John Oliver has so far charmed American TV audiences by poking fun at U.S. and international politicians on his new HBO show “Last Week Tonight,” but Thailand’s ruling military, one of the British comedian’s recent targets, is not amused by his recent jokes about its “happiness campaign,” according to a new report.
Apparently hoping to cheer up a divided and weary population that has endured years of unrest and two military coups in the past decade, the Royal Thai Armed Forces led by Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha announced in June that a series of street parties would take place across the country. Citizens were given free food and drink while they watched soldiers sing and dance, with the military even allowing the people to take selfies of themselves with armed servicemen.
The bizarre scenario, perhaps not surprisingly, caught Oliver’s attention, inspiring a hilarious two-minute rant in which he compared the regime to a dystopian David Lynch movie. Oliver went on to refer to the crown prince of Thailand as a “buffoon” and an “idiot” while showing a short clip of a secretly recorded video (made public by WikiLeaks) of the prince and his topless wife at a poolside birthday party.
“If they think people are that easy to manipulate … they are right,” Oliver said over laughter from the audience. “Look, I can’t vote or express dissent, but look at [the free ponies], they’re so soft!”
“Highly confidential” documents obtained by Vice News make it clear that Thailand’s military junta, the National Council of Peace and Order, isn’t in on the joke. The leaked document was written four days after the “Last Week Tonight” episode aired and indicates that the junta’s gaze is focused on a number of international threats it sees as “undermining the royal institution.” One potential enemy is the Free Thai resistance movement opposing the military junta, and another is Oliver.
“Mr. John William Oliver, a comedy actor known for parodying English politics, discussed the issue of Crown Prince Felipe of Spain’s inauguration, criticizing it and referring/connecting it to other countries with monarchs, such as Queen Elizabeth II, by means of showing sections of and criticizing ‘the poolside clip’ on HBO,” a translation of the relevant paragraphs reads, as quoted by VICE.
While the Thai military presents no threat to Oliver, the comedian has undoubtedly been noticed by other questionable regimes in the short time that “Last Week Tonight” has been on the air. In an earlier episode the “Daily Show” alumnus laughed at Syrian President Bashar Assad, the brutal dictator who (along with being responsible for the deaths of over 100,000 people) it was revealed is a fan of Western Top 40 music.
“We’re dealing with someone with the political instincts of a young Joseph Stalin and the musical tastes of a 14-year-old girl from Orange County named Tiffany,” Oliver said.
Included among Assad’s iTunes purchases, it was reported, were songs by LMFAO, Chris Brown and the cheesy hit “I’m Too Sexy,” which inspired Oliver to bring Right Said Fred on the stage to perform a new, anti-Assad version of the song (choice line: “At least Hitler could paint.”).