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The “John Oliver Effect” as new breed of entertainment


Entertainment shows have long been the recognized mediums which discuss societal issues in a context that is often comical or ironical and sarcastic. However, traditional entertainment begins and remains confined to the shows that created it. It rarely goes beyond the purpose of entertaining the masses. To be more precise, entertainment shows are not regularly transposed into actions that would benefit the society we live in.

And here is where “Last Week Tonight” enters the stage.

On the one hand, the show satisfies people’s need for entertainment, jokes, and parodies.

On the other hand – each episode takes down one particular subject (be it political, economic or social) and, based on intensive research and proper documentation, the producers provide real-life, viable solutions that would enhance and optimize the subject in matter.

Comedians have often been criticizing the system we live in. Obvious faults and errors basically constitute an endless fountain of inspiration for such media. Nonetheless, there are little to no cases where the public itself is interested in going farther than laughing at a cynical joke, in what can be considered a bitter sweet situation.

John Oliver has created and continues to create massive waves of change that trigger the reactionary reflex of what are normally passive citizens.

His influence has spread so far in the past 3 years in which the show has aired that Time magazine has called it “the John Oliver effect,” a phrase that has quickly spread to multiple other periodicals.

What separates Oliver from other comedians? The “John Oliver effect” is widely discussed on the internet and debated even by prestigious publications like Time or Fortune magazines.

Conclusions draw to Oliver being truly a man of this age, knowing that the internet is the best engagement tool, should you provide the necessary means and directions for this.

Truth be told, entertainment that motivates people to demand a change for the better is entertainment at its best.

So enough of the theory, here are the facts showing results obtained by John Oliver through his calls for action during the “Last Week Tonight” show.

  1. The Net Neutrality issue – the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) got to thinking that the internet should not be treated equally, and some websites deserve faster connection than others, in exchange for a special price. After discussing the issue and the policies involved, John Oliver encouraged his audience to submit their public comments on the FCC website. The same night, the FCC’s servers were down due to the high influx of website visitors.
  2. The Miss America Pageant faulty scholarship scheme – after revealing that the association to which the pageant donated with the purpose of supporting women’s development required of all its receivers to be unmarried and have a “mint condition uterus,” John Oliver encouraged the society to seek more viable scholarship receivers, providing them with multiple examples. Shortly after, the Society of Women Engineers reportedly received in just 2 days 15% of what is their annual income, or $25,000, to be more precise.
  3. Legal matters – John Oliver’s main topics are most of the times political. In this sense, he has often attacked faulty policies and lawmakers for their decisions and rationale. One such case was the bail procedure due to which low-income citizens were imprisoned even before being found guilty of a crime. Having been imprisoned basically places social and professional stigmata on your life. Thanks to his on point remarks, the legislature has now taken a more relaxed approach regarding bail requirements for those who committed non-violent crimes or misdemeanors. Thanks to this decision, the persons who find themselves in such situation will not have their chances of getting a job taken away from them.


Beyond these real changes mentioned above, however, stand the people who supported Oliver’s guidelines. And these people have been reached and engaged via the Internet. The “Last Week Tonight” show stands out through its online engagement activities. The host, John Oliver, often connects with his public via Twitter or Facebook and has even famously been engaged in Twitter spats with people whose actions he had discussed during his show, like the President of Ecuador, or Donald Trump.

What’s most importantly, is that these actions and the strategies supporting them are not done with a mere desire to create a media stir, but to actually initiate a change wave. For this change to happen, apart from the efforts the team puts into research and methodology, the show maintains a continuous connection with its audience via social media. Offering and responding to live feedback fills in the gap between a traditional entertainer and John Oliver.

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Performance Management in 2015: Global Edition Report
The KPI Institute’s partnership with Palermo University at the Performance Management Spring School

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