By Austin Cannon
On Thursday, the Washington Center hosted Robert Lichter, a George Mason University professor and author of Politics is a Joke!, for a discussion about political humor. He focused mainly on late-night hosts like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and featured several clips from Saturday Night Live. Somehow, he pretty much left out John Oliver, only mentioning him in passing.
That was a mistake, because Oliver can be extremely informative while simultaneously being hilarious. Luckily, for both your and my own enjoyment, I’ve included a few examples. Here he is on net neutrality.
Before watching this, I had only a very vague idea of what net neutrality is (even though it plays a big part in our
Internet society. This put it in much simpler terms, which led me to understand what that boring guy on C-SPAN was trying to convey. Not to mention, his plea to the Internet commenters at the end of his piece might have caused the overload of the FCC’s servers.
However, what impressed me most about this, well, rant was the reporting. As mentioned previously, he was able to boil down a complex topic to a much more understandable rhetoric, but then he backed it up. The nugget about Netflix’s uploading speed while negotiating with Comcast was particularly eye-opening, especially when you’re a college student like me whose Netflix is not to be trifled with. Oliver also proved Comcast and Time Warner are basically trying to grab a monopoly on fast Internet. This was a report that was supposed to make you angry, and it did, but it also made you laugh (Sorry, but “Nutflix” is funny). Oliver is a former The Daily Show writer, but he could be outperforming both his former boss and Colbert.
Here’s a clip from back in September when he took a foreign (literally) issue and made you chuckle while learning a bit about Scottish politics.
I knew the referendum was happening, but, except for watching Braveheart, I hadn’t really looked into why the Scots might want to separate from the United Kingdom. We get to see a clip of British Prime Minister David Cameron being kind of a jerk (in what looks like a way more entertaining legislature than our Congress). Yeah, why wouldn’t the Scots want to leave? I was further interested in the vote, and I even watched some of the BBC’s coverage that night. That’s the best part of Oliver’s coverage, it’s not just funny, it sparks an interest. It makes you interested in politics that matter.
In my opinion, Lichter should’ve talked about him at length. People have been making fun of politics for decades, but you have to really be good to be able to poke fun while also accurately explaining the issues. Oliver is creative and smart, which makes his audience smarter. But since he’s new, he doesn’t have the recognition yet. Man, how great would it be if I actually had HBO?
Bonus: Dogs as Supreme Court justices.