Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 18 - United States Embargo Against Cuba, Miss America 2015 - full transcript

John focuses on the Miss America 2015 pageant with special guest Kathy Griffin.

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Welcome to "Last Week Tonight." I'm John Oliver.

Thank you for being with us.

Just time for a quick recap of the week.

And first, first let us deal here

with the elephant in the room.

Last week, we made a unicorn-themed appeal

to Scotland not to leave the U.K.

On Thursday, this happened.

Voters in Scotland have rejected independence

and have chosen to remain a part of the United Kingdom.

The kingdom is saved!

The kingdom is saved!

And it is--it is not often
you get to say that

outside of a live action
role play setting.

"The kingdom is secure.
I've secured the kingdom."

One of the incredible things
about the Scottish referendum

was not how people voted,
but how many people voted.

WOMAN: On Thursday,
voters turned out

in their biggest numbers in
Scottish electoral history.

Some incredible turnout figures,
let me tell you.

Stirling, 90%.

Never seen anything like it.

East Renfrewshire

I think is actually even higher.

Is it 90.5%?

It just can't--it can't be.

I had no idea the Scots
were even physically capable

of making a mark
on a piece of paper.

No idea.

88% voted in Clackmannanshire?

There is no way Clackmannanshire
is not a made-up place.

They're lying to us.
They're lying to us.

If you watched
the returns on Thursday,

there was one amazing detail.

For some reason, each council
read not just the totals

of yes and no votes,

but also the reasons why
some votes were not counted.

The reasons for rejection
are as follows.

Want of an official mark, zero.

Voting in favor of
both answers, 13.

4 for writing a mark by which
the voter could be identified.

Also one vote saying the person
reading this is an ass waffle.

One vote reading, "Cathy, I
love you, please take me back.

It's Mark."

14 drawings of a unicorn having
sex with another unicorn.

And 11,000 votes for Deez Nuts.

So, the winner is Deez Nuts.
Democracy doesn't work.

It doesn't work.

Moving on.

Moving on, there was also voting
this week in New Zealand.

Now, you may know it as
the homeland of Lorde,

or that place where people
who are happier than you

go on vacation.

Now, on Saturday,
they re-elected

their prime minister John Key,
despite a turbulent campaign,

with a major scandal
that engulfed him

earlier this week.

Rap superstar Eminem's
become the latest

to take potshots
at our government.

Why is Eminem getting involved?

Is he concerned
about the South Island's

rising wallaby population?

If so, good for you, Eminem.

Those things are
giant rats with pouches.

They must be stopped.

Unless something else
was bothering him.

WOMAN: It's all over
this campaign ad.

MAN: ...and the National Party's
economic management.

New Zealand is heading
in the right direction.

WOMAN: But what's wrong with it,
say Eminem's publishers,

is that the Nats didn't ask
if they could use the song.

That's right.
The ruling party of New Zealand

was accused of
ripping off...


And I can't imagine
how angry that must have made


I'd go so far as to say

that New Zealand has made an...

enemy of Eminem.

But perhaps--perhaps the reason

it didn't affect the outcome
of the election

is that the party's
campaign manager

had this brilliant
legal defense.

WOMAN: What's your understanding of
the legality

of your
campaign song?

Oh, we think
it's pretty legal.

I think these guys
are just having a crack

and a bit of a eye
for the main chance

because it's
an election campaign.

"Pretty legal."

That is not
a concept that exists.

That's like being sort of dead.

I want to see that man
as a defense lawyer.

"Your honor, my client pleads
probably not, yeah?

Probably not.
Just having a crack."

And--and finally this week,
it was another

terrible 7 days for the NFL

with yet more news regarding
serious domestic abuse.

Everyone had
significant questions

for NFL Commissioner
Roger Goodell

regarding how the NFL
handles domestic abuse,

and what specific plans he has
to improve things in the future.

And so on Friday, he spent
an entire 45 minutes

answering none of them.

These incidents demonstrate
that we can use the NFL

to help create change.

We are taking a number of steps.

