Follow TV Tropes


YMMV / Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

Go To

  • Anvilicious: How John's segments can come across if you disagree.
  • Awesome Music
  • Advertisement:
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: In "Trump and Syria", John mentions that over 100 ISIS prisoners had escaped captivity and no-one knows where they went... before introducing them as that day's guests. The curtain opens, there are a few bits of junk and holes in the ground, followed by a Cluster F-Bomb and John regretting giving them shovels. The segment then carries onwards and it's never brought up again.
  • Broken Base:
    • Based on YouTube likes and comments, his video on Online Harassment seems to be split into five major camps: those who completely agree, those who agree with his aim but felt that he shouldn't have cited Anita Sarkeesian (and Brianna Wu, to a lesser extent) as examples due to the polarization surrounding them, those who think John shouldn't have gendered the issue, those who agree with John's arguments but think he should have at least touched on improvements that have been made, and others that believe that the women named deserve all the harassment they get.
    • Advertisement:
    • While his voting video (in which he argues that laws that require people to have IDs before voting are discriminatory, especially because of how hard IDs are to get) is just as highly rated as his usual videos, the top comments of the video have very different reactions. Some agree with his argument that it's indirect discrimination and with his position that it does nothing to stop voter fraud. Some say 'Wait, seriously? Americans don't all have IDs? REALLY!?', or somebody saying that the real problem isn't that IDs are being required to vote, which is the case in nearly every other developed nation, but that they're so nightmarishly difficult to get. Still others believe that not all people without IDs were victims of said difficulty.
    • The video about Brexit (whether or not UK should leave the European Union), especially the sarcastic song "Fuck You European Union", about how even though the EU may annoy the UK, the UK still needed the EU. Many refused to accept that it was a joke, both on the EU side, who viciously insulted the show and the UK itself back, and people living in the UK who took the "fuck you"s at face value and crudely insulted the EU. And since the issue is contentious, that's all we'll say on that.
    • His segment on third-party candidates, where he discusses and criticizes the two leading third-party presidential candidates for the 2016 American election, Jill Stein and Gary Johnson. Some felt John gave them both a fair shake and extra publicity. They applauded him for taking the time not only to bring attention to often-ignored candidates, but to explore their ideas for America and expose their potential major drawbacks. Others thought he exaggerated and even misrepresentd various statements by the two, especially Jill Stein. Not helped by Stein's response in a town hall with The Young Turks, where she accused John of being a shill for Hillary Clinton instead of defending the policies John criticized. And still others believe, particularly in the aftermath of Trump's eventual victory, that he didn't go far enough in explaining Johnson and Stein's drawbacks, and that he should have explicitly endorsed Clinton, as more people than usual ended up voting third party, probably playing a role in costing Clinton the presidency.
    • His video on school segregation had some people accusing him of falling victim to Political Correctness Gone Mad. The white boy who wore Blackface to portray Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is also a major point of contention between those who think his innocence makes it no big deal and those who consider his intentions irrelevant.
    • His video on the 2017 French elections. As with the American ones, accusations of exaggerating and/or misrepresenting some candidates flew around, while others think he was quite accurate. Opinion varies, mostly depending on one's political leanings, which can make the ensuing argument fairly violent.
    • His ending segment on Wendy Williams and subsequently appearing on her show. Fans of Wendy were delighted that he was expanding his horizons to another goofball talk show host. However, those who disliked Wendy (related to her controversial mocking statements on celebrities and gay men) were upset that John was giving air time to who they thought was a trashy tabloid star.
    • John's support for single payer health care. While some praised his support for single payer system owing to its success in countries like the UK and Canada, others feel that he ignores how he omitted other countries like Germany and the Netherlands that achieved universal coverage without using single payer system.
