The John Oliver Effect


Comedians always played a crucial role in political critics and satire. One stands by far above them all. One that shows us that the world can be changed for the better by humour. His name is John Oliver.

John Oliver is an English comedian who is currently living in the USA. Oliver, who calls himself a workaholic, originally started as a stand-up comedian in Scotland and England before appearing on television in Mock the Week and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart since 2005.

This funny looking guy is for sure best known for hosting HBO’s show Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (running since April 2014). By now more than 70 episodes of the weekly 30-minutes format have been broadcast. With this show Oliver gained US-wide and international recognition. As of 2015 he is also featured in Time Magazine‘s top 100 list of most influential people.

What is it that makes John Oliver so special? At the first glance it looks like that there’s an ordinary geeky guy sitting in a stereotypical American late-nite studio trying to be funny. A setting we have seen hundreds of times before.

But John Oliver’s „quick re-cap of the week“ is so much more, for several reasons:

Firstly, John Oliver is a Brit in the United States. He grew up in Europe, embracing European humour and values. Being a foreigner in the USA he can see political, cultural and sociological mechanisms and problems of his guest-country from the point of view of an outsider. Aspects, the people of the USA are maybe not able to see or question, as they grew up with them and take them for granted. As a cultural export from Europe he is confronting the people of the USA with a different value system (which, however, not every US-citizen can handle or comprehend – also a crucial part of his game). Not only does he deal with US-topics, but also discusses and criticises circumstances and events in the rest of the world (not rarely also in his home-country).

Secondly, Oliver seems to grasp the interplay of humour, provocation and seriousness like no one else in his field. To help the viewers distinguish between funny and serious (two sentiments that alternate rat-a-tat-tat in his show) he underlines his sentences with facial expressions and comparisons drawn from popular culture.

Last, but not least, John Oliver makes waves, huge waves. Like a mole the Englishman – with his team – digs up curiosities, insanities and injustices from the political and social landscape of (mainly) the USA and discusses/dissects them in Last Week Tonight. The so-called “John Oliver Effect” – a term which was coined by Time Magazine – describes the fact that the English comedian, indeed, has the power to provoke changes of minds and systems through his show. Time Magazine has made a best-of list of the “John Oliver Effect”.


Oliver started a feud against Trump by perpetually mocking him on his show. Let’s see if the comedian will succeed.

Here are two of my favourites, laughs guaranteed – enjoy!

Chechen leader Kadyrov can’t find his cat

John Oliver discusses sex education in the US

About André Savetier

Since 2011 André Savetier is actively working as a music journalist with an expertise on contemporary new wave music phenomena. His scientific specialization is anthropology of music and anthropology of popular culture. Savetier remains intrigued by the interplay between the aforementioned social phenomena, the told (and untold) legends of music and its roots.

Leave a Reply

Post Navigation