Television

John Oliver Just Wants to Say One Word to You: Plastics

John Oliver sits at a glass anchorperson's desk in front of a graphic reading "Plastics."
Exactly how do you mean it? HBO

Last week, John Oliver used his show to roast the hell out of Tucker Carlson, which was a nice little break from the deep dives into unfixable problems Last Week Tonight has been specializing in recently. This week, it was back to staring into the abyss, as Oliver and company took a look at another one of the many ways we’re destroying our own planet: plastics!

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First, and most importantly: (719) 266-2837, the random telephone number Oliver used as an example of something you might find in a junk drawer, is, of course, “Callin’ Oates,” the emergency Hall and Oates hotline. (It’s easier to remember it as (719) 26-OATES.) Call any time, day or night, and they will deliver the low-bitrate, monophonic Hall and Oates song of your choosing directly to your ear.  You can save time in an emergency by printing out the menu options below and sticking them to your refrigerator:

To hear “One on One,” please press 1.

To hear “Rich Girl,” please press 2.

To hear “Maneater,” please press 3.

To hear “Private Eyes,” please press 4.

If you’ve somehow landed on this article by mistake while frantically googling “emergency Hall and Oates” and you can’t reach your phone at the moment or don’t have another second to waste—i.e., you’re out of touch or out of time—here is an emergency Hall and Oates music video for “Maneater.” Watch out, boy!

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As for the parts of Oliver’s segment that have less to do with Hall and Oates and more to do with the way Americans have once again been suckered into believing we could stave off global catastrophe by leaving corporations alone while changing our personal behavior, well, if God didn’t want us sheared, He would not have made us rugged individualists. If you want to learn more about the mess we’re in, Slate’s Henry Grabar went long on the state of the recycling industry back in 2019, while Pamela L. Geller pointed out last fall that the COVID-19 pandemic and the disposable masks that came along with it are going to make the microplastic problem worse than it already is. There’s not much reason to be optimistic about any of this, so instead of offering false hope, instead I’d like to offer the Hall and Oates video for “Out of Touch,” in which Hall and Oates, who are “looking for a love where the climate is cold,” run out of time and get steamrolled flat by a gigantic bass drum.

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There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.

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