Review: 'Last Week Tonight' returns with comedic, enlightening programming

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When Jon Stewart retired and Stephen Colbert moved to CBA, a comedic vacuum was created and left for other aspiring stars to compete for. But while Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah attempt to capture that magic, no comedian has risen to the occasion the way John Oliver has with “Last Week Tonight,” which returned last week.

Now entering its third season, “Last Week Tonight” prides itself on exposing the silly and outrageous side of current events. This includes pieces on the ridiculousness of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the recurring segment “How is this still a thing,” which has discussed topics like Ayn Rand and the Washington Redskins.

The real meat of “Last Week Tonight,” though, is the fifteen-minute investigative piece which Oliver walks the audience through every episode. Past episodes have explored chicken farming, the death penalty and the NSA, but Oliver takes full advantage of the upcoming 2016 election by focusing the first monologue of the new season on voting.

Although the jokes are a big part of what makes the show such a huge success, Oliver has also gained a large amount of credibility from the intellectual crowd, as his monologues are some of the smartest on television.

Every week, Oliver exposes some new facet of government or corporate incompetence or danger, and the comedic jabs only enhance the message he’s trying to convey. Finally, Oliver highlights some way for the audience to get involved, such as calling your representative to support a specific bill, which makes watching “Last Week Tonight” feel a bit like doing a service to your community.

That remains the case in the season premiere, as Oliver absolutely trashes voter identification laws, which are ostensibly designed to prevent voter impersonation, a crime Oliver calls “pointless” and “right up there with forging a Bed, Bath and Beyond coupon.”

While the jokes are what keep the investigative journalism interesting for all viewers, these segments are extremely well-researched. For the episode on voter identification laws, Oliver uses several clips of elected officials giving interviews about their beliefs, as well as footage from small, local news shows exposing the hypocrisy of those same elected officials.

Oliver is clearly enthusiastic about everything that he does on the show, and the content is varied enough that viewers are never completely certain what to expect. The season premiere, for example, touched on the health risks of popular restaurant chain Chipotle, poking fun at the fact that the company is under federal criminal investigation over its approach to food safety.

A fake commercial for Chipotle showcased the show’s creativity, as the spokesperson in the ad told the audience, “What are you gonna do? Go to Taco Bell?”

John Oliver is the type of comedian who uses his immense talent for good. Every week, “Last Week Tonight” educates and entertains its audience in a way that hasn’t been done since the peak years of “The Daily Show,” and I’m already looking forward to watching the rest of the season.


Edward Pankowski is life editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at edward.pankowski@uconn.edu.