By Fin Martinez
In the aftermath of the retirement of television’s most accurate “news man,” Jon Stewart, from his tenure on the legendary program “The Daily Show,” it left a power vacuum in the world of political satire and one that the new host Trevor Noah couldn’t fill.
During Stewart’s tenure, he employed the use of “faux-correspondents” to satirize events and news stories. Out of these correspondents, many went on to pursue successful independent careers like Ed Helms, Stephen Colbert and John Oliver.
Ed Helms, of course, became a movie star. Stephen Colbert had his show, “The Colbert Report” and is now the host of “The Late Show,” but it was John Oliver who continued to pursue the political satire and comedy that defined “The Daily Show” in his own Emmy- and Peabody-award-winning creation “Last Week Tonight.”
“Last Week Tonight” might be considered a goofier, more light-hearted son of “The Daily Show,” but one defining difference in its content is the topics each show has covered. “The Daily Show” covered more politically driven content as its main focus, satirizing news and describing itself as a “fake news program,” when in fact a study by the Washington Examiner showed that “The Daily Show” was trusted more by left-leaning viewers than MSNBC. “Last Week Tonight” doesn’t limit itself to politics: John Oliver has his show cover social issues in a new form of journalism that has yet to be named.
It’s comedy, but it’s also journalism. When watching Oliver’s material you find yourself laughing hysterically but also being educated on important social issues and other topics. Oliver cites sources, shares quotes and provides analysis, just like any news man would, however, he makes no claims of objectivity in his interpretation and presentation of his news.
It’s not hard to find that there isn’t a show on television that is quite like “Last Week Tonight” as it takes news and puts it in a clown suit. That’s the genius of his show, it presents news and makes it easier for people to understand and sit through. If the content of “Last Week Tonight” were to be broadcast without the humor it would be dry, boring and hard to watch. Despite being informative nobody would watch his show because it would be essentially be a man lecturing on a subject for 30 minutes.
Personally, “Last Week Tonight” has educated me on subjects that normally I would have no interest in, but because the content is presented in such a unique way I am able to get a laugh but also get a lesson. While informative, satire is usually portrayed as creating absurd situations out of normal ones, what John Oliver does is point out how absurd the normal situations really are.
This “Oliver Journalism” is a new form of news that is accurate, credible, intelligent and hilarious. It doesn’t fit a mold because it is the first of its kind that presents relevant and newsworthy stories in a comedic way. While shows like “The O’Reilly Factor” with Bill O’Reilly and “The Closer” with Keith Olbermann are shows that would appear similar with their political commentary, “Last Week Tonight” is the show that paves the new way for political commentary by pointing out facts over opinion but still being entertaining. While news broadcasts are cut-and-dry adhering to objectivity and the accuracy story, “Last Week Tonight” presents accurate, fact-driven stories and says, “Why not have a laugh along with it?”
John Oliver is by no means objective with his stories (nor does he call himself a journalist), but in days of fake news, obvious bias, and lost-faith in journalism, he produces accurate content and acts as a watchdog on corruption and injustice, the thing journalists aspire to be. No news source is entirely neutral, but with “Last Week Tonight” broadcasting award-winning content, is objectivity really needed to produce a fact-driven and accurate story? “Last Week Tonight” could be the start of a new wave in journalism in a postmodern society.
-Fin Martinez is a journalism senior at the University of New Mexico