In the first four episodes of his new Netflix show Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj has followed the John Oliver-style format of using comedy to inform viewers about news stories they might not otherwise follow. On Sunday he continued this approach, telling his audience about the Taylor oil spill, a slow moving disaster leaking what’s believed to be tens of thousands of gallons each day into the Gulf of Mexico since 2004. Minhaj reminds us just how long that is using an old picture of himself: “2004 is when College Dropout came out, George W. Bush was still the worst president in American history, and I was wearing two popped collars unironically. … I look like if Kumail Nanjiani ate Kid Rock.”
But this segment does more than release a priceless photo of a college-age Minhaj to the perpetual halls of the internet. The former Daily Show correspondent also takes us through the technological and political reasons why oil production and subsequent spills have skyrocketed in the U.S.. Also number one in prison population, healthcare costs, defense spending, and “the biggest gaps in bathroom stalls,” the U.S. produces more oil than any other country due to a rejection of conservation-focused solutions to the 1970s oil crisis and, more recently, a sharp rise in hydraulic fracking. What Fox Business calls dipping into “a gigantic lake of oil” that also happens to be completely underground is contributing to adverse climate change effects that could cause millions of deaths between now and 2040.
President Trump’s response? Withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, express a determined ignorance about the difference between wind turbines and windmills, and hire a Secretary of Interior under investigation for a number of alleged ethics violations. Sec. Ryan Zinke himself can be found demonstrating hand-to-hand combat moves with cruel vigor, professing his admiration for Teddy Roosevelt, and advocating to allow oil companies to drill on millions of acres of public lands. If those last two efforts seem contradictory it’s because they are. “You can’t idolize Teddy Roosevelt and destroy the environment,” pointed out Minhaj, “That’s like Netflix having the first Muslim talk show host and Bodyguard … [Bodyguard is] so good you almost forget about the Islamophobia.” If we have to go on a deep dive into the environmental crisis threatening our planet, at least we get sharp moments like that one where Minhaj winked to the camera with some fourth wall-breaking finger guns and reminded the streaming service, “Stay woke, Netflix.”
If you think Slate’s election coverage matters…
Support our work: become a Slate Plus member. You’ll get exclusive members-only content and a suite of great benefits—and you’ll help secure Slate’s future.Join Slate Plus