Last Week Tonight might be the best way to say good riddance to the Trump era


Legendary US satirical news show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has returned, with new episodes releasing weekly to stream on Neon. With the award-winning 2020 season fuelled largely by the mayhem caused by Donald Trump, Daniel Rutledge gives reasons as to why this new season might be the best way to say ‘good riddance’ to the former President.

A lot of us are still blinking at the sunlight, coming to, gradually allowing ourselves to accept that indeed, yes, the Trump era is over. It got nerve-wracking at the end there for a minute, but he’s absolutely, positively no longer the president of the USA. Some of the poison he injected into America’s institutions is still being meticulously extracted and it’ll take a while yet to properly cleanse it all out, but we’re on the way.

It’s OK to let out the mother of all relief sighs now. It’s OK to feel hopeful again. And it’s OK to laugh at what an unbelievable bozo he is.

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Day after day that the reality TV star was in power brought shock after shock that kind of killed the comedy. It’s hard to laugh at him staring directly into the sun, being unable to drink water or walk normally, or saying the weirdest gobbledygook imaginable when he was also putting asylum-seeking kids in cages, calling domestic terrorists “very fine people”, defending murderous dictators and pardoning war criminals who murdered children. But he can’t do that sort of thing as president now so it’s OK to laugh at him and his cronies and all the dumb shit they did—and at any further desperate attempts they make to try and claw back power.

John Oliver might be the best person to help us laugh at them and his show Last Week Tonight is probably going to be the most enjoyable way to collectively say ‘good riddance’ to the Trump era. The nerdy-looking Brit’s TV show has always been enjoyable, but during the last four years, it was also a reliable, invaluable way to help make sense of a senseless world. Oliver is a master of picking out the most telling of the craziness Trump pulls, characterising it appropriately, giving it all the well-researched context it needs and then rebuffing all of the orange oddity’s points, one-by-one.

That’s really important when we were lost in oceans of so much Trump insanity news outlets just couldn’t cover it all.

So much of the Trump presidency is just parody-proof, it was so utterly ridiculous, but Oliver always manages to make observations I missed, like: “Literally the biggest word in the sentence ‘I have the best words’ is the word ‘words’.” His metaphors often really hit the nail on the head too, like the time he said: “Even when you can demonstrably prove Trump to be wrong, it somehow never seems to matter. You can hold his feet to the fire but he’ll just stand there on the burnt stumps, bragging about his fireproof foot skin.”

When we last saw Oliver—in the 209th episode of the show—it was mid-November and Trump was denying the US election results and beginning his insane attempt to have them overturned. In it, Oliver went through a bunch of mental claims made by Trump cheerleaders in the radical right-wing media and showing how they were totally absurd. Along the way, he hilariously described Tucker Carlson as “an ’80s ski bully who just lost the big race” and “a waiter’s worst nightmare”. This episode, of course, aired before the deadly attack on the US Capitol by Trump extremists, but Oliver knew something like that was coming.

“Trump lost this election and he knows it. But [he keeps spreading] voter fraud conspiracies, which is pathetic, dangerous and in many ways an appropriate coda to a presidency that has destroyed so many lives—not only of those he has attacked, but also of those he claimed to protect. So many of us have lost loved ones, either because you can no longer square your love for them with their love for him, or because they fell down a mind-melting rabbit-hole of conspiracy theories that he happily perpetuated, or because he let a deadly virus run wild and it fucking killed them.”

Those words hit harder watching them now, knowing what came after. The intensity in Oliver’s eyes as he says the word “dangerous” is understandably sincere and there’s nothing funny about it, and yet it happens in an episode that has a lot of great jokes. That’s what makes this show so great. I do think Rudy Giuliani got off easy in that one though and can’t wait to experience Oliver’s final send-off to that unbelievable mess of a man.

Oliver also ended last season with one of the year’s best on-screen explosions. It was huge and filmed brilliantly with loads of different cameras capturing different angles of a huge 2020 sign going up in enormous flames. So cathartic.

But now we’re in 2021. Sure it’ll be fun seeing Oliver roast Trump a few very last times, but then something really exciting is going to happen—we’ll have whole Last Week Tonight episodes where he isn’t even mentioned!

That’s not to say he was the only thing focused on in 2020. Oliver devoted one episode to China’s genocide of the Uyghurs and another to Narendra Modi’s vicious attacks on religious minorities in India. But those, along with others focusing on police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic, all had the stench of the Trump presidency hanging over them. That’ll be pleasantly absent from these new episodes, so hopefully, the self-described “Brit dork” will get back to occasionally roasting a New Zealand politician, along with explaining some of the more delightfully odd, truly obscure stuff going on around us that Trump has absolutely nothing to do with.

I’m very ready for it.