John Oliver dissected President Donald Trump’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic as well as the growing unease and confusion around the United States on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, which was itself rattled by the pandemic.
Oliver opened the show by stating that this wouldn’t be a normal episode. Not only was he recording without a live audience, but he was also in a different studio with a barebones crew because the normal building where Last Week Tonight shoots had a confirmed case of the coronavirus (as did the show’s office, prompting the entire staff to work from home). “It kind of looks like the place movie characters go when they’ve just died, or where they shot the Kars 4 Kids commercial,” Oliver joked of the “white void” set.
From there, Oliver dug into last week’s ceaseless churn of events, from major sports leagues canceling events to Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson revealing they’d contracted the coronavirus to Trump’s bumbling response, which Oliver said has been “characterized by disorganization and lies.”
So far, Oliver added, the low point was a Rose Garden address where Trump did one good thing — declare a national emergency — then broke pretty much every guideline for stemming the spread of coronavirus: shaking hands, patting backs and touching the microphone at least 31 times. On top of that, Trump denied any responsibility for the government’s response to the coronavirus, including the egregious lack of available testing and the disbandment of the White House pandemic office.
“That is reminiscent of Harry Truman’s famous saying, ‘The buck stops, uh, somewhere over there, maybe?'” Oliver cracked, adding, “That is a level of dodging responsibility that Trump has been perfecting ever since he was very much not in Vietnam.”
While the Trump administration is hardly a reliable source of information, Oliver did highlight how individuals and even some social media celebrities — including a very adorable hamster on TikTok — have been communicating best practices for halting the spread of the coronavirus. Specifically, Oliver highlighted the importance of social distancing in order to flatten the curve of coronavirus cases and prevent a spike that could overwhelm the healthcare system.
“Basically, for the time being, pretend you’re a British parent and everyone else in the world is your child,” Oliver cracked. “Keep as much distance as you can, avoid physical contact at all costs and if any one of them tries to give you a hug, reject it!”