Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 22 - Sugar - full transcript

John Oliver is back to discuss how the sugar industry rules the world!

Are you wondering how healthy the food you are eating is? Check it -


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

Thank you so much for joining us.
Time for a quick recap of the week.

And it began
with claims that Russia

was taking aggressive
action against another country.

The search is expanding for what's
believed to be a Russian submarine

lurking near Sweden's capital.

Sweden ! I did not see that coming.

Although if this is true, I can
understand where Putin is coming from.

Because who hasn't spent
twenty minutes in Ikea

and immediately wanted
to launch an attack on Sweden ?

Someone has to pay for
what I'm going through here !

This wasn't just classic Swedish
paranoia. They had proof.

Powerful sonar now scanning
beneath these waves

after the Swedes reportedly intercepted
an emergency call from these waters

to a Russian base
in nearby Kaliningrad.

And there is this: A photo taken
by a passerby outside Stockholm

looking very much
like a submarine on patrol.

Does it look like
a submarine on patrol ?

Because that could equally
be a whale with a toupee,

or a penguin on a surfboard, or
absolutely anything else in the world.

Even the swedes weren't exactly clear
what they were dealing with.

It could be a submarine,
or a smaller submarine.

It could be a diver using some form
of moped-like underwater vehicle,

and divers who don't have
any business in our territory.

"It could even be the legendary shark
that terrorizes Swedish waters.

I talk, of course, of "Yawss. Yawss.
The monster of the seas."

Now, look,
a brief word of caution here:

Sweden, has got this wrong before.

In 1995, after suggesting
that Russia subs were offshore,

their Prime Minister had to make
an embarrassing retraction saying:

"It's a sad fact that
what was originally stated

to be intrusions into our waters
have proved to be minks."

Yes, minks. These minks.
Remember that photo from before ?

That could absolutely be a mink.

Or, it could be a submarine
"piloted" by a mink. We don't know.

And if it was, you let them
take over your country.

They are pissed when they're angry.
I'm sure the Swedish people

will stop at nothing
to get to the bottom of this mystery.

A Swedish navy has called off

a week-long search
for suspected underwater activity.

What that's it ?
You looked for a week and gave up ?

No, Sweden.
That's not how it works.

If you see a fuzzy photo of something,

you let it consume you
for the rest of your life.

Scotland has been looking
for the Loch Ness Monster since 1933 !

And you give up looking for a Russian
submarine after seven days ?

In America,
most of us spent the last three weeks

trying to figure out whether we'd seen
Ben Affleck's penis in "Gone Girl" !

And yes, technically
it could've been a mink.

But the point is, we wont' stop
until we get to the bottom of it !

Shame on you, Sweden.

But let, let let's move on,
in New York,

we've had our own unwelcome intruder
this week, albeit of a tinier variety.

Breaking news, overnight,
ebola in New York.

An American doctor who volunteered
for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea

is in a New York hospital
this morning with ebola.

Yes, much like an actor who considers
himself too intellectual for LA,

ebola has moved to New York.

The patient in question
is Dr. Craig Spencer,

who is currently recovering
in a hospital here in the city.

Public health officials
tried to calm people down

by supplying us
with a weirdly detailed rundown

of everywhere
he had been including this...

We know that he went
to a place called 'The Gutter',

a bowling alley in Williamsburg,
in Brooklyn.

The patient went there with friends,
and he did bowl.

Of course he did. Of Course he went
to a bowling alley in Williamsburg.

If you're talking about a 33 year-old
white New Yorker named "Craig,"

you don't have to tell me

he spent a weeknight
at a bowling alley in Williamsburg.

That is assumed.

But maybe the most incredible part
of Thursday's ebola coverage

was how quickly things escalated.

Watch how his relationship status
was described,

because it changed a bit
towards the end.

He had some sort of physical contact
with his girlfriend.

He has a girlfriend,
who has now been quarantined as well.

Dr. Spencer's girlfriend
has been isolated now as well.

His girlfriend.

He has been in close contact
with his fiancée.

Mazel tov !

Okay, two options
for what happened there:

One, he was engaged all along.

Or two, he got engaged
after being diagnosed with ebola.

And I'm going for the first one.

If you learn "one thing" from that
press conference, America, know this:

There is "no way" an attractive doctor
is not engaged by 33.

You lock that shit down.

You lock that shit down, you put
a ring on it and you lock it down.

For the other 8 million people in this
city, the advice is pretty obvious.

Ebola is not airborne, so there's only
one thing we all have to remember:

If you came across some strange
mucus or feces or something out there

on the subway, the street
or anywhere else, don't eat it.

That's good advice,
that is solid advice.

Don't eat mystery mucus in the street
until this ebola panic is over,

at which point, feel free
to resume your mucus consumption.

You may remember we talked
about the fact that the Supreme Court

bans cameras releasing
audiotapes of their oral arguments.

We decided to assist the news

by producing our 'real animals
fake paws Supreme Court'

with dog versions of all 9 justices,
plus two lawyers,

a duck assistant
and a chicken stenographer.

Or, or as you might say,
a "hen"ographer.

We then gave the footage away
on our Youtube page

for major news networks to use.

None of them did so, because they're
cowards who hate the concept of joy.

But, but, but the internet at large
stepped up in a spectacular way.

Many entire Supreme Court
cases are now online.

Thank you so much
to everyone who took part.

I want to single out one contribution,
from Youtube username Sam Gross.

He broke the rules a little bit,

because he didn't use
a Supreme Court oral argument.

But he took a different court case,
with which you may be familiar. Enjoy !

Lt. Kendrick ordered the code red
because that's what you told him to do.

When it went bad,
you cut these guys loose !

You had Markinson sign
a phony transfer order,

and you doctored the log book !

Colonel Jessup,
did you order the code red ? !

- You don't have to answer !
- I'll answer.

- You want answers ?
- I think I'm entitled.

- You want answers ?
- I want the truth !

You can't handle the truth !

Moving on,
let's talk about Halloween.

You have just four days to find
your inappropriately sexy costume,

whether it's sexy Barney the Dinosaur,
or a sexy candy corn,

or as Playboy's website featured,
and I swear to you this is true,

a sexy John Oliver costume;
that's right.

That is an actual photo,
of a human woman,

dressed-up to look
like a sexy me.

And the worst thing is,
there's more than one photo.

I don't know if I've ever been
as confused as I am right now.

Although I'm pretty sure
that I'm not as confused

as Louis CK is about
"his" sexy doppelganger.

That's also real.

Let's agree: sexy Halloween costumes
have simply gone too far.

But it doesn't matter. Because we all
know what Halloween is really about.

Candy. Sweet, sugar treats.

This Halloween, Americans
will spend $2.2 billion on candy,

although to be fair,
that "does" include Necco Wafers,

which might be better classified
as a coagulated dust.

But is it really fair
to describe sugar as a treat,

considering how much we eat it
all year round ?

Today the average American consumes
22 teaspoons of sugar a day.

Three times what we need.

That equal
to 75 pounds of sugar a year

for every man, woman and child
in the United States.

Holy shit ! 75 pounds of sugar !

That's like eating Michael Cera's
weight in sugar every single year.

Whilst that's a little less
than it was in the late '90s,

it's still pretty incredible.

So let's talk about sugar.
Everyone loves it.

That's because
we are genetically programmed to.

Eric Stice, a neuroscientist
at the Oregon Research Institute,

is using functional MRI scanners

to learn how
our brains respond to sweetness.

Sugar activates our brain
in a special way

that's very reminiscent
of drugs like cocaine.

Sugar activates our brains
like cocaine. And I've gotta say,

"Scarface" would be a very different
movie if it ended with Al Pacino

sitting in a chair, sugared out
of his mind on baked goods.

"Say hello to my Little Debbie !
Say hello !"

With sugar being
so viscerally appealing to us,

it's frankly no wonder that food
manufacturers put it in everything.

And I do mean everything.

35% of the sugars that Americans
consume come from beverages.

But we're also talking about
salad dressings and ketchup,

and breads and cereals
and crackers,

and the list goes on and on,
even to beef and turkey jerky.

We have no idea how prevalent sugar
is in almost everything that we eat.

Look at Clamato juice the original
tomato cocktail with clam.

One serving
has 11 grams of sugar in it.

So they clearly thought, "Let's
improve the taste by adding sugar,"

instead of thinking, "Let's improve
the taste by removing the clam."

And, and, none of this,
none of this would be a problem,

were it not for the fact that excess
sugar is probably not good for us.

Both the World Health Organization
and the American Heart Association

have warned against the harms
of eating too much of it.

Some studies suggest that too
much sugar can mess with the brain.

This rat is perfectly healthy.
Put him in a vat of water

and he
finds his way to safety every time.


Now, look at this guy.

What he's been eating is the equivalent
of a North American diet,

complete with all the fats
and sugars we regularly consume.

He doesn't know where to go:
his brain has been damaged.

I don't think that rat
is unable to find the island.

I think it is saying "fuck that island,
there's no sugar on that island,

I want sugar !"

That's a Pixar movie
waiting to happen.

But the sweetener industry
is not going to take the findings

of a wet,
confused rat lying down.

They are an immensely powerful,
$5 billion industry,

who fought for decades to project
their product's health benefits.

The Sugar Association used to claim
their product was a diet aid,

with ads positioning it as a cure
for "the fat time of day",

with a woman saying, "if sugar can fill
that hollow feeling, I'm all for it."

Because yes, nothing says
"I don't feel hollow inside"

like a woman sitting alone
eating straight from a bag of sugar.

The Sugar Association has gotten
a little more sophisticated since then.

Here is their president.

As it relates to obesity, there's been
plenty of science that exonerates sugar.