    • John's critiques of 2020 Democratic nominee Joe Biden, such as referring him to the "shot in the leg candidate" in the Police episode and criticising the Democratic National Convention for being unappealing for progressives. Some appreciate that he focused on coronavirus-related news and avoided a clearly biased pro-Democrat narrative like the one he had during the 2016 election while still indirectly helping Biden by criticizing Trump. Others however are frustrated that John continued to take shots at Biden well into the general election, possibly undermining faith in Biden.
  • Critical Research Failure:
    • The show's coverage of the band Laibach being invited to play in North Korea omitted much of the satire of their music and assumed their Putting on the Reich uniforms, imagery, and lyrics were genuinely fascist, making it seem as they were Card Carrying Villains supporting NK rather than the parody band they are.
    • In their "How Is This Still a Thing" segment on Hollywood Whitewashing, the narrator calls Tom Cruise the Last Samurai in the movie The Last Samurai. However, anyone who watches the movie will know the title "The Last Samurai" refers not to Tom Cruise's character, but to the Japanese Katsumoto and his samurai followers.
    • The entire bit about how there is a Canadian law against people trying to influence its elections, and how him stating his opinion and trying to convince Canadians to vote against Stephen Harper (who was the country's prime minister on October 18, 2015, when the episode first aired, and whose party lost government the following day) is illegal, but he doesn't care and is willing to pay the $5000 fine. The law is actually against foreigners "inducing" Canadians to vote for a certain party/candidate, and inducing means offering them something tangible in return for them voting (a.k.a. bribery), which the US itself also has laws against. John wouldn't have had to pay the fine because it was perfectly legal, not considered inducement, for him to express his personal opinion and trying to convince Canadians without bribing them.
    • In the segment about the claims that David Cameron did something during his university years involving a dead pig being mostly avoided in the British media, it shows a viewer on the telephone that mentioned Cameron "putting his cock in a dead pig's mouth" on a clip from a current affairs show, and the presenters told him off for his language. John mocked the press for their stiff-upper-lip attitude towards it, however, all of the clips that were shown were from morning television (therefore, hours before the Watershed), which would most likely have children and sensitive viewers (e.g., retirees) watching, so the presenters were purposely trying to keep the news clean as not to offend anyone.
    • When covering a story about the German version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, Oliver poked fun at the news that a contestant called the Chancellor of Germany herself for help with a question. However, that contestant, Wolfgang Bosbach, was a politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, not a random civilian as Oliver had apparently assumed.
    • 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.
    • In his segment covering chlamydia awareness ads in Norway, he translated the slogan of one, "Tiss kan overaske", as "Penis can surprise you." It's really "Pee can surprise you."
    • 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.
    • When talking about the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, he basically endorses the the idea that Scotland was in some way colonized by England. One example he gives is of a a law passed in 1746 banning highland dress. He specifically says 'we' passed this law, implying the English. This ignores the fact that the parliament in 1746 was a British Parliament, with English and Scottish members, and that this measure was taken in the immediate aftermath of the Jacobite Uprising, a rebellion centered on the Scottish Highlands aiming to repeal the act of union and restore the House of Stuart to both Scotland AND England. This was not, as often thought, a Scottish rebellion against England, but a British civil war in which there were English and Scots on both sides. Oliver also ignores that measures like that were strongly supported by lowland protestant Scots who at that time were as hostile to the Catholic highlanders as the English were.
    • In the episode about US history, John makes a joke related to Back to the Future, where he mentions that Doc Brown (or "a John C. Calhoun lookalike" as he called him) was "obsessed with going back to the 1950s". In fact, neither Doc nor Marty was interested in travelling to the 1950s at all. Doc put in November 5, 1955 as a reference as that was the date where he got the idea of time travel and to demonstrate how the time machine works. He was, in fact, planning to travel to October 26, 2010 before the Libyans interrupted them, and the date was accidentally left in the system when Marty took the DeLorean and mistakenly travels back in time to 1955.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • John offending the royal families of The Netherlands, Kuwait, and Denmark, which have laws against insulting royalty. In Oliver's home country, lèse majesté is the national sport.
