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April 11, 2017

A Clear View

Do you feel overwhelmed by an ever-growing tension of a nation divided by an extreme political climate? Last Week Tonight with John Oliver offers entertaining, clever, and comical clarity.

Julie Umiker-Spurlock
  • HBO
  • HBO
  • HBO
  • HBO
  • HBO

The thick tension within the often polar opposite values of the United States of America’s citizens is palpable these days, to say the least.

The culture, laws, societal issues and government leadership of the U.S.A have become so divisive that satirical shows have offered a welcomed sense of relief for the people of the U.S.A. For decades, political satire has lightened the mood of clashing civic issues. There have been, and currently are, a handful of clever and humorous news parody shows that poke fun at the bureaucracy of the United States.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver is different from many other observational, satirical news television programs. Oliver hosts the show uninterrupted by ads, featuring Oliver speaking directly to the camera, with little use of special features and guests. This production style is only one of the many differences that sets this show apart from others of its genre.

A key element that makes this show so special is the creative freedom HBO allows Oliver, his writers, and his producers. Oliver has been quoted many times speaking of his gratitude for having very few limits to the material and the presentation of the show.

One very important issue to Oliver is “Net Neutrality." Meriam Webster’s definition of net neutrality is "the idea, principle, or requirement that internet service providers should or must treat all internet data as the same, regardless of its kind, source or destination."

Net Neutrality is still a rather esoteric concept with which many are not familiar, particularly in how it could apply to the common person's life. However, like many of the other topics discussed on his show, Oliver breaks down complicated concepts into an easy-to-understand, funny, approachable idea.

This vital ability to explain how complex issues apply to the majority of people, and why they are important to understand, led to an interesting phenomenon. Some viewers and fans have coined the term the “John Oliver effect."

Perhaps beginning with the net neutrality conversation, Oliver's opinions have begun to carry weight among active decision making politicians.

Oliver is a persuasive, often hilariously sarcastic, voice that impacts voter opinions, U.S. laws, courts and grassroots movements, in everything from corruption in big tobacco, to pharmaceutical industries, Donald Trump and all things political in need of whistleblowing.

Even Miss America pageants received scrutiny from Oliver, calling the corporation out on misappropriating funds by short-changing scholarships to the winning contestants.The “John Oliver effect" is proving to be a very real micro-movement within the televised information world.

In fact, another highly interesting facet of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has became a real entity. This idea was to become another staple in the show’s imaginative, symbolic use of sarcasm. It came in the form of a “church," appropriately named, “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption."

According to Wikipedia, it [the church] was formed by Oliver in August 2015 and only lasted a little less than a month, but it was extremely effective in driving home the show’s topic of unscrupulous wrongdoings within many religions, and why taxation and unbiased, monetary observation should be implemented in houses of worship.

He was able to make the church of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” a legitimate, legally, tax exempt, religious institution, with surprising ease. Basically, this church was conceived as a way for Oliver to point out the almost effortless ability to become exempt from taxes, under the guise of religion, despite the numerous types of potential corruption that could occur with this exemption.

Oliver’s formation of “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” made its doctrine pointing out the fraudulent ways of televangelists. After decades of dishonesty and crime within televangelism, Oliver’s temporary church of honesty scrutinized other questionable places of worship, which are infamous for taking advantage of their tax exempt status, and using tithings for tangible luxuries.

Oliver made a brilliantly concentrated effort to point out this hypocrisy. He also made an impression by giving all the money that was donated to “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” to the “Doctors Without Borders” program.

The eclectic mix of important issues shows that sometimes satirical entertainment can express more truth through comedy than mainstream, “real” news. Citizens who become more informed on social issues, can become empowered to move society further towards progress, and the decline of societal ills.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver offers an intellectually unique perspective mixed with the perfect balance of thoughtful jest making it a deserving recipient of Television Academy Honors.


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