HBO’s Last Week Tonight suspended full-on production (along with the rest of late-night TV, and much of overall TV, and most of the world) as social distancing became the name of the coronavirus-smashing game. We last saw John Oliver two weeks ago when he took on the disease a second time after his initial segment issued advice and warnings that largely went unheeded. Oliver returned to the air this week without his live audience for a 1-on-1 style discussion with viewers at home. The absence of customary punctual laughter in the background might be unsettling, but Oliver took the necessary step of evaluating how leaders are botching the pandemic response.
It must be noted that Oliver singled out the heroes of this ongoing disaster. Those would primarily be the hospital staff members who are fighting for supplies, although Oliver recognizes that medical facilities did contribute to the current scarcity that springboarded off their efficiency movements. Still, he holds governments (most urgently, President Trump) for the slow (and accusatory) response to the pleas for ventilators. Not only that, but Oliver is begging officials to realize that it’s objectively “way too soon” to consider rolling back social distancing, which won’t save the economy:
“Relaxing social distancing right now isn’t just trading one bad outcome for another. It’s trading one bad outcome for both bad outcomes. It’s sh*tting on your cake and choking on it too.”
Further, Oliver bashed Trump for accusing journalists of wanting to destroy his poll numbers when they posed valid questions about the pandemic response:
“Oh, for f*ck’s sake! No one is thinking about you. These guidelines did not revolve around you. For once, something has come along that is more toxic and more threatening than this president, and somehow, he’s got fucking stage envy. And look, I know this isn’t exactly the first time that I’ve criticized Donald Trump, but I can’t tell you how much I was rooting for him to do this better. Handling a crisis well is not inherently political.”
Sadly, there was no place in this segment for much of Oliver’s usual levity, other than his admission at the beginning that self-isolation is digging into all of us. He highlighted how mass graves in some countries will be visible from space and how Kentucky’s outraged governor, Andy Beshear, revealed how someone tested positive for COVID-19 after attending a “Coronavirus party.” Oliver reassured people that they really didn’t need to worry about their hairstyles during this pandemic because no one should care about looks right now, and he trashed the absurdity of right-wingers (who he called a “f*cking death cult”) that seriously want people to sacrifice their lives for the economy.
Most of all, though, Oliver urges people to be patient, since waiting out the virus in self-isolation is the main method of halting its destruction. He, too, looks forward to good times, like when he can finally be irritated by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo again. That time will come, but only if we continue our current social distancing ways.