HBO’s John Oliver explains how he tries to keep up with Trump’s ‘firehose of bullsh*t’
John Oliver’s new season of “Last Week Tonight” begins Sunday and the tongue-and-cheek new tagline is “Everything is fine.”
An interview with the HBO late-night host from the Daily Beast cites the show’s new promo with Oliver scrolling through tweets from President Donald Trump.
Oliver explained that Trump’s strategy seems to be to flood the news cycle.
“It’s just such a firehose of bullsh*t,” Oliver said. “You don’t want to just chronologically repeat what he said and then tell a joke off each thing. You want to tell why it matters.”
Oliver’s show format ends each night with a deep dive on an important issue that people generally haven’t heard anything about. Those examinations have fallen by the wayside in the face of the abundance of news from the White House.
“There’s so much low-hanging fruit,” he says about Trump news. “You can end up eating too much of it.”
Oliver has argued over and over that he isn’t a journalist, though commentators claim he’s blurring the line. After his show went on break, Oliver interviewed Dustin Hoffman amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal. He was dogged in his questioning of Hoffman when it came to allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
“I think it’s just the first person who was going to have to talk to him was going to have to ask him the first questions about that,” Oliver confessed. “So unfortunately, that was me. I’m staggered if he honestly thought I wouldn’t bring it up. I don’t know how little he would have to think of me to think I wouldn’t bring that up.”
Oliver gives credit to the journalist the show employs for the arguments and details. He draws a line between his comedy and the work his researches do.
“Because I really respect journalism!” he said. “I wouldn’t say I’m a basketball player because I like basketball, but I can’t dunk. Similarly, I’m not a journalist.”
Oliver said that he realizes the time slot of “Last Week” gives him the power of being the final word. But having that power also means a responsibility to be unique. If news breaks early in the week, for example, “the bones are going to be picked pretty clean” by the time Sunday night rolls around.
By late afternoon on Thursday, Oliver said he notices the other late-night shows can’t pivot to handle breaking news. That becomes his show’s niche.
“So anything from like 5 o’clock on a Thursday probably falls to us, unfortunately,” Oliver said, laughing. “We pick up the immensely depressing relay baton. By the time Seth Meyers is done taping, we’re like, ‘F*ck, now it’s us.’”
While many late-night shows want to bring people together to navigate the news in a cathartic way, Oliver doesn’t want to end the week on a difficult note.
“You don’t want to get to the end of that story and say, ‘So it’s pretty f*cked! Anyway, see you next week!’” he explained. “We would be worried about kind of just taxing people to the edge of despair and then making them get out. So we try to point towards some at least narrow solutions to what we’re talking about.”
So, while “everything is fine,” is a tongue-and-cheek tagline, it’s also part of Oliver’s balance to the “firehose of bullsh*t.”
“I feel some hope,” he said “You don’t want to feel too much hope, because you’d be crazy if you did. Too much optimism isn’t always a great idea. I realize that’s the most British thing I’ve said: ‘Too much optimism is a grand mistake.’”