During the final segment of Sunday's Last Week Tonight episode, John Oliver interviewed the Dalai Lama, resulting in a conversation that was both educational and endearing. Oliver introduced his interview with the Dalai Lama by first providing some background information about his holiness and his role in the China-Tibet tensions. For those who may not know, Tibet is an autonomous region of China inhabited primarily by Tibetan Buddhists. Many Tibetans desire increased autonomy from China, while the Chinese government wishes to maintain stronger controls over Tibet. This has unfortunately resulted in significant mistreatment of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government.
The Dalai Lama is considered the spiritual figurehead of Tibetan Buddhists. He was exiled to India in the 1950s, since he he feared for his safety in Tibet. The Dalai Lama has remained in India ever since, serving as the leader of the Tibetan government in exile until 2011. He continues to serve as the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists.
After sharing background information on Tibet, Oliver proceeded to play the segment of his interview with the Dalai Lama, for which he traveled to India to conduct in person. Oliver opened the interview by amusingly acknowledging the Chinese government's dislike for his holiness, saying, "Let's talk about China because the Chinese government absolutely hates you don't they ... publicly one government official said you're a wolf wrapped in monk's clothes ... you don't, to me, look like an evil wolf."
His holiness replied to Oliver's assertion by acknowledging China's dislike for him, but also by emphasizing treating those who critique him with compassion.
Oliver and the Dalai Llama then went on to discuss the problem of self immolation in Tibet, in which Tibetans light themselves on fire as a means of protesting the Chinese government. His holiness described self immolation as something he found incredibly sad but also something he was unwilling to fully condemn because he did not want the families of those who have self-immolated to think that their loved ones had done something that the Dalai Lama had found unacceptable.
After discussing weighty subjects involving China, Oliver and the Dalai Lama also found time for some more lighthearted conversation. In one particularly stand-out moment, the Dalai Lama indicated that he had cured Mongolians of alcoholism by encouraging them to drink horse milk instead of vodka, a directive with which they happily obliged, according to his holiness. Oliver was shocked by this story and he and the Dalai Lama shared several laughs during his holiness' recounting of it.
A few more lighthearted moments also dominated the end of the piece. In reflecting on prospects for his own reincarnation, the Dalai Lama said to Oliver, "They [the Chinese government] call me demon ... so I want another demon. So you become demon." Oliver appeared amusingly flustered by this, saying, "No you can't reincarnate the demon into me ... no ... don't make me a demon ... you cannot do that ... Oh no, this is not how I wanted this interview to go." Oliver's response prompted a hearty dose of laughter from his holiness, which was incredibly endearing to watch.
Oliver ended his interview by presenting his holiness with a calculator watch (which is, indeed, a wrist watch that also functions as a calculator), in honor of the fact that President Roosevelt once presented the Dalai Lama with a watch as a gift. This once again prompted laughter from holiness, who then characterized Roosevelt's gift as "old fashioned" while Oliver's was the "new fashion." Oliver concluded the interview by thanking his "demon friend" for his time, and collectively laughing with his holiness once more.
Overall, Oliver's interview with the Dalai Lama was a wonderful balance of the educational and the entertaining. Many Twitter users indicated that they learned a great deal about Tibet and China from the segment and also that they appreciated seeing a more lighthearted side of the Dalai Lama's personality.
Oliver is seemingly one of the rare news commentators who can produce interviews with such unique dynamics. It was a joy to watch his interview with the Dalai Lama and I would absolutely love to see another conversation between the two in the near future.
Images: HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver