John Oliver and the Last Week Tonight team are quite skilled at making what seem like dull problems fascinating. These are the people who helped make net neutrality a vital issue for young people — to great success. But this week, Oliver and company presented their audience with their greatest challenge yet: infrastructure. It's interesting, Oliver promised. It's fun!
"And I know that by saying that, I've basically become the rad youth counselor trying to convince you that Jesus was the Taylor Swift of his time," he said.
But Last Week Tonight's decision to take on infrastructure is an important one. American infrastructure is currently ranked 16th in the world, behind that of countries like Singapore, Portugal and Luxembourg. And there is, as the host pointed out, absolutely no drive or urgency to take care of our roads, highways and dams.
"The scale of this problem is scary," Oliver noted, diving into the lack of funding and the country's inability so far to raise said money. It's not a sexy problem, he said again and again. It's not like building something new, with a big opening ceremony after its completion. As Oliver said, "You don't get to cut a ribbon after routine repairs."
Once again, Oliver effectively cut to the heart of why Americans are ignoring this major issue: It's boring. And his call to action is yet another sign that Last Week Tonight is unlike any other late night show. It's not just relaying the news or poking fun at it — it's activistic in nature. Oliver wants America and its citizens to be better and do better, and though he'll make you laugh all along the way, he ultimately wants his audience to care too.
"You cannot tell me that you are not interested in this, because every summer, people flock to see our infrastructure threatened by terrorists or aliens," he said near the end of the segment. "But we should care just as much when it's under threats from the inevitable passage of time."