We will re-examine,
enhance, and improve

all of our current programs,
and then we'll do more.

There will be changes to our
personal conduct policy.

I know this because
we will make it happen.

We've acknowledged that we
need to change what we're doing.

Now we have to get to what are
those changes going to be.

JOHN: "And in so saying, I have
effectively made sounds

"which, when put together,
constitute words

"which can then be
turned into sentences

"that make noise to travel into
your ears and that's 45 minutes.

"I've done it!
Goodell out!

"Clear eyes, full hearts.
Can't take my job. Fuck you!

Fuck you!"

The--the low point of the press
conference might have been

when Goodell had this exchange
with a reporter from "TMZ."

I would have loved
to have seen that tape.

Should we do more to get that
information in the future?

That's a question I want
these experts to do.

MAN: We found out
by one phone call.

You guys have a whole
legal department.

OK, you know, you know that
things are not going well

when you lose the moral
high ground to a "TMZ" reporter,

a man--a man whose employer ran
a story this week titled,

"Nicki Minaj bamboobles
her ass critics."

And the thing is,
Goodell wasn't

just getting criticized
in the room.

If you were watching on ESPN,

you could see NFL players
live-Tweet the proceedings,

including Darius Butler,
who wrote,

"This press conference
is pointless."

But truly--but truly,
the single greatest reaction

to the entire Goodell
press conference debacle

came from wide receiver
Sidney Rice,

who wrote simply,
"Boo this man...

Ghost emoji."

And I really think
that says it all.

Bravo, Sidney. Bravo.

Boo this man,
ghost emoji, indeed.

And now this.

You always sort of gauge
everything right in life

based on how close we come to "The Jetsons."

Remember "The Jetsons"?
The family flying in their car?

"The Jetsons," right?
Remember that cartoon?

Technology is gonna make it
so that

we only work
4 days a week.

MAN: "The Jetsons"!

WOMAN: Does anyone
other than the Jetsons

and some people in
Silicon Valley do this?

It's like "The Jetsons."

It's like
"The Jetsons."

It's like
from "The Jetsons."

Don't you think it's
like "The Jetsons"?

George Jetson, and what
was the name of the dog?

WOMAN: Elmo.

MAN: Oh, how could I forget?
Oh, Astro.


Astro was the name
of the dog. "Ruff-right!"

Yeah, it wasn't
Elmo. Ha ha ha!

That was a different little kid.

Moving on. Moving on.
Moving on.

Let's talk--let's talk
about Cuba.

You don't hear much about
it on American television,

unless Anthony Bourdain
takes a trip there

to try their street food

whilst drunkenly speculating
about dead men's genitals.

My theory always was that

Hemingway was hung
like a hamster,

not that there's
anything wrong with that.

Oh, oh, you're right.

There's absolutely
nothing wrong with that.

We Googled hamster penis,
and this is what you find.

That's adorable.

There is nothing wrong
with that.

But, look, I digress.


Earlier this month,
the president

made a major decision regarding
U.S. relations with Cuba,

although you probably
didn't hear about it

unless you were watching
Spanish-language television.

Yes, America has renewed
its trade embargo with Cuba.

That's a big deal.
And yet that was the only clip

we could find reporting it.

Because apparently,
Spanish-speaking people

are the only ones who give

whatever the Spanish
for "two shits" is.

I'm guessing it's "Dos Equis."
Now, first, first,

and I'll admit this,
I'll admit this,

I had no idea the Cuban embargo
had to be renewed once a year.

I just assumed it was like
an Amazon Prime trial.

You just--you sign up once
and it simply rolls on

without you even noticing.

But apparently, one of
the components of the embargo

is the Trading
with the Enemy Act,

which requires that
the president must annually

sign a piece of paper
saying that its

continuation for one year
is in the national interest,

which is a strangely routine way
to go about renewing legislation

which in Cuba is
deeply controversial.

WOMAN: The embargo is a constant
talking point on the island,

and most Cubans blame it for
the shortages of everything,

from concrete to build roads
and houses to food shortages.

Cubans blame the embargo
for everything--

the economy, the weather,

the complete collapse of
"Homeland" in its second season,

which--which to be fair,
Cubans probably haven't seen,

but if they do, they'll hate it

and they'll blame
the embargo for it.

The embargo seems like
something from a different era,

and that is probably
because it is.

WOMAN: The U.S. embargo
was put into place

by President Kennedy in 1962.

Exactly. The Cuban embargo
dates back to the Kennedy era.

And at the time, it probably
made some sense.

We'd just been through
the Cuban Missile Crisis,

which was the closest we'd
ever been to Armageddon

until the explosive reaction

to the "Fifty Shades of Grey"
casting announcement.

I'm sorry, but Jamie Dornan
has all the charisma

of a sandwich bag filled with
iceberg lettuce.

He is not my Christian.

But--but, look,
it's--it's been a while.

It's been a while since
Cuba was a genuine threat.

And by continuing the embargo,
we're not just pissing them off,

we're pissing off almost
the entire world.

WOMAN: The U.N. General Assembly
is pressing for the 22nd time,

by the way, for the U.S. to end
its embargo against the country.

188 countries voted for
lifting the embargo.

Israel was the only country
that joined the U.S.

in voting against this.

Ah, yes, the U.S. and Israel together alone again.

Although to be fair, in 2012,
the group supporting the embargo

did have another
powerful member,

specifically, the island nation
of Palau.

What a coalition--America,
Israel, and Palau.

The peanut butter and jelly

and traditional Palauan
fruit-bat soup

of foreign policy.

But last year, last year,
even Palau decided

it couldn't support
the embargo anymore.

And you know what they say--
when you've lost Palau,

you can forget about
the Maldives.

Sure, you've got to remember
the Maldives first,

but then you have
to forget about them.

But look, don't listen
to the rest of the world.

Who gives a shit
what they think?

The truth is, even our own
standards for this embargo

seem a little bit shaky.

Remember the Trading with
the Enemy Act from earlier?

Well, Cuba is currently
the only country on it.

There used to be another one
until this happened.

I'm issuing a proclamation
that lifts the provisions

of the Trading with the Enemy
Act with respect to North Korea.

Not even North Korea
is on that list anymore!

And, look, a list of enemies
without them is like a list of

cycloptic clawed penises

without the 2012
Olympic mascots.

It's meaningless.
Your list is incomplete,

which is not to say that
the Cuban government

is a good regime.

Look, in Freedom House's
most recent report,

Cuba got a repression score
of 6.5 out of 7.

Which does sound embargo-worthy
were it not for the fact that

many of our biggest trading
partners have similar scores.

China also got a 6.5,
and Saudi Arabia got a full 7.

And do you know how hard it is
to get a perfect score?

They'll dock you a full point

just for hooking up jumper
cables to the wrong testicle.

But--but we're happy
to overlook those scores.

We do it all the time.

Because if we only
traded with countries

with perfect
human rights records,

our only imports would be
maple syrup and Smurfs.

And perhaps the craziest
part of all of this

is that if you really
want the perfect argument

for ending the Cuban embargo,

you don't need to listen to any
other country on the planet.

You just need
to listen to this guy.

Sure, we could acknowledge that
or we could just keep doing it

until it somehow
magically unfails.

52nd year's the charm, baby!

And now this.

Teachable moment, Chris.

We all need
those sometimes.

I have them, like,
what, every 17 seconds?

About that, yeah,

Ba ha ha ha!

MAN: Very good.

We're ready, Will Ferrell.
I hope it's true.

Amy certainly is.


And finally, finally tonight,

last Sunday, last Sunday, one
of the weirdest annual events

on television
took place yet again.

MAN: Get ready for
the lip gloss, the spray tans,

the blood, sweat, and sequins.

I'm pumped up!

Ladies and gentlemen,
your 2015

Miss America



And just a reminder
to those of you at home,

it is the year 2014
and I am a fully clothed man

standing in front of a line of

women in swimsuits
awaiting judgment!

