In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver psyched out the viewing public with a fake factoid, claiming Abraham Lincoln once pardoned John Wilkes Booth of attempted bestiality because the criminal was intoxicated at the time. That information, he claimed, came from a fake-sounding book called Stranger Than Truth: John Oliver’s 101 Favorite History Lies. But in his latest web exclusive, Oliver says that book is legitimate – and scheduled for publication next Spring via Simon & Schuster.
Or is it? The host keeps viewers guessing throughout the segment, teasing the title with “plenty of plausible but unverifiable nonsense” – like Winston Churchill ripping up phone books in front of his officials to prepare for important telephone calls or Paul Revere “sneezing and vomiting into the streets” during his “midnight ride” due to a horse allergy. “There is absolutely nothing more fun than lying confidently about history,” Oliver says.
The comedian brings back horses and bestiality for his most scandalous history lie. “Catherine the Great did die while having sex with a horse,” he says. “But what many people don’t know is she was pegging the horse at the time.” The host also pulls off a reverse fake-out, telling us that in 1980, Saddam Hussein was given a key to the city of Detroit – which actually happened.
Oliver reminds us that Stranger Than Truth is out in April – but not really. The whole setup was a lie. One morsel of truth emerges at the end: Last Week Tonight returns with new episodes on September 13th. Until then, Oliver warns us, “Trust nobody – especially me.”