    • In the segment about Infrastructure, John talks about building the dams with brains, brawn, and the bodies of the Irish.
      John: Of course we did! They're good workers, and their corpses make a solid foundation material. That's an architectural fact.
    • The Doomsday video. The video itself is mostly tame, until you get to humanity's blooper reel…
    • John's take on the segment regarding the aftermath of the Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting, where one of the news reporters points out the procedure of moving the Confederate flag flown in front of the state's capitol.
      John: Yeah, it needs a two-thirds vote. They were originally going to make it three-fifths, but even they thought it might be a bit on the nose.
    • In the Season 4 premiere, John reveals that he's become so traumatized by all the things Trump did in his first few weeks as president that after one particular news alert, he actually said out loud, "Oh, thank God, it's just that Mary Tyler Moore is dead."
    • The satirical Warren G. Harding movie trailer features Anna Kendrick, as Harding's mistress, having sex with the life-size wax figure of Harding.
    • His list of things Roy Moore apparently did includes "kicking a panda in the balls" and "once calling Tom Hanks the N-word".
    • Santa Claus' cameo, where he reveals just what Santa does whenever it's not Christmas. The Reveal is followed by various Unusual Euphemisms and way Too Much Information, and the climax of the joke reveals that thanks to the elves teaching him yoga, he's learned to give himself blowjobs.
    • Since the UK prohibits the use of parliamentary footage in comedy, the Brexit update segment, which uses such footage, had to be replaced for the show's UK broadcast. As an alternative, Gilbert Gottfried reads from portions of the provisional Brexit agreement in his trademark shrill voice, followed by an excerpt of Bigfoot erotica. John threatens the UK with more Bigfoot erotica if Brexit isn't stopped (or at least the law about parliamentary footage).
      Gilbert: [A]nd between his legs swung what I can only describe as a glistening, furry forest log. Picture a mink biting an apple. My mouth instinctively dropped open in surprise, and if I'm honest, anticipation. This is going to be the Loch Ness Monster all over again!
    • The entire "Eat Shit Bob" musical number at the end of the episode on SLAPP lawsuits is full of outrageous, false, vulgar claims about Bob Murray. Claims that, as John and rest of the singers put, are way too weird to be considered slander and are all jokes which any reasonable person would not take as factual and any reasonable judge would dimiss a lawsuit against.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse
    • Jeff the Diseased Lung in a Cowboy Hat, who trended worldwide as an alternate cigarette mascot.
    • C-SPAN host Steve Scully, whose incredible poker face while listening to horrific rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle has earned him several segments as "the most patient man on television."
    • The Catheter Cowboy, who John uses to teach Donald Trump policy issues, has become quite popular.
    • Lord Buckethead, an alien Evil Overlord presented as a joke candidate in the UK's 2017 snap election, with whom Theresa May was subsequently forced to share the stage while her party lost a net thirteen parliamentary seats (enough to lose its slim majority, the opposite of what it was intended to do), and was also alone in his willingness to call out her constant evasions about what exactly her plans for Brexit are. The show actually flew him to America to request he be made the official Brexit negotiator.
    • Staff writer Jill Twiss already had her fans for playing Janice from Accounting, and it skyrocketed with her being the one who actually wrote A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo.
  • "Funny Aneurysm" Moment:
    • 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.
    • John's episode about "Third Parties" in 2016 featured a then-little-known third party candidate for that year's U.S. presidential election: Joe Exotic. Yes, the same Joe Exotic that was the subject of Tiger King.
      • Remember when John jokingly endorsed Joe Exotic in the episode? ("Make America Exotic Again!") Yeah, it went directly into Joe's head. The documentary even shows clips of the show, pointing out how John unwittingly fed Joe's delusions by giving him airtime.
      • In particular, John's joke of Joe being the kind of guy you'd get drunk enough to try meth with is eerily close to what was going at his zoo, where Joe convinced straight men into sexual relationships with him by keeping them high on meth 24/7.
