In a departure from its usual strategy of spending 20 minutes focused on a single obscure or complex topic, Last Week Tonight’s main segment on Sunday actually focused on … events that took place last week. “It’s one of the rare times we’re actually living up to our title, unlike what should probably be called 28 Minutes on the Corn Tax or Whatever the Fuck With John Oliver,” said the host. It’s a testament to how very bad the past week was that Oliver barely touched on the devastating hurricanes or the wildfires blazing across California or the pandemic, instead focusing primarily on the Republican National Convention and the events in Kenosha, Wisconsin.
“Lying in front of flags” was, in Oliver’s view, the main theme of this year’s RNC, to the point where he was surprised that a speaker “didn’t at one point claim Trump invented parakeets or that he stoped the murder hornets by sucking them straight out of the air.” Of the most unique falsehoods in a “blizzard of lies,” Oliver pointed to Larry Kudlow’s choice to speak about the pandemic in the past tense, as if we’re past all that unpleasantness now, and the lengths to which RNC speakers went in assuring white viewers that racism was also a relic of the past.
This is the same week that Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back by a Kenosha police officer in front of his children and 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse was allowed by police to walk away after, as Oliver put it, “driving to a city he didn’t live in, to protect property he didn’t own,” and shooting two Kenosha protesters. “If you’re looking for a better visual illustration of the differences between being Black and white in America, I don’t think you’re gonna find one,” Oliver said. “Except, maybe, seeing exactly who sits down and who stands up when ‘Cotton Eye Joe’ comes on at a wedding.”