John Oliver returned to the late-night airwaves Sunday night following a month-long hiatus and, not surprisingly, the British comedian’s first order of business was to discuss the ongoing presidential election cycle or, as Oliver called it, the “3-D IMAX S–T-Fit Dumpster Fire 2016.”
The host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight Oliver, in particular, skewered last week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He showed video of several RNC speakers—including Ivanka Trump, UFC President Dana White, and former NFL quarterback Fran Tarkenton—touting Trump’s business acumen, with evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, Jr. even calling him “one of the greatest visionaries of our time.”
“Before you laugh,” Oliver said, “you cannot say Trump isn’t a visionary. For a long time, he was the only one who envisioned himself as a presidential nominee.”
However, the comedian continued, the idea of calling Trump an accomplished manager is undermined “by the fact that the entire convention was a mismanaged shit-show” from Melania Trump’s partially plagiarized speech, to the Ted Cruz non-endorsement debacle.
But, the late-night host saved his sharpest critique for what he saw as countless RNC speakers, Trump included, focusing on feelings (mostly of fear, or a lack of safety) while ignoring statistics. “It was a four-day exercise in emphasizing feelings over facts,” Oliver said of the GOP convention. That focus on feelings reached its apex, Oliver said, during Trump’s own RNC speech, which featured a heavy dose of fear-inducing claims that amounted to, in Oliver’s own words, “a symphony of bile and race-baiting.”
Last Week Tonight also mocked the vice-presidential picks of both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Starting with Clinton’s selection of Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, Oliver used an analogy in which he likened the wait for the VP pick to waiting for “a gift” from Clinton only to have the gift end up being “a rice cooker—a plain, white machine that cooks plain, white rice. That is what Tim Kaine is.”
However, Oliver continued: “Donald Trump also went with a rice cooker of a vice president, except it’s worth remembering that, and this is crucial, Mike Pence is a rice cooker covered in homophobic slogans which is currently being held by a chimpanzee that could bite your face off. So, relax, Democrats, it could have been worse.”
delved into a clip of Newt Gingrich on CNN last week, where the former House Speaker argued that the feelings of people who believe America is less safe today are more important that statistics showing the violent crime is down across the country. While Oliver derided Gingrich’s suggestion, he also admitted the power of certain politicians evoke feelings in citizens that are often then passed off as facts.
“I think we can all agree that [political] candidates can create feelings in people,” Oliver said. “And, what Gingrich is saying, is that feelings are as valid as facts. So, then, by the transitive property, candidates can create facts, which is terrifying, because that means that someone like Donald Trump can essentially create his own reality. And, that is the closest thing to an actual magic spell I think I’ve ever seen.”
Oliver will return with another new show on HBO next Sunday, when the topic will most likely be the Democratic National Convention. In the meantime, several of Oliver’s late-night TV colleagues have stepped up their respective games for the two major political conventions. On CBS, Stephen Colbert will offer four more live editions of The Late Show this week for the Democratic convention, while several other programs will also host special DNC-focused episodes this week.