      • In an interview with Seth Meyers, John stated that, when they got in contact with him, he kept ranting about a woman named Carole.
        John: And it would've been great if none of us ever knew why.
  • Growing the Beard: The common consensus was that while his first episode was good, it was also uneven and a lot like The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report. His second episode, where he covered capital punishment, and gave the audience a video of tiny hamsters eating tiny burritos as a reward for getting through it, is what got him all the positive attention.
  • Harsher in Hindsight
    • During his segment on the death penalty, John jokes that while the death penalty isn't a good deterrent to violent crime, it is a great deterrent to fishing without a license. Come his segment on mandatory minimums, where he talks about what a horrible, useless deterrent it is to give ridiculously high sentences for minor crimes.
    • In his segment on Migrants and Refugees, he talked about how Europeans should be worried about the "new face of Europe," showing first a pair of Muslim women, then two French-looking skeletons, revealing that he was actually referring to declining birth rates. Then the terrorist attacks in Paris occurred, and various far-right parties in Europe use the same rhetoric seriously.
    • In 2014, John Oliver released a web video trying to predict the next week's news. One of those predictions is that a rich old man was racist or sexist, and in his attempts to justify it, sounded even more bigoted. He then guesses who it will be.
      John: We haven't heard much from Donald Trump in a while, so I'm guessing it was him.
    • The recurring "And Now, This" segments pointing out the "sexual tension" on CBS This Morning count as this, after anchor Charlie Rose was fired due to numerous allegations of sexual misconduct.
    • Another "How Is This Still A Thing?" suggests various other Italian people that could be used to replace Columbus Day, including chef Mario Batali. Then he was hit with several sexual harassment accusations.
    • In his segment on former Alabama governor Robert Bentley's sex scandal, Oliver pointed out that Bentley's trial would be presided over by Roy Moore, but only cited his infamy from refusing to give up a statue of the Ten Commandments (to show how everyone involved in prosecuting Bentley were themselves prosecuted). Moore himself would later turn out to be accused of being a sex criminal, being accused of five counts of sexual assault including that of a minor.
    • During his cameo in the 2016 Puerto Rico story, Lin-Manuel Miranda likened the island's debt crisis to an impending hurricane. The following year, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
    • In the episode on Workplace Sexual Harassment, John discussed Anita Hill and her infamously poor treatment by the Senate Judiciary Committee after she accused Supreme Court Justice (then nominee) Clarence Thomas of harassment. John even interviewed Hill herself, who said that, although there is still a long way to go, she felt things had improved somewhat since that incident. Not two months later Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had attempted to rape her while the two were in high school and received treatment which was widely considered even worse than what Professor Hill had faced. John lampshaded this when discussing the Kavanaugh hearings themselves, noting that the piece became relevant in the worst History Repeats way possible.
    • John's first episode on coronavirus becomes this in hindsight after the increased spread of the virus forced John to do his show without his audience and later at his home. Especially when one considers that someone who worked at the studio where the show is taped actually tested positive for the disease, forcing the show to evacuate the studio a little earlier than other late night shows did, and to tape the first show without audience from an undisclosed location before moving on a more permanent basis to John's home.
    • In the last episode of 2016, as John discussed Donald Trump's shocking win in the 2016 president election, he says "It turns out hindsight, much like the year we're all now desperately looking forward to, is 2020." As it turns out, 2020 would be an even more bitter year, with the coronavirus pandemic and massive protests around the world.
    • In the episode about the 2018 Brazilian presidential election, which aired on the same day as the first round of voting took place,note  John informed the audience that Jair Bolsonaro, the candidate who John spent the majority of the episode arguing was in his view the worst-possible candidate, was around 48% of the vote at the moment of the episode's airing, and thus there was the possibility of him winning outright that day without the need of a runoff secound-round vote.note  A disapponted John then states that "between taping this show and airtime, Bolsonaro could have won, Ruth Bader Ginsburg could have been eaten by a bear, and every kitten's paws could have been replaced by octopus tentacles; all of that very possible beause it seems that's what life fucking is now!" While Ginsburg wasn't eaten by a bear, she did die in September 2020, just a month and a half before the 2020 United States presidential election, which was argued to have turned the already contentious election year even more contentious.
    • After all the show's montages portraying Steve Scully as "the most patient man on television," Scully apparently did eventually lost his patience in 2020; he was suspended indefinitely from C-SPAN after admitting to misleading about his Twitter accout being hacked when confronted about an exchange he had with Anthony Scaramucci, in which he asked him if he should talk back to Trump at the (ultimately canceled) debate Scully was set to host.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • John reported the addition of two more states legalizing gay marriage by looking forward to finding out which state will be the absolute last holdout (his guess is Mississippi). Turns out we won't get to find out … because it was legalized across the whole country a year later.
    • In Edward Snowden's interview, he's shown video clips of people on the street being asked who he is, with most having little idea or confusing him with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, raising the distinct fear that Snowden had been forgotten and his exile amounting to nothing. Five months after the interview, Snowden started a Twitter account that drastically increased his public outreach to over 2 million followers, and WIRED would proclaim him "the most powerful person on Twitter."
    • In his segment on mandatory minimums, John discussed the extremely unfair sentence that Weldon Angelos received for dealing drugs. In June 2016, Angelos was finally released from jail after thirteen years in prison.
    • The end of the segment about the Equal Rights Amendment from June 2019 presents a twofer.
      • In it, John encouraged the 13 remaining states that haven't ratified it to do so. In January 2020, the state legislature of Virginia passed a resolution to ratify the ERA.
      • In particular, when John directs his attention to Mississippi, he is shocked to discover that its flag features the Confederate battle flag in its design. In the wake of the protests for the killing of George Floyd, the state legislature of Mississippi passed a resolution to retire the flag.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight
    • Martin Sheen announcing the end of the world? Is it war, disease … Reapers?
    • Kristen Schaal appeared as one of the instructors in a sex-ed video produced by John. Look like the talk with Grunkle Stan paid off, huh!
    • John Oliver founded Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, a church that exists solely for tax breaks. Some months after the segment aired, it was revealed that some people in Iceland had revived the Sumerian religion mainly for tax exemptions.
      • A few months prior, a segment on FIFA had the federation's former VP Jack Warner saying “If you’re pious, open a church, friends. Our business is our business." and John commenting how "opening a church is a fantastic way to make a shit ton of money!" While at the time it was a dig on Scientology, in retrospect is also foreshadowing for Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.
    • In a 2014 "How Is This Still A Thing?" segment focusing on Ayn Rand, the show questions why conservatives hold her up as an icon when many of her views are the opposite of theirs.Examples  It points out that conservatives can look to other "advocates for selfishness" like Donald Trump, Drake, or "basically anyone on Bravo". Seems like a lot of conservatives took that first choice and elected Trump as president.
    • One of the people hit by the salmon cannon in the Season 1 finale is J. J. Abrams on the set of The Force Awakens, as he's having a hard time getting R2-D2 to listen to his direction. This is a pretty good explanation for why R2 spends the whole film in a Heroic BSoD until the end. There's also the fact that after getting hit with the salmon, Abrams puts a Screw This, I'm Outta Here! and leaves. Abrams was later announced to return to the Star Wars franchise to direct The Rise of Skywalker.
    • The segment on public defenders had John saying he wasn't interested in spending time with children. Soon as the season ended, he became a father.
    • A segment on FIFA aired in 2015 had John saying "If the Dutch somehow found a reason to extradite and lock up Donald Trump, you'd all think 'Holy shit, the Dutch are awesome!" By the following year, with Trump starting his political career, that sentence certainly gained a whole other layer.
    • In his segment about Donald Trump's wall, he says "Things don't get bigger just because you're angry — if that were true, Alec Baldwin would be a hundred feet tall by now." Alec Baldwin would later go on to portray Donald Trump on Saturday Night Live.
