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YMMV / Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

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  • Acceptable Targets
    • Once the rape allegations came to light, Bill Cosby.
    • FIFA, especially former president Sepp Blatter and former CONCACAF president Jack Warner, the latter of whom he had a feud with on Trinidadian television.
    • Budweiser is also a frequent target of potshots from John and company.
    • HM The Queen, but it's mostly limited to lighthearted jabs at her Stiff Upper Lip personality and her lack of much real power.
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    • Vladimir Putin, of whom John never speaks in a flattering light; also, David Cameron and Narendra Modi.
    • Corrupt Politicians and Corrupt Corporate Executives in general, given that the show revolves around the ways that they have fucked the world over.
    • "Social media expert" is Oliver's go-to comparison for any profession with lax (i.e. virtually nonexistent) job requirements.
    • Donald Trump. Especially notable in that he got so many episodes dedicated to him that there's a dedicated Wikipedia article to cover them all.
    • Florida, which he compared to North Korea and once proposed to get kicked out in exchange for Washington, D.C. becoming a state.
    • The movie Fifty Shades of Grey, which spawned the hashtag "#NotMyChristian."
    • Entourage, both the series and the film, also fall under this banner.
    • He has a tendency to make fun of Guy Fieri whenever he talks about bad food or food waste.
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    • It's safe to say M. Night Shyamalan is not John Oliver's favorite contemporary filmmaker, given the show's Take Thats at his contemporaneous movies.
    • It's also safe to say that John is not a big fan of Caillou.
    • He likes to poke fun at Amazon and its subsidiaries like Whole Foods, and especially Prime Originals. Bosch, Goliath, and Mozart in the Jungle all catch jokes about how nobody watches them.
  • Anvilicious: How John's segments can come across if you disagree.
  • Awesome Music
  • 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.
    • 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.
    • While wrestling fans generally agreed with his segment calling out the problems with WWE, a lot of fans thought that saying Roman Reigns's permanently wet hair made him look like "a paedophile out for a jog" was a bit too far. Not helped by Reigns only returning from his real life second battle with leukemia the month before.
  • 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."
  • 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!
  • Ear Worm
  • 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.
  • 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 would later turn out to be accused of being a sex criminal himself, 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • 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.Such as  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 gettng 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.
  • 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".
  • 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!
    • 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.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Be careful if your name is Judy Thomas. You might just be mistaken for someone else.
  • Retroactive Recognition: 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."
  • 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.
  • 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.


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