John Oliver was all about striking “a sensible balance” during the main segment of Last Week Tonight on Sunday, which focused on the coronavirus. While the host was talking about avoiding extreme reactions to news of the disease, Oliver’s advice could just as easily have applied to the segment itself, which had to balance the seriousness of an outbreak that has killed more than 3,000 people with the tone of a comedy show. Fortunately, that combination of funny and informative is one that Last Week Tonight has a lot of experience with.
On the serious side of things: racism against Asians and Asian Americans. Televangelists profiting off the coronavirus panic. And a lying, inarticulate president who is botching the response to a health crisis. On the sillier side: a horny Oliver telling Adam Driver to “shatter my knees, you fuckable redwood.” A brief infomercial for a werewolf potion that’s just as effective as the other phony cures on the market. And a Vietnamese coronavirus PSA that’s catchier than it has any right to be.
“I don’t want to be alarmist here, but I also don’t want to minimize what we could be facing,” Oliver said, when he wasn’t otherwise busy getting his groove on. “If you’re drinking bleach to protect yourself right now, you should probably calm the fuck down. If you are, say, licking subway poles because you’re certain nothing can hurt you, maybe don’t do that.” In summation: Racism is bad, wash your hands, and “don’t be a fucking idiot.”