John Oliver Meets Ed Snowden

OliverSnowdenAs the Comedy Central news/comedy division remains in transition, “Last Week with John Oliver” has turned into a solid work of weekly political satire.

In addition to a comedy staff, he’s hired investigative reporters to put out longer-form reports and rants that shift tones heavily between hard-hitting facts and silly asides (usually through bringing in metaphors that mention celebrities).

That dichotomy was in evidence Sunday when Oliver scored his biggest interview to date — with exiled whistleblower Edward Snowden in Russia.

It made for an extended episode that began with the usual shorter bits and preceded the interview with an unnecessary bit about Oliver waiting around for the interview to start.

When it finally did, Oliver was in a classic spot — in front of a newsmaker who can be notoriously dull in his windy responses. The problem, as Oliver saw it, was the fact that after all that Snowden to expose the NSA and the government hoarding of every American’s phone records, is that most people still don’t know or remember it (if indeed a sampling from New York’s Times Square is accurate).

Still, given another interview question about whether they’d stand for having any of their personal pictures going to the government — dick pics, as they were called — interviewees were adamant that something had to be done.

(Again, this may have had something to do with the people all happening to be in Times Square).

At any rate, Oliver was enliven andiscussion about an important though sometimes tedious topic with the the kind of vulgarity found in middle school jokes. It may wake up HBO viewers to the still lingering threat of government overreach, but ironically, any other news organization who might have used a clip was probably dissuaded by all the penis talk.

There was another reason for the 10-hour trip to Moscow, which meant skipping a show — Oliver, as HBO representative, was able to give Snowden the Oscar he won for his role in “Citizenfour,” the HBO Films documentary about his decision to hand over classified material.


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