    • The segment on 2016 third-party candidates highlighted "Joe Exotic", who John then showed mocking support. As Tiger King showed, a quote in Exotic's campaign video ("I am broke as shit, I have a judgement against me from some bitch down here in Florida") is basically Foreshadowing what would get him imprisoned - he tried to hire a hitman to kill the owner of a big cat shelter who Exotic would have to pay $1 million in damages following a lawsuit - and John's assessment itself is featured, implied to have helped make Joe's delusional mind even worse.
    • Alex Jones complained about being featured on the show, adding that "your ratings are in the toilet". Not only is season 4 the most watched (only three episodes with fewer than a million viewers), but the episode about Jones and his InfoWars site gave Last Week Tonight its highest audience ever!
    • In the episode about Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, John noted that Kushner was rarely heard speaking in public, which he exploited by putting an old clip of him speaking, only to replace his voice with Gilbert Gottfried. Just a few weeks later, Kushner gave a press conference, giving the public the opportunity of hearing him speak, and if Internet reactions are to be believed, Gottfried wasn't too far off the mark.
    • After repeatedly joking about his resemblance to Zazu from The Lion King, Oliver voiced Zazu in the 2019 version.
    • Perhaps with a bit of Heartwarming mixed in, a year after John pegged hatred of robocalls as the one thing that still unites all Americans, both sides of the House indeed teamed up to pass a bill against them.
  • Les Yay: In the segment on mobile homes, John plays a real commercial in which a woman buys a mobile home and shows it off to another woman. He later plays a parody of that commercial. The cheesy Sexophone soundtrack in both commercials doesn't help matters. It gets more explicit in the blooper reel for the parody commercial shown during the credits of the episode, in which one of the women reacts to the other baking a peccan pie by swatting it to the floor, only to get her hand covered in the pie's filling. The other woman in turn responds by licking the filling from her hand.
  • Memetic Mutation
    • Janice from Accounting, who doesn't give a fuck. In reference to a character that first showed up early on in the show during a segment on for-profit colleges, and then returned later and was depicted stealing office food, several small islands in the East China Sea, and winning a pot for fantasy sports.
    • "Just add zebras" was an attempt at this. Inspired by the traffic zebras of Bolivia, the crew made their own costume and put up a video of someone acting out a huge variety of emotions and gestures with it in front of a green screen, for people to add into any context they want. However, it didn't take off.
    • Everything surrounding Lord Buckethead, a joke candidate for the Prime Minister of the UK, especially after he openly insulted the rest of the candidates for not having any idea of what to do when they went into the negotiations surrounding Brexit.
    • Things John Oliver looks like — this started with seemingly genuine insults to John's appearance in online comments sections, but he's embraced it and he (and fans) enjoy coming up with increasingly elaborate, self-deprecating descriptions. Examples include, but are by no means limited to, "a nearsighted parrot", "sad Harry Potter", "a wooden marionette who wished on a star to be a real boy", and, most popularly, "a rat-faced bastard".
    • After the SLAPP Suits episode, which ends with an elaborate Broadway-style musical number filled with blatantly outlandish false claims about Murray, it became popular among fans to come up with their own absurd claims about Murray.
  • Memetic Troll: John's tendency to do extremely memorable stuff merely to annoy people he doesn't like hasn't gone unnoticed.
    • Jeff the diseased lung in a cowboy hat. Created to discredit cigarette companies, LWT set up billboards of him in Uruguay, sent shirts of him to Togo, suggested people to tag pictures of Jeff with "#JeffWeCan" and to post images of him in social media, so he'd be among the top results whenever someone searched "Marlboro" in Google Images. He even offered Philip Morris International full rights to use the character. Jeff became a major Ensemble Dark Horse and thus the message was spread across the world.