Beautiful! Beautiful!

Yes, last Sunday was
the Miss America pageant.

And through it all, the
swimsuits, the dance numbers,

the inexplicable ventriloquism,

it was--it was very difficult
not to think,

How the fuck is this
still happening?

Beauty pageants
haven't really made sense

since an era when people
talked like this.

MAN: Girls, girls, girls.
Every one lovely and talented.

One from nearly every state
in the union, including Alaska.

Oh! Including Alaska, yes!

And you know why
they mention that?

Because Alaska had only just
become a state back then.

In fact, in the early days,
it made sense to have a contest

with criteria like this.

MAN: The very first years,
there was a literal breakdown.

Five points for the construction
of the head,

5 points for the limbs,

3 points for the torso,
two points for the leg.

Three points for the torso.

I think even back then,
that was code.

"Hey, I met this
great dame, see?

"She's got a great torso, see?

34D torso.
You should meet her."

"How's the construction
of her head?"

"It's ridiculous.
It's ridiculous."

But the only time that beauty
pageants are relevant nowadays

is whenever someone forwards you
a link to something like this.

I believe that our education
like such as in

South Africa and the Iraq--
everywhere like such as and

I believe that they should--

our education over here
in the U.S.

should help the U.S.--or should
help South Africa

and should help the Iraq
and the Asian countries.

Now--now--now to be fair,
the question she was asked was,

can you do an impression of a
dictionary in a washing machine,

and--and I think everyone--
she nailed that.

She nailed that.

Look, look, look, it is easy

to make fun of
pageant contestants.

But which is really crazier?

That they sometimes give stupid answers,

or that they are
almost always asked

ridiculously complex questions?

Government tracking
of phone records

has been
in the news lately.

Is this an invasion
of privacy

or necessary to keep
our country safe?

Why or why not?

Should people who
leak classified documents

in the name of
public information

be charged
with treason?

MAN: In recent weeks,
the U.S. has released

5 detainees
from Guantanamo

in exchange for
one U.S. soldier

held captive
in Afghanistan.

The U.S. policy is to
leave no soldier behind.

Do you think it's fair to sacrifice
or swap lives

in order to uphold
this policy?


I totally agree with the guy
in the background there,

because I sincerely doubt the
intricacies of hostage exchanges

are going to be resolved
by a 21-year-old P.R. major

and the star of "Sharknado."

In fact, last Sunday,
this was an actual question.

WOMAN: The savagery of the
ISIS threat to our security

was demonstrated by
the gruesome videos

of two journalists
and an aid worker

being beheaded.

What should our
country's response be?

That's right--they asked one of
the contestants to solve ISIS.

And she only had
20 seconds to do it.

How did she do?

This is
an absolute outrage,

and something definitely
needs to be done

but I don't think
America needs to be

the only one to do it.

I really think it's
important for the world,

for the U.N., to come
together and decide

what's the best thing
united that we can do

to really come together
as a bigger

and more
impactful source

to end this horrid, horrid thing
that's happening.

Holy shit!

That is a much better answer

than I could've done
in that amount of time.

That is a borderline
better answer

than the president
gave last week.

In fact, many of
last Sunday's contestants

were genuinely impressive.

And the Miss America
pageant would argue

that's because they're
a classier organization

than their competitors,
which is frankly not difficult.

Miss U.S.A., for instance,
is owned by Donald Trump,

a clown made of mummified
foreskin and cotton candy.

But--and look, he's--he's
pretty blunt about his criteria.

Well, obviously
it's great outer beauty.

I mean, we could say
politically correct

that look
doesn't matter,

but the look
obviously matters.

Like you wouldn't have your job if you
weren't beautiful.


JOHN: It is a little ironic

that the Miss U.S.A. beauty
pageant is overseen by one of

the ugliest souls on the planet.

But--but look.
Miss America

is supposed to be different
from all that.

Miss America is about
something more than just looks.

This is a scholarship
pageant, Lee.

Miss America
funds scholars.

