being locked away from his mother for a month. John struggles to hold back tears of anger while ripping into the policy that allowed that to happen.
      John: [choked] Yeah, we did that. Not because we had to, but because we chose to.
    • It is rare and often really subtle, but there are a few more moments where something is so upsetting or moving that John seems to become genuinely emotional, such as in "Police" and "Mandatory Minimums".
  • Two Words: I Can't Count: In the COVID vaccine episode:
    Joseph Jack: Six words: testing, testing, testing, testing, and more testing.
    John: I'll tell you what I admire about that guy: his confidence. Because I don't think I've seen anyone more self-assured than the man who just promised six words, said seven, and counted five, all without even flinching. That guy is so secure in his thinking, he could be wrong about numbers on camera twice and do it with an unbreaking smile.
  • 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".
  • The Un Favourite: John suggests this regarding two of Donald Trump's children. In "Trump vs. Truth" he cites Tiffany's name as something he likely doesn't remember (alongside the components of America's nuclear triad). Later, in the segment on Robert Mueller's investigation into possible Trump-campaign collusion with Russia in 2016, he says Donald Jr. likely has no "general knowledge" of anything except the feeling of disappointment that his father hugs flags more often than he hugs him.
  • 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?"
  • 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.
  • Vigilante Injustice: In the episode about bail, John points out how counterproductive bounty hunters are. John shows that celebrity bounty hunters hunt people for spectator sport and have even hurt and killed innocent people during their hunts, simply because the bounty hunters went to the wrong address.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The episode on SLAPP lawsuits ends up with a huge, bombastic musical number about how much Bob Murray sucks, the idea being that the claims in it are so outrageous and clearly false that he can't be sued for slander for them.
  • 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 because 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."
  • Virile Stallion: Parodied in the episode about Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan associates himself with horses (specifically Akhal-Tekes) and John makes funs of this by implying that his love for horses borders on beastiality. Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has written books about horses, wrote a poem about one of his horses, enters horse beauty competitions, made it illegal to rename Akhal-Tekes, has horse-themed decorations in his office, and calls himself the "People's horse breeder".
    John Oliver: ""Witnesses never wearied of being astonished by the steed-and-human intercourse brought to full perfection..." Which I'm hoping is a mistranslation but probably isn't"
  • Waxing Lyrical:
  • 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."
  • Well Played: As a maybe, in the "Doomsday Video" about some future twilight of humanity, depending on why.
    "But perhaps humanity's greatest achievement of all was our total domination of every other species. Nice try, lions! Unless of course we're all dying because lions evolved and conquered the human race, in which case — Well-played, lions."
  • Wham Line:
    • 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.
    • John gets Michael Keaton and Bryan Cranston to portray Richard Sackler, but realizes that HBO has access to another very popular series.
      John: So brace yourselves, everyone, because... Omar comin'.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Frequently, John will explode at a target of his criticism.
    • And then in the Season Seven finale, he ended up on the receiving end of this from Adam Driver, who took issue with the season's running gag about him, being understandably more than a bit creeped out, getting John to apologize.
  • White Void Room: The show uses one in promotional materials, as seen in the page image. Once the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the show's studio, the new location was this. And it's an actual room in John's house. The August 22, 2021 was announced as the last to take place in the room, and the September 12, 2021 episode was the first to take place in the regular studio with a live audience since the pandemic began 18 months earlier.
  • 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".
  • Wrestling Doesn't Pay: Mentioned in the WWE piece when John mentions that the company labels their wrestlers as "independent contractors" so that they can not receive employee benefits (a literal case of wrestling not paying), saying that an independent contractor is someone that one might hire for a specific, limited task, like a plumber or an accountant, and that wrestlers aren't either of those things, "apart from this wrestling plumber" (while showing T. L. Hopper) "and this wrestling accountant" (showing Irwin R. Schyster). John also uses this on Vince McMahon, saying that besides playing a Heel on screen, he is a real life Heel.
    John: While the character Vince is an asshole, it's important to know that the real Vince is also an asshole.
  • 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 criticizes. For example, at the end of his segment on native advertising, in which he criticizes 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 notes that North Korea had the gall to call United States torture techniques "brutally medieval." And he says that probably the most insulting thing about it is that North Korea probably meant that as a compliment.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Last Week Tonight


John on Warner Bros Discovery

John Oliver, whose show is owned by WarnerMedia, wastes no time mocking the then-recently-announced merger of WarnerMedia and Discovery Inc.

How well does it match the trope?

4.94 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / BitingTheHandHumor

Media sources: