The John Oliver Effect

by Isha Lele and Leonela Serrano

Throughout time, comedy has been the source of relief and laughter for people – essentially an escape from reality. However, comedians often have an even larger impact on the social, cultural, and political aspects of today’s society. Satirical comedians such as Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart have been analyzing the problems of modern day issues ranging from far right, biased news media to gun laws through comedy since 1996. The impact of their shows, however, has had the biggest influence now. John Oliver, perhaps one of the most successful satirical news anchors of all time, is the host of Last Week Tonight, a show airing on HBO every Sunday night. Previously a correspondent for The Daily Show, Oliver has found the perfect balance between sarcasm and real information and data, to create an unbiased educational news source, something becoming increasingly hard to find with the presence of media such as FOX and CNN. Last Week Tonight not only appeals to the regular population of news watchers but also the once “undesirable” or “unwilling” youth. His accessibility through social media such as twitter and youtube make him able to shape his show on what people want to know and hear about. Since its debut in 2014, his influence has only increased and created what is called, “The John Oliver Effect”.

One of the major issues that John Oliver has weighed in on, helping him create the “John Oliver effect”, were those of the scandals associated with the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). John Oliver has often spoken about the amount of corruption that existed in FIFA for the past few decades, and how the company has managed to manipulate host countries of their large events. Most recently, FIFA forced Brazil to sell beer during the games, breaking federal law that stated that the selling of alcoholic drinks is prohibited in their stadiums to ensure safety of all fans inside of the arena. FIFA managed to break this law because of it’s affiliation with Budweiser beer, showing the importance FIFA stresses on profit, rather than public safety and national policy. This segment on Last Week Tonight made the American public more informed on the scandal within private companies, specifically the corruption that occurred within FIFA, and the impact it had on the global population. It also further led to investigation concerning other areas of the company, soon leading to the arrest of several prominent members of FIFA’s governing body, and the eventual suspension of Sepp Blatter, president of FIFA.

John Oliver also address and opens the conversation on many commonly known, government-related issues that most people tend to ignore. One of these issues concerns the rights that are afforded to the people of American territories, which affect the combined population of over four million people that make up this racial and ethnic minority. Oliver addresses the problem and introduces it for many by showing how many of these people are born American citizens, and yet are not afforded basic rights of other citizens, such as the same accessibility to healthcare, the right to vote, and the same amount of representation in Congress.  He incorporates the specific example of how in places such as American Samoa, birthright citizenship does not apply and people instead are only considered to be American nationals, meaning that they will receive less rights than those people born in the other territories. The Insular Cases, an outdated 114 year old document that explains the reasoning behind why these citizens aren’t afforded the same rights, states that the people on these territories are “alien races” who aren’t able to understand the “Anglo-Saxon principles” of our country. This problem like many others are introduced to the American eye, raising awareness to later build a sort of change only the people are able to make. This is the start of another “John Oliver Effect” that will soon hope to see beneficial change for the purpose of bettering the global society.

Reaching millions of viewers on Youtube and HBO weekly, John Oliver’s presence in the media is only increasing. His method of analyzing debate from opposite perspectives appeal to all age groups, maximizing the awareness of the general population. His deep investigation allows information to become public and accessible, enabling people to become informed about the problems of both private companies and the government.