7 Brazen John Oliver Wisecracks That Made Us Laugh Out Loud

John Oliver’s unique storytelling perspective and format has been a blessing to American audiences since his show Last Week Tonight premiered on HBO in 2013. Oliver technically started his career on U.S. television on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but since he got his own show, he’s really gotten the chance to shine and prove how powerful his comedy can be. Oliver’s reign thus far has been surprisingly effective, including helping change New York City’s low-level offender bail system and encouraging the FCC to adopt net neutrality regulations. However, the best part of Last Week Tonight is always the intrepid host’s propensity to make his audience laugh, which he manages to do every week with classic John Oliver humor.

Tackling every issue from abortion to online fantasy sports and keeping the show hilarious is a challenge, but Oliver has been accomplishing the daunting task with aplomb for the past three seasons (with hopefully many more to come). Oliver’s ability to capture the humor in some of the most boring or polarizing social issues is admirable, and he’s got the awards to prove it from the Writers Guild of America, the Critics Choice Awards, and the Primetime Emmys. But the awards are really just window dressing — at the heart of the success of the show is Oliver's stylized brand of humor, which never fails to deliver.

Medicaid Gap

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Last Week Tonight looked into the bureaucratic gap that leaves millions of Americans stuck between Medicaid and private insurance and its troubling implications, including the willingness by government officials to leave a system that only "covers nearly all" Americans.

Healthcare is like a pair of gym shorts — even if it covers nearly all of what it's supposed to, you're still left with problematic gaps, and terrible things can happen.

Predatory Lending

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Oliver detailed a story of a man who went to a payday loan business and ended up paying more than $700 for a $250 loan. Oliver's indignation was so strong that he didn't crack a smile, but his joke still landed with the audience.

It's not often that a metaphorical slippery slope costs as much as an actual ski vacation.

Police Militarization

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Oliver's segment on the militarization of the American police force took a harsh look at the various ways the infusion of military equipment into local law enforcement use can go wrong, including the damage that armored vehicles can do to civilian streets. According to Oliver, "the only vehicle that should be tearing up the streets of Saginaw is Chad's souped-up Honda Civic."


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Last Week Tonight's investigation into the NCAA's treatment of student athletes turned up some startling facts about the quality of athlete's education, even at an esteemed institution like the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Oliver claimed that the school pushed black student athletes toward watered-down and possibly racist class selections called "paper courses" and responded in his uniquely savage yet hilarious manner.

Encouraging black student athletes to take bullshit Swahili courses is the kind of institutional prejudices that might well turn up in one of their African-American studies courses.


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When Oliver decided to take on the sugar industry's sketchy financing of scientific research, the team at Last Week Tonight discovered that studies without a conflict of interest in funding from sugar companies were more likely to find direct links between sugar and obesity. Pointing out the apparent hypocrisy in the studies' findings, Oliver joked:

Particularly suspicious was a research paper entitled 'I'm So Delicious' attributed to a Dr. Pepper.

Paid Family Leave

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Oliver skewered the sexist attitude toward paternity leave that one professional baseball player faced from critics last year. "Listen babe," Oliver said mockingly toward the sports pundits who had criticized the player's decision, "I know I play 162 games in a season, but I can't miss a single one, so let's cut that thing out of your belly so I can wear my baggy pajamas and swing a cone of wood to make a ball go far."

Net Neutrality

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Oliver often reels in an audience to one of his more tedious segment topics by going full force on the humor before getting into the meat of the issue. By fulling recognizing the boringness of the net neutrality debate, he still got an audience to care about the potentially sleep-inducing topic (and took a quick jab at his fellow countryman Sting).

Net Neutrality. The only two words that promise more boredom in the English language are: "featuring Sting."

Oliver's enlightening and revealing humor has created a lot of good for society already, and a lot of laughs for his massive audiences.