    • The whole Marlon Bundo affair. After hearing that Mike Pence's family was writing a kids' book about their pet rabbit, Marlon Bundo, John's team coincidentally also wrote a book about him, but with a surprise twist: their Marlon falls in love with another male rabbit. While the book is truly meant to be for children, John openly admits that it exists mostly to annoy the notoriously anti-LGBT Pence, released it a day before Pence's book was released, and all money they get from it goes directly to LGBT support groups. LWT's book crushed Pence's book in sales and reviews, and thus Pence now has the reputation of owning America's most famous gay rabbit. If reports are to be believed, Mike's daughter Charlotte, who wrote the original book, doesn't mind it at all.
    • In his segment on coal, John Oliver completely twists coal baron Bob Murray's story of the founding of his company (a squirrel told him to) into a man in costume whose catchphrase is "Eat shit, Bob", in response to his part in the deaths of workers. Bob sued him, which only heightened the exposure of the squirrel and the entire segment, and the case didn't even go to court! After the case was finally dropped, LWT celebrated with an entire Broadway-style musical number at the end of their episode on SLAPP suits.
    • To combat the FCC's lack of action against robocalls, John records his own robocall and sets it up to call the heads of the FCC every 90 minutes.
  • Mis-blamed: Some viewers feel that John Oliver really reached in blaming America for twenty-first-century Uganda's homophobia simply because a few American fundamentalists fanned the flames.
  • Nightmare Fuel:
    • Invoked during John's segment on battles over tobacco regulation. He shows us plain packaging with cigarette brands on boxes being replaced with disgusting photos like a cancerous mouth or a diseased lung.
    • After 25 episodes of him openly mocking Russia and Vladimir Putin, John actually flies out to Moscow to interview Edward Snowden. He doesn't realize that they're booked in a hotel across the way from the former KGB headquarters (which currently houses the offices of the FSB) until he gets there. And they certainly know he's there. This is coupled with the fact that Snowden is more than an hour late to the interview, which makes John begin to quietly panic, though he tries to keep it funny. He is clearly genuinely scared.
    • In the episode about immigration, it featured a An American Tail trailer in which the mouse protagonist had his tail cut off, was forced to work in a mouse trap factory, and in the end, got "trapped in the prison of his own mind". It's pretty depressing.
    • Coronavirus II: just John alone in a blank white void. No studio audience, no laughs, no city background because the normal studio apparently had cases present. Since most other late night hosts simply shifted to filming from their homes (or backyards), the blank background and stilted line readings makes the episode feel truly unnatural and unsettling - which was likely an Intended Audience Reaction, as John finds the pandemic so frightening and wants to convey that effect.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Be careful if your name is Judy Thomas. You might just be mistaken for someone else.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Joe Exotic, the subject of the 2020 documentary Tiger King, was featured on a 2016 episode about third-party candidates in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The documentary even shows clips of said episode, pointing out how the exposure Joe received from it went directly into his head and unwittingly fed his delusions.
    • In the episode about Washington D.C. statehood, one of the kids in the children's choir who sings a "new" song about the 50 states is Caleb McLaughlin, who would go on to play Lucas on Stranger Things. This was lampshaded by the show itself when they shared the story again on Twitter on 2020 after the issue was treated again in Congress.
  • Some Anvils Need to Be Dropped: This is how John delivers his segments.
  • Squick
    • The Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption church was shut down after they received multiple jars of what appeared to be semen through the mail, noting that while some of them were probably fake, others were quite convincing (for obvious reasons, they didn't investigate further).
    • The segment on vaccines, which has a news clip towards the beginning talking about anti-vaccine parents exchanging "used lollipops, saliva and pus-soaked clothing" in order to "inoculate" their children the "natural" way.
    • The February 19, 2017 episode revolved around Vladimir Putin, mentioning two critics who were mercilessly harassed. One of them filmed a man climbing onto the hood of his car, pulled down his pants, defecated on the hood of the car, got off, pulled his pants back on, and left. This squicked John so much that, at the end of the episode, when they released a parody of a Russian pop song praising Putin which mentioned that incident, John interrupted it briefly to implore Putin and/or his supporters not to defecate on his car.
