When Edward Snowden opened the folder to find a picture of John Oliver’s junk, it was clear that Oliver had made it.
Oliver, the charmingly British political satirist, has overtaken the satire news genre by blending the perfect amount of humor and journalism. This was clearly evident when he not only interviewed Snowden, but also had him explain the NSA’s breach on the privacy of Americans by informing us that the NSA obtains the nude pictures that we send through texts and emails.
With The Daily Show, The Nightly Show, and Last Week Tonight airing together, it seems like we have plenty to choose from to satisfy our need for news satire, but Oliver’s Last Week Tonight may be the only one worth watching anymore.
Because Last Week Tonight is aired on HBO, Oliver has a lot more freedom than The Daily and Nightly Show. Oliver is freed from the shackles of advertising, which is something he made clear in his episode about native ads when he praised Mountain Dew and immediately called it the most disgusting thing ever manufactured.
Although Jon Stewart and Larry Wilmore have poked fun at corporations before on their shows, they still have restrictions placed upon them by Viacom, the mass media company that owns Comedy Central. These restrictions also include who they can and cannot interview, but Oliver was given permission to interview whoever he wants since his program’s premier. This is a freedom he took to the extreme when he traveled to Russia to meet Snowden.
Stewart is one of America’s most beloved entertainers, delivering punchline after punchline for over 25 years. The Daily Show is losing Stewart later this year and replacing him with Trevor Noah, a South African comedian who is in a bit of hot water after sexist and anti-Semitic comments were found on his Twitter account. The Daily Show’s future is unpredictable at best.
The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore is hardly worth mentioning. It consists of Larry Wilmore, former Daily Show’s Senior Black Correspondent, serving up his opinion on a specific news issue, discussing the issue with guests and playing a game of Keeping It 100, which involves him asking his guests a series of controversial questions and rewarding them if he believes they are telling him the truth.
Wilmore’s presentation is bland. His guests are either dull or funnier than him and Keeping It 100 is the only thing keeping the show alive. The Nightly Show tried its best to be different from the show it replaced, The Colbert Report, but its jokes are so weak that you kind of wish Wilmore went back to the Daily Show and let Stephen Colbert return.
The Daily and Nightly Shows are simply losing their edge, and Last Week Tonight has become a phenomenon that cannot be stopped. With a combination of TV, DVR, on-demand and HBO GO, HBO’s online streaming application, season one of Last Week Tonight raked in an average of 4 million views, putting it on par with the long-running HBO talk show Real Time with Bill Maher.
Now in its second season, Oliver has successfully attacked big tobacco with Jeff, the diseased lung in a cowboy hat, the failing infrastructure of America with a parody of an investigative cop drama, and the NCAA with a video game depicting their exploitations of college students. Despite airing once a week, the laughs are enough to keep you going until the next episode, and with the announcement of two more seasons of Last Week Tonight, there will still be plenty of Oliver to give you that fix of televised news satire you crave.