It's the largest scholarship program
in the world for women.

It's easy to think that this is
just a beauty pageant,

but this is a scholarship pageant, Miss America is.

Right. Yeah, right.

You need to see them in bathing
suits, because as we all know,

the intelligence portion
of the brain

is located somewhere
on the upper thigh.

In fact, Miss America trades on
their scholarship claims

so much, if you call
the Miss America headquarters,

this is what you hear.

OK, that is
suspiciously defensive

right out of the gate.

That is like
Walter White saying,

"Hello and welcome to
this regular car wash

"that's definitely not laundering money
for my meth lab.

Welcome. Welcome."

If, if it is actually true that
Miss America is the world's

largest provider
of scholarships for women,

that's a little bit weird,

because Miss America does not
offer scholarships to all women,

only those who compete
in its pageants.

So, to qualify
for a scholarship,

you'll need to certify not just
that you've never been married

but also that you are not now pregnant

and never have been.

Which, of course, makes sense.

Miss America is supposed to be
a role model for children.

How can she be that
if she's got a child in tow

who's constantly
looking up to her?

And those--those are
just the official rules

you need to abide by.

If you want a shot at winning
one of their scholarships,

you're also going to need
access to a can of this stuff.

WOMAN: Butt glue,
a spray adhesive

essential for keeping those
bikini bottoms on their bottoms.

Just--just think
about that for a second.

"How did the scholarship
interview go?"

"Well, my ass is still sticky.
I think I got it.

I think I got it."

And Miss America--
Miss America doesn't just

say it's the biggest
scholarship organization,

it backs this up with numbers.

the nation's largest

scholarship program
for young women

with $45 million
made available annually.

$45 million. That is an unbelievable amount of money,

as in, "I literally
didn't believe that."

It's the kind of number
that can get stuck in your head

and rattle around there
for days, driving you crazy,

making you wish, for instance,

there was a way
to find out more.

Find out more at

And that is where
all this craziness began.

We went to their web site
and to be honest,

it wasn't a great sign
that their "about us" page

says, "We Fun Scholars!"

You--you really might want to--

you really might want
to butt glue a "D"

onto the end of that word.

But it was then, while digging
around on their site,

that we discovered that
Miss America and its foundation

are registered non-profits,

which means they have
to file public tax forms.

So what we were looking for was
that crazy number, $45 million.

What we found instead was that
in 2012, at the national level,

they spent less than $500,000

in cash scholarships,

leaving us a mere
$44,500,000 short

of what they say they provide.

And at this point,
we really had a clear choice.

We could've just thought, "Sure,
the numbers don't really add up,

but it's only Miss America.
Who really gives a shit?"

Or, or, we could try
to pull the tax forms

from every state-level
competition in the country,

because this was starting
to drive us fucking insane.

It's been a weird week here.

We got 33 states' 990 forms

and attempted to
contact everyone else.

But even making the most
generous assumptions

for every state and local
pageant that we didn't get,

we couldn't get even close
to $4 million

when, remember,
they are claiming this...

$45 million made
available annually.

How the fuck is that possible?
How's that possible?

At this point, we were
in way too deep,

so we just called Miss America,

which is when
we first heard this:

WOMAN: Thank you for calling
the Miss America Organization,

the world's largest provider
of scholarships for women.

JOHN: And it turns out, the key
word there is "provider."

Some schools offer scholarships
directly to pageant contestants,

and the trick is Miss America
counts all of them,

not just the ones
they can physically take.

So, for instance,
Miss Pennsylvania's web site

says it offers the winner scholarships
to these 4 colleges.

And the value of every single
scholarship is counted together,

despite the fact that she is
clearly going to attend

at most one because she's not
going to attend 4 colleges.

She's not James fucking Franco!

Furthermore, furthermore,

Miss Alabama in its 2012 filing

said it provided nearly
$2.6 million in scholarships

to just one school, Troy
University, which blew my mind.

Because if that's true,
that must be

the single prettiest
school anywhere in America.

