We perish because we know not… #TLENews
The biggest story to come out of Last Week Tonight’s first season had nothing to do with comedy. Last June, after delivering a much-needed explainer on net neutrality, John Oliver called on viewers to write the FCC and voice their concern with the potential implementation of Internet “fast lanes.” The previously unaware were made aware, and the FCC couldn’t help but notice.
Now two episodes into his second season behind the desk, it’s clear that Oliver and Last Week Tonight have decided to put their foot on the gas when it comes to digging deep into neglected issues in an effort to not only stir up outrage, but to actively mobilize people. One of the only changes the show made following its successful first season was to hire more researchers, and both of the young second season’s spotlight segments have run for over 17 minutes. It’s already paid off. A shorter segment from last week drew the ire of Ecuador’s president.
While he detailed the disturbing ways pharmaceutical companies try to convince doctors to prescribe their drugs in the premiere’s principal segment, last night he shed light on the ways tobacco companies have bullied small nations around the world into promoting their products—or at least into not restricting their promotion. While a country the size of Australia endured “legal hell” to remove tobacco company branding from packages of cigarettes, smaller nations like Uruguay and Togo have been powerless to enact change, intimidated with “an incalculable amount” of litigation by Philip Morris International.
But last night Oliver did more than just expose what the tobacco companies have been up to. He develop a new Marlboro mascot, Jeff, a diseased lung in a cowboy hat, and put it on billboards in Uruguay and shipped Jeff-branded shirts to Togo. Not only that, he’s calling for viewers to use the #JeffWeCan hashtag and to upload images of Jeff to Google Plus accounts so the cartoon organ will show up when people do a Google Image search for Marlboro. So while Uruguay and Togo may not have the backing to extend a middle finger to Philip Morris International, Last Week Tonight and HBO certainly do. Hopefully others will follow Oliver’s example like they did with net neutrality.