John Oliver Calls Out Media Racists on 'Last Week Tonight' & It's Brilliant — VIDEO
John Oliver is really kicking arse over at Last Week Tonight on HBO. Yes, the format is quite similar to The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, sans correspondents, but Oliver came in strong during his third week. On Saturday's show, he provided not one but two segments that are going viral: Oliver and Bill Nye railing against climate-change deniers, and Oliver's segment "How Is This Still a Thing?" that explores "dressing up as other races." In that skit, Oliver takes down other media outlets for their almost laughably racist Cinco de Mayo coverage, and it's PERFECT.
"How is This Still a Thing" shows clips from several "news" shows, like MSNBC's Way Too Early and, of course, The Today Show, in which several reporters — who we assume have degrees and experience living in the world — dress up in sombreros, swig tequila, flaunt margaritas and actually utter the phrase Cinco de Drinko. "How is This Still a Thing" asks: why is still acceptable to dress up as other races? Culture is not a costume, and Oliver, of course, highlights the racists' favorite day, Halloween, as well as instances such as Julianne Hough's incredibly vicious blackface costume in which she dressed up as Crazy Eyes from Orange Is the New Black. Why is this sort of appropriation and misunderstanding of other culture not only accepted, but televised? Probably because we are living in a "post-racial America" (note: no we absolutely do not).
Thankfully, Oliver is covering the gross and rampant racism of other networks, and it's getting attention — but unfortunately, it's probably getting said attention because John Oliver is, after all, a white guy with his own news-ish show. Would there me as much spotlight and response to "How Is This Still a Thing" if Last Week Tonight were hosted by a minority or, dare we say, a woman? It's unhealthy to play the "what if" game, but it's a question we can guess has a fairly simple answer: no.
Any calling-out of racists and racism is a positive, don't get me wrong, but I'd love to see more platforms dominated by minorities that highlight these issues. There's hope, though! In the form of Larry Wilmore taking over the slot after The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central when Stephen Colbert makes his inevitable debut as David Letterman's replacement.
Wilmore, the Senior Black Correspondent on The Daily Show and part of the best f%cking news team on television, is known for his straightforward and hilarious analysis of, well, rampant racists, y'all. And with so much attention on how he'll fare as Colbert's replacement, we know he already has an audience. We expect Wilmore's show to be more diverse in the stories it covers, and Wilmore is an astute and frankly unforgiving comedian who goes for the jugular. And that means less people will be getting away with wearing a sombrero on The Today Show without being immortalized in a Comedy Central montage. Thank goodness.