    • The Medical Implants segment there is both a visual moment and a descriptive one as to what badly made implants can do.
    • In the segment about China's One Child Policy, Donald Duck is redrawn to add the corkscrew-shaped penis real ducks have.
    • Brian d'Arcy James cameoing as a HBO lawyer in the SLAPP Suit segment, where he vividly describes Bob Murray...antics in an M&M shop.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot:
    • At the end of the French Election segment, John delivers a stereotypically French monologue: in French, drinking wine, listening to accordion music and smoking a cigarette. What would have been better is if John got pelted with flour and eggs like French politicians Manuel Valls, Francois Fillon and Emmanuel Macron were.
    • The Wax and the Furious trailer could have used a cameo from Stephen Colbert and his Zachary Taylor wax president, Jon Stewart and his Martin van Buren wax president and/or even Rachel Maddow and her Dwight Eisenhower wax president. (At least John did appear on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to make his and Stephen's wax presidents "fight to the death".)
    • The Eat Shit Bob Musical could have used a cameo by Mike Myers playing Dr. Evil (what with Bob Murray having been compared by John to "a geriatric Dr. Evil" and Myers having actually appeared on the show before during the episode about Canadian elections).
  • Uncanny Valley: The show bought wax statues of five US presidents after the museum that housed a complete collection shut down, which John calls "our terrifying new friends."
  • Values Dissonance
    • The reason why the voting video (in which he argues that ID laws are discriminatory because poor and nonwhite voters have such a hard time getting them) is so controversial.note  In most other developed countries, IDs are required to vote and quite easily obtained. In fact, most of the top comments on this video are from people in other countries saying 'Wait, seriously? Americans don’t all have IDs? REALLY!?' In the United Kingdom (where John is from), IDs are not required for voting at all. Most people don't even make a big deal of this. The other point is that, up until some lawmakers decided to push that into practice, most American states didn't care for that either.
    • John's ire over a Danish zoo killing a giraffe in front of an audience with children was met with some debate from viewers from different nations, the typical response being that American viewers were horrified and disgusted, while Scandinavian viewers didn't get what all the fuss was about.
  • The Woobie
    • The two men in charge of Litchfield, New Hampshire's Mosquito Control District are "almost heartbreakingly conscientious" in their duties, made evident by their going through the full motions of a public meeting for over forty-three minutes despite being the only ones there. The video didn't even have any views on YouTube prior to the show broadcasting it (whereupon it racked up over 70,000 in just a few days), meaning that even the video's uploaders didn't watch it.
      John: Come on! You have got to admire their dedication to the rules!
    • Most U.S. public services featured on the show are shown to be underfunded, understaffed, overworked, and get no respect or worse. Examples include but are not limited to public defenders, the IRS, and 911 responders.
    • After reading a report on a car that was bought and then repossessed again eight times over the course of three years, John says that after a while you start to feel sorry for the car. And then they did their own research of what happened next, discovering that it was stolen after its next purchase and hopefully driven off a cliff (where a used car-selling lobster might have taken it up).
    • The aforementioned Steve Scully, who has to deal with many, many stupid calls on C-SPAN with a straight face. He truly is the most patient man on television.
    • Monica Lewinsky in the "Public Shaming" episode, having to deal with the humiliation of the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal even 20 years after the fact.
    • Mount Everest sherpas. Those people risk their lives on a daily basis, such as ice doctors who make their way across the deadly Khumbu Icefall on a wobbly ladder, just so the tourists they're responsible for (half of which are inexperienced wannabes) are able to climb up the summit and back down safely. On top of that, the sherpas are also basically treated as the pack mules, carrying around commodities and luxuries (such as dining tables) for the tourists.
    • Professional wrestlers. It's explained that many of them have died early and others have ended up broke when they can't wrestle anymore. Some had to turn to crowdfunding sites to pay for medical bills.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: