Former "Daily Show" member John Oliver was off to a strong start as host of "Last Week Tonight With John Oliver" on HBO Sunday night.
The show follows a slightly tweaked "Daily Show"–like format that's a bit more raw and unforgiving than John Stewart's program on Comedy Central, and the switch to HBO gives Oliver 10 more minutes than Stewart gets on Oliver's former network, as there’s no need for commercial breaks. The lack of commercial breaks felt a little weird at first, but it's certainly a blessing for fans. Oliver didn’t waste a second of it, either, as he jam-packed his half hour time slot with jokes aimed at anyone and everyone who made the headlines last week.
The extra 10 minutes goes a long way, leaving room this week for Oliver to quickly recap the week’s news, do two "Daily Show"-esque news breakdowns, feature a “Workplace of the Week” segment and conduct a five-minute interview with former NSA Director General Keith Alexander.
Oliver spent a the entirety of 10 seconds welcoming the audience before launching into a six-minute recap of the week’s most important (and easily lampooned) news. While Oliver has poked fun at the idea of a once-a-week news show in the past, this week, he actually got a jump on weekly late-night shows by being the first late-night host to lampoon the Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling racism stories. He opened with quips on the two, calling it a “rough week for unrepentant racists and recording devices.”
He moved on to poke fun at Sunday's "Day of Four Popes" at the Vatican before bringing in singer Lisa Loeb to parody an Oregon state health care commercial, which was right on point:
Oliver then slowed down to focus on India’s presidential elections and a Supreme Court case in which Pom Wonderful is pitted against Coca-Cola, and he then segued into bashing food companies that practice disingenuous labeling. The segments echoed the news analysis breakdown style of "The Daily Show," but it did so with much more bite than his former show does, which is made possible by not having any sponsors like the ones with which he and his former "The Daily Show" colleagues often wrestled.
Oliver said he had “real freedom” at HBO in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter earlier in the month, which was most apparent when he aimed a strong and uncensored “F--- you” at Kellogg’s for a Pop Tarts commercial it made that suggests it's the cornerstone of a healthy breakfast. He closed the segment by offering a line of fake nutrition labels available for download on Last Week Tonight’s Facebook page.
Ever since his HBO show was announced, Oliver and his staff have embraced social media both as a means to spread content and engage with viewers. Online, they’ve started hashtags, cracked jokes on news topics as they took place in real time, and now, he's sharing unaired content from his new show on YouTube.
Oliver ended the show with a pretaped interview with General Alexander that followed a style similar to the one he used to use for his in-the-field segments on the Daily Show. Oliver was in top form as he criticized the NSA’s practices, and he got Alexander to play along with an NSA rebranding bit, which was highlighted when General Alexander came up with a new NSA slogan: “The only agency that really listens.”
Watch the extended interview below:
Oliver and HBO were nice enough to put the entire episode online on YouTube as well.