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Top 10 John Oliver Moments

VO: Dan Paradis

Written by Garrett Alden

He’s the new leading man in news-related comedy. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 John Oliver Moments on Last Week Tonight.

For this list, we’ll be examining the segments and features that have helped turn John Oliver and his show into a viral Internet phenomenon. We’ll be focusing on the entertainment of the pieces, as well as their impact.

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He’s the new leading man in news-related comedy. Welcome to and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the top 10 John Oliver Moments on Last Week Tonight.

For this list, we’ll be examining the segments and features that have helped turn John Oliver and his show into a viral Internet phenomenon. We’ll be focusing on the entertainment of the pieces, as well as their impact.

#10: Dr. Oz and Dietary Supplements

One of the standout moments of “Last Week Tonight”’s first season is this segment on Dr. Oz, an accredited doctor whose hit show is considered by many in the medical community as a modern day version of a traveling snake oil salesman. John Oliver covers the doctor’s senate hearing, as well as Oz’s use of his profession to legitimize unproven products. However, the deeper focus of the editorial is the lack of regulation concerning dietary supplements, which is the result of the unbelievably legal practice of lobbying. Oliver tops the segment off by schooling Dr. Oz and the supplement industry at their own game by showing them how to pander properly, complete with puppies, t-shirts, celebrities, music, and dancing.

#9: Tobacco

Despite its sharp decline in popularity in America, the tobacco industry continues to be profitable, thanks to emerging markets overseas. “Last Week Tonight” covers the subject, emphasizing tobacco companies’ litigation against any attempts to mitigate the marketing of their deadly products, such as the plain packaging laws in Australia, as well as poorer countries such as Uruguay or Togo, who cannot afford expensive court cases. The biggest impact of the segment, though, is the introduction of Jeff, the diseased lung in a cowboy hat, a mascot parodying the Marlboro Man. While the show sent Jeff t-shirts to Togo and put up billboards in Uruguay and Jeff appears whenever you do an image search for Marlboro on Google.

#8: Sex Education

In this piece, Oliver looks at the state of sex education in the U.S.A., with particular attention given to its inconsistency. Sex and sexuality are something most people will have to deal with at some point in their lives, and Oliver points out the absurdity of America’s varying approaches to the subject, which can range from genuinely informative to downright backwards. The editorial concludes with a simple, direct look at sex education, parodying the less than accurate sex ed videos showcased earlier, narrated by celebrities. This segment is an excellent example of “Last Week Tonight”’s tendency to highlight social or governmental issues that could use some improvement, and doing it in a way that’s enlightening and entertaining.

#7: Televangelists

While it may be hard to believe that they’re still around, the show’s spotlight on televangelists reveals that they remain fixtures of television, and wealthy ones at that. Oliver highlights the practices used by the TV preachers to get rich, with particular emphasis on “seed faith,” which is essentially asking people for money and promising good karma in return. He also illustrates the gaping tax loopholes that allow televangelists to get away with their verbal robbery; culminating with a demonstration of the process with the creation of his own short-lived real church “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption.” The church had to close down after people got a little too literal with the “seed” metaphor.

#6: 2015 Canadian Federal Election

Originally airing the literal night before the election was due to take place, this segment focused on explaining the electoral process, while also sharing a few hilarious scandals, and detailing the major nominees for Canada’s three major political parties. Oliver pays particular attention to then incumbent Stephen Harper, whom he calls banal, but evil. The crowning jewel of the proceedings, however, is Oliver’s response to a law forbidding non-Canadians from trying to influence their elections. What follows is an over-the-top request not to vote for Harper, accompanied by music, pantomime animals, and Mike Myers dressed as a Mountie riding a snowplow.

#5: U.S. Presidential Scandals

The U.S. presidential election of 2016 dominated news for a few years and the two candidates’ major scandals are examined here in great detail. Oliver pays particular attention to Hillary Clinton’s scandals, namely her email server and the Clinton foundation controversy, explaining the complicated details in an understandable and funny way. He then contrasts Clinton’s wrongdoing with Donald Trump’s, mentioning that over 50% of the Republican’s statements were found to be false by Politifact, and that he has committed far worse, far more often, and with significantly less scrutiny than Clinton. Oliver finishes the piece off by using an incredibly effective visual demonstration of the difference between the candidates; arguing that while Clinton has more scandals than someone should, they’re nowhere near as many as Trump.

#4: 2015 FIFA Corruption Case

Few subjects have received as many segments devoted to it on “Last Week Tonight”’s first few seasons as FIFA, the organization in charge of international football, and the corruption charges against its officials. John Oliver’s passion for the sport is really evident throughout all the coverage and the various pieces are easily some of the best the show has ever put out. Some highlights include Oliver promising to endorse products he finds gross or tacky if their companies pull their sponsorships from FIFA, which he delivers on, and his memorable feud with former FIFA vice president Jack Warner, which included purchased airtime on Trinidad TV and an announcement accompanied by dramatic music and jets of fire.

#3: Government Surveillance

The focus of the longest segment, and episode, of “Last Week Tonight” yet, government surveillance in America is a frightening and uncomfortable subject, but one that John Oliver handles with grace. He focuses primarily on detailing what programs like the Patriot Act allow the U.S. government to do, as well as Edward Snowden’s leaking of the information that revealed the scope of the government’s reach, while also touching on the public’s surprisingly blasé attitude about surveillance. Half of the piece’s runtime is devoted to Oliver traveling to Russia to interview Snowden himself, which made headlines around the world. Despite being a comedian first, Oliver managed to ask plenty of tough questions of Snowden, while maintaining an air of humor.

#2: Brexit Referendum

Brexit, the nickname for June 2016 referendum in which voters decided whether the UK should exit from the European Union, has been controversial and financially tumultuous. John Oliver covered his homeland’s referendum before it was actually held. In the segment, he explains the basics of what the European Union is, identifies its proponents, examines their arguments, and points out their party’s history of xenophobia and nationalism. Like many other “Last Week Tonight” stories, this one wraps up with a musical number, this time in the form of a plea for Britain to remain with the EU, while still insulting it, as sung by a barbershop quartet. It’s not often you hear young boys belting curse-laden songs about economic unions.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

Wealth Gap

Puerto Rico’s Government

Miss America 2015 Pageant

#1: Donald Trump

While John Oliver and “Last Week Tonight” have tackled Donald Trump several times since its airing, this in-depth look at the then-frontrunner for the Republic Party nomination for U.S. presidency is by far the most successful and the most biting. Oliver debunks Trump’s biggest selling points: his temperament, his honesty, and his success, none of which are as substantial as Trump claims; while also highlighting the candidate’s dangerous inconsistency when it comes to policy. However, what elevates the piece is when Oliver hits Trump somewhere he actually values: his name, which is also his brand. Oliver reveals that the alleged billionaire’s family name used to be Drumpf, a moniker that he feels is much more befitting of the man himself.

Do you agree with our list? Which Last Week Tonight moment is your favorite? For more Top 10s published tonight and last week, be sure to subscribe to


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