THE BLOG

An Open Letter to John Oliver

06/25/2015 04:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2016

Dear Mr. Oliver,

I was quite disappointed by this past week's "Last Week Tonight" (airing on June 21, 2015).  The content was hilarious and eye opening, and your topic of the week (the dangers of the internet) is an important topic that must be tackled by the media; however, I feel that you could have had a much more effective show if you had devoted your entire 30 minutes to the Charleston massacre.  I am usually a big fan of your show, but this past week you did not insert your unique voice into the fray when it was needed.  Yes, the recap at the top of the show was good, but it was simply not enough.  

You run a show called "Last Week Tonight," and rather than giving the audience satire of the news of last week, you favored a prepared segment about the internet.  I understand that you take your job very seriously and that you do endless amounts of research -- even employing investigative journalists to get you deeper into the story than others dare to go.  However, with a national moment like Charleston, I believe that you must be prepared to put that show aside and devote your time to this issue.  This is a story that has dominated the headlines and news cycle since it happened, with many different takes and nuances to explore.  Simply putting the story at the top of the show and treat it like another week's recap, was a mistake and to a certain extent trivializes it along with the rest of the week's throwaway news.  This is a story that requires us to pay attention, to have the hard conversation, and face the facts.  This is something that our media must do, and, for me, you should lead the way.

You seem to have a deep vision for the role your satire plays in our society, and for this I commend you and you have a (fairly) unique ability to inform and entertain in a way that both highlights the importance of a given topic and make it accessible to a nation of people who -- at the end of the day -- really don't give a shit. As Peter Parker's uncle said, "with great power comes great responsibility," and in this instance you shirked that responsibility.  A story came out of no where that altered the course of our nation's history and reinvigorated a debate and fight over race relations, and you checked it at the door.  Admittedly changing the whole show with less than a week to air must be a challenge, but one that I think a show like yours must take on.

Take your former employer Jon Stewart as an example.  The day after Charleston, Jon got in front of the camera and said that this story was so heinous, so important to our society and our future, that he could not do comedy that night.  He threw out what they thought they'd do only a day before and just rolled with the story the news gave them.  This is the courage I think you lacked last week.  The courage to follow the story, to take the media to task, and to shape the way that your audience will view and discuss this important issue.  

Other than that, keep up the good work!

Your Pal,
Brett