Every Monday evening, I am greeted with a friendly “welcome, welcome, welcome!” as I sit down to enjoy Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. I am conscious that there may be many among you who have not seen this programme as it airs on Sky TV but I have found a little taster to share with you.
John Oliver, the eponymous host of this weekly treat, is someone that I would not only like to bake a cake for but would like to have over to dinner, hang out with, take down the pub, and have be my funniest best friend forever. Hopefully, by the end of this post, you will understand why.
I am fascinated by American politics and consume the Stateside news with all the enthusiasm of an episode of House of Cards or The West Wing. Often I am forced to remind myself that the news is ‘real life’, its plot so far-fetched that no writer would dare make this stuff up. Remember the season finale of America in 2016? Never saw that coming.
As a journalist, John Oliver’s approach is unique. Of course the show is satirical but there is a reluctance to laugh too much at the state of affairs in the White House because, hilarious though it may be, this is really happening and there are very real consequences that real people have to really deal with. Last week, the show outlined President Trump’s threats to pull America out of a deal with Iran which prevents them from developing nuclear weapons – the Trump thinks America got a bad deal and the upshot of this is that we could live in a world in which Iran are developing nuclear weapons and they really don’t like America. This is a complex situation, which John Oliver articulated beautifully in a short time slot and prompted a conversation between Chris and I as to what we would do given a seven-minute warning. You can watch the section by clicking here. Essentially, Donald Trump is a hilarious buffoon but he has very real influence over very very serious things.
John Oliver’s ability to perfectly articulate global feelings and respond to difficult times with humour is legendary. Going back to that season finale of 2016, do you remember how you felt at the tail end of November 2016? This video sums it up for posterity. Trigger warning: bad language, bitches.
What I found perhaps even more telling was that there was no such round up produced to mark the end of 2017, a year which managed to out-do 2016 in almost every way – the only thing that redeemed 2017 was that David Bowie could not die again.
But before you think that John Oliver’s show is all about bemoaning the state of the world – and, be fair to the guy, the world does provide him with limitless content if that was the agenda – at its heart is the desire to make the world a better place by informing the public and by spending a little HBO money.
One of the highest profile good deeds done by John Oliver and his team (John, I know that you are the man but I also want to acknowledge the researchers and writers – even fucking Anthony – who help make your show possible) was the recent publication of an alternative book about Vice President Mike Pence’s rabbit, Marlon Bundo.
Mike Pence is not a nice man. Shall we just leave it there? No, let’s get into it. Pence openly endorses a religious charity group who believe that to be gay is to be somehow defective and dangerous to society as a consequence. It is physically difficult for me to type these words as they make me so angry. I’ll persist.
Said group, publicly endorsed and supported by Pence, thinks that conversion therapy is appropriate and shock therapy is used as a part of this. This thinking has no place in 2018. It never had a place. You are who you hang with and if Mike Pence is happy to be openly associated with this group, he is a terrible terrible person and deserves to be ridiculed.
His rabbit is OK though. Marlon Bundo is an excellent name for a bunny and from everything that I have seen of him, he seems like an OK sort. I cannot judge the rabbit by who he hangs with as he has no say in the matter and is a rabbit.
When the Pence family released a fluffy (rabbit, get it) illustrated book for children based on a day in which Bundo follows his owner around the White House, John Oliver and the dream team took the opportunity to counteract the teachings of hardcore conservatives like Pence with an alternative tale for children. A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo tells the story of a boy rabbit who falls in love with another boy rabbit and wants to get married. It’s not a tongue-in-cheek nod and a cheeky wink for the grown ups, it is a sweet story of love conquering all for children.
Yes, sexuality is a grown up topic and perhaps not something that small children should be concerned with but this is a simple story of love, and being able to love the bunny you fall in love with and who said anything about sex? Get your minds out of the gutter. Every fairytale, every Disney film that children consume is about love.
All of the money raised from sales of John Oliver’s version go to Aids United and LGBT+ charity The Trevor Project. You can buy the book for your own kids by clicking here or on any of the bunny pictures!
This is the perfect illustration of why I adore John Oliver and would like to feed him as much cake as he can eat. This is how we make the world a better place, with humour and positive action.
If you want to watch the full glorious segment in which John Oliver rewrites Marlon Bundo’s story, it is here for you. It runs to 20 minutes but I cannot think of a nicer way to waste my Monday morning.