But when we contacted Troy,

it turns out the pageant
got to that $2.6 million

by multiplying the value of
a single scholarship by 48,

the number of competitors who
could theoretically accept it,

even though the actual
number of contestants

who accepted a scholarship
that year was--

and you are not going
to believe this--zero.

Absolute zero.

Meaning that
the difference between

the money they "provided"
and the money they "awarded"

was all of the money
they provided.

And--and at this point,
we just had to stop

because it was 35 minutes ago,
and we had to tape this show.

But it does seem that
two things are true.

One, Miss America
gives out way less

than $45 million
in scholarships.

And yet, two,
whatever the number is,

one thing does still seem
to be troublingly true.

The Miss America
Organization is

actually the largest
provider of

scholarships to women
in the world.

Yeah, because even
their lowest number

is more than any other

scholarship that we could find,

more than the Society
of Women Engineers,

whose web site is here,

more than the Patsy Mink
Foundation, here,

and more than
the Jeanette Rankin

Women's Scholarship Fund, here.

All of which you can donate to
if you want to change the fact

that currently, the biggest
scholarship program

exclusively for women in America

requires you to be unmarried
with a mint-condition uterus,

and also rewards
working knowledge

of buttock adhesive technology,

which is just
a little bit unsettling.

And, in fact, let me
try to explain why

to the Miss America Organization

through the only medium
it seems to value,

20-second conversations

with women
in evening dresses and sashes.

Please join me.

Welcome to Miss "Last Week Tonight"!

I'm proud to say
as of now, we are

the world's largest provider
of scholarships for women,

because tonight, 400 million
$1.00 scholarships

will be made available
to the winner,

of which she may choose
just one.

So, let's bring out
our first contestant,

Miss First Contestant.


Question number one.

What does the
continued existence

of the Miss America
pageant say

about how women are
viewed in America?

You have
20 seconds. Go.

Beginning with the Seneca
Falls Convention in 1848

that spurred
first wave feminism,

the perception of
women in America

has always been
complex and fluid.

While it is
theoretically possible

that Miss America
could evolve into

a purely academic
scholarship organization,

at this point in time,
the notion that

beauty pageants
are about

anything other than
outer beauty

is belied both by
the continued existence

of the swimsuit portion
and the fact that

I'm expected to answer this
question in just 20 seconds.

Thank you very much.

That's tremendous.
Tremendous. Beautiful.

And now please welcome

our final contender,
Miss Kathy Griffin.

Miss Kathy,
your question.

When providing access
to scholarships,

is there
any place whatsoever

for the judgment
of a woman's body?

Oh, I have no
problem with that at all.

Wait. What? Really?

Nope, no problem

As long as men are subjected to the same
demeaning process.

Let me show you
what I mean.

get out here.

No, no, no, no, no.
No, no, no. Oh, shit.

Uh, OK, all right. What exactly are you
doing here, Kathy?

All right, I am judging you
as a host next to him.

Uh, well-- All right, John,
walk that runway.

Give us a twirl.

Shit. He's just--

Hosting is about a lot
more than looks, Kathy.

It's about just--

Now, don't do that
with your hands.

It's not just about-- it's not just about
looks, Kathy.

Well, look, that's only
20% of your total score.

Now, I'm giving
this one to Giuseppe

because, frankly,
he wins on

muscle mass, legs, and of course,
construction of the head.

I get your point.

No, let me explain why I'm giving you
a lower score.

I look at Giuseppe and I
want to have sex with him.

I look at you, and I want
to have sex with Giuseppe.

Oh, come on, Kathy.
I'm a good person, Kathy.

You know what?
I am calling it!

Giuseppe wins!

No way Giuseppe wins!

No, get off me, Giuseppe.

I'm not happy for you.
I'm not happy for you.

I feel terrible
about myself!

Pageants are horrible!
They're horrible!

That's our show.
My thanks to Kathy Griffin.

My thanks to
Kathy Griffin.

Fuck you, Giuseppe!

Please, please join us
again next week.

We'll see you
next week. Good night!


I feel bad
about myself.