'Last Week Tonight' rises while the U.K. crumbles

Sunday, February 24, 2019 - 4:45pm

HBO

NOSELL

Rest assured, the world is on fire. From hunger, to war, to exploitations of the democratic system in America, everything is awful. It’s not a secret, but the world has collectively agreed to treat it as such. John Oliver wants to let us all in on the secret as gently as possible. In the sixth season premiere of his Emmy-winning news satire, Oliver takes on what many British parliamentary members are unwilling to: Brexit. Like with most of the abstruse news he covers, Oliver builds the horror show that is Brexit in incremental, satirical bits. That is, until he lets it all come crashing down.

Oliver wastes no time in recounting how the U.K. managed to get itself in this mess, first by comparing the term “Brexit” to calling an animal strangling “otter erotic asphyxiation.” Oliver explains that the U.K. was supposed to move in orderly stages in its transition. Instead, Prime Minister Theresa May’s colossal, 585-paged diplomatic trainwreck of a deal with the European Union has been rejected by Parliament. The U.K. is hurtling towards a Mar. 29th deadline without a deal, and the consequences are dire. Some of the key ones Oliver delineates are the hard border in Ireland — Google “IRA Bombings” if you’re unsure of why this would be a problem — the lack of medicine, and how to transport one’s horse to and from other countries. (Oliver suggests removing its shoes and putting in through the X-ray belt at the airport.)

No good story is complete without a villain, and the antagonist Oliver settles on is Boris Johnson. Johnson is a member of Parliament for Uxbridge and South Ruislip, famous for poem he wrote about Turkish President Erdoğan having sex with a goat, and was a prominent figure for the “Leave” vote in the 2016 referendum. Good thing his last name is a euphemism for “dick,” then. Oliver highlights a ridiculous incident in which reporters attempted to question Johnson about the hard border in Ireland, and Johnson ignored them. By riding away. Slowly. On his bicycle. This is probably because the only question Boris Johnson can answer, Oliver says, is “what would it look like if Gordon Ramsay was tumble-dried on high?”

Amid all the jokes, though, Oliver makes sure to remind us of how grim this situation is. By the government’s own findings, the U.K. economy is poised to fall by 3.9 percent in 15 years when they leave the EU. However, if they leave the E.U. without a vote — which looms closer as a possibility, given that the EU is done negotiating — then the U.K. economy could fall by 9.3 percent. It is, in Oliver’s words, “like “Pompeii if Pompeii had voted for the volcano.” If that wasn’t bad enough, the U.K. is in position to experience medicine and food shortages, resulting in “Brexit Boxes,” which are boxes containing paint cans of wet meat for things like fajitas.

Any light at the end of the tunnel is quickly snuffed out. The “Breuinon Boys,” a Dutch boy-band whose sole purpose is to reunite the U.K. with the EU, is just as bad as it sounds. They are, Oliver says, a “pretty compelling argument to leave the EU under any terms necessary.” At the end of it, we get a rousing Churchillian speech about how valiantly “We will fuck ourselves” until we reach a victory that tastes like “mummified chicken fajitas.”

“Last Week Tonight” is bold and daring. John Oliver isn’t afraid of anyone and seeks to let us down as easily as possible, throwing in jokes to soften the blows. For everything that’s going wrong in the world, “Last Week Tonight” is a brief light in the otherwise suffocating darkness of endless news cycles and tragedies. The world may be falling apart, but John Oliver is going to help us understand it — and even enjoy it a little.