John Oliver is proof, even in a country which has Donald Trump as a frontrunner for president, that satire is not dead. The British comedian who burst onto U.S. airwaves as correspondent on The Daily Show showed off an irreverent and though-provoking style that he would hone into a perfect show for opening eyes and keeping them glued to HBO. Since Last Week Tonight debuted in April 2014, it’s been at the epicenter of important movements around issues such as net neutrality, which was one of Oliver’s first mega-viral clips (thanks in large part to explaining the importance of net neutrality better than anyone), and civil forfeiture, which led almost immediately to federal changes that limited the ability of police to take cash from civilians without being charged with a crime.
Much like his Daily Show mentor Jon Stewart, Oliver has a way with words and a way with illuminating the ridiculousness of modern society without afflicting the afflicted. John Oliver is a champion of the little guy, and an enemy of those who prey on those little guys. His Make Donald “Drumpf” Again segment set ratings records for HBO, and his church, Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, pressured the IRS into investigating televangelists.
He’s also brought the Yankees and their expensive Legends Club seats down a notch by selling oddly-dressed “weirdos” the seats for 25 cents apiece.
The answer isn’t completely clear, however. We know the John Oliver Effect is strong, and he’s spearheading some impressive change with expert usage of puns, well-researched topics and the name “Chauncey.” But is it real? He disputes whether he’s made a real effect on the world, but the results are hard to deny. Even if his finger poke sent some questionable issues over the edge, he was still the impetus.