It clarifies sugar does not, does not
contribute to obesity or diabetes.

Really ? Sugar doesn't contribute
to obesity ?

I'm not saying it's the only culprit,
but it's one of the key suspects.

Asking what causes obesity

is like asking who killed
a first grade class's hamster.

Sure, they all killed it in a way,
but I think we all know,

one of them killed it the most.

Kevin, you killed that hamster,
and you drove your father away.

There, I've said it Kevin.
I've said it.

Although, to be fair...
Take it down !

There are scientists who dismiss
links between sugars and obesity.

For instance, this guy !

We take a complex situation
like obesity and we say,

'if gee, if we could just cut down
on sugar-sweetened beverages,

or added sugars in general,
that would solve obesity,'

and I think that is a very slippery
slope, and almost certainly wrong.

That is Dr. James Rippe.
Who, like Clamato Juice,

turns out to contain quite a lot
of hidden sugar himself.

He's on payroll of the Corn Refiners
Association, the corn syrup people,

and at one point, he was receiving
a" $41,000 a month retainer from them.

That's half a million dollars a year !

You'd expect much grander claims
than it doesn't link to obesity.

He should be saying
"My research finds that corn syrup

makes you an immortal sex god
with x-ray vision !"

And I'm not saying that corporate
money distorts science.

But when researchers looked
at two sets of weight gain studies

one group with conflicts of interest
and one group that was independent.

The vast majority of independent
studies found direct links

between sugar sweetened soft drinks,
and obesity.

The vast majority that weren't
independent, found the opposite of that.

Particularly suspicious
was a research paper titled,

"I'm so Delicious"
attributed to a Dr. Pepper

but look: regardless of whether
sugar is terrible for you,

or the answer
to all life's problems,

shouldn't you at least get to know
when it's being added to your food ?

To their credit,
the FDA is trying to take this on.

This week the FDA is reviewing
new nutritional labeling standards.

And that may force food makers
to not just list total sugar content

but how much sugar
they are adding to their products.

The FDA is trying to get an added
sugar category onto their food labels.

Which is fine.

As long as it doesn't distract them
from forcing Honeycomb cereal

to reveal what in god's name
their old mascot was.

What the fuck was that ?

It looked like some kind
of tumbleweed made of Merkins.

Being forced to reveal how much sugar
you are adding to people's food

might seem pretty mild.

There is no way the food manufacturing
industry is going to let that happen.

The FDA has been swarmed with letters
from every conceivable product,

from the National Yogurt Association
to The National Frozen Pizza Institute

to multiple representatives
of the Cranberry industry.

Cranberries are,
I think we can all agree,

nature's most disgusting berry.

Cranberries taste like cherries
who hate you.

Cranberries taste like what a raspberry
drinks before its colonoscopy.

And, and the industry knows it.

The head of the Ocean Spray company
wrote to the FDA, saying,

Are naturally low in sugar,

giving them a distinctly tart,
astringent, even unpalatable taste."

Yes, that's the head of Ocean Spray

describing its defining ingredient
as "unpalatable".

It's no wonder they want
certain cranberry products

to be exempted from the proposed
added sugars declaration,

which is tantamount to begging,
"please don't make us tell everyone

how much sugar we dump
on our garbage bog berry."

But the most revealing plea came from
the American Beverage Association,

who wrote that if there is to be
an "added sugar" label,

it must be measured in grams,
and not teaspoons,

because teaspoons are and I quote,

"may carry
an unfair negative connotation

that undermines the factual nature
of nutrition information."

Which is ridiculous.

What negative connotation
does a fucking teaspoon have ?

Unless you're thinking
of an annoying dude at a diner

who's always trying
to balance one on his nose

or the fact that they're used
to freebase heroin ?

But neither of which
is the teaspoon's fault.

The only reason
the beverage people

want sugar to be measured
in grams instead of teaspoons

is that people understand
what a teaspoon is.

No one understands
the metric system.

Which is why this proposed FDA
food label is missing the point.

If they want us to understand
how much sugar is in our food,

they need to find a measurement
we can immediately grasp.

And that is why we are proposing,
in the spirit of Halloween,

that product manufacturers
express their sugar content

in the form of candy.

Specifically, Circus Peanuts,
the most disgusting of all the candies.

They taste like an elephant
ejaculated into a packet of Splenda.

And there is more than 5 grams of sugar
in each one of these horrifying things.

What we're saying to companies
is this...

Keep loading your products
up with as much sugar as you like.

On the one condition
that on the front of the packaging,

you display how much sugar it contains,
in the form of Circus Peanuts.

So, for instance,
64 ounces of Clamato Juice

has 88 grams of sugar,
or 16 peanuts' worth.

A can of Campbell's tomato soup ?
5 1/2 peanuts.

A package of 20 Circus Peanuts ?
Obviously, 20 circus peanuts.

But we as consumers must demand
manufacturers adopt this measurement.

So please tweet at them, using the
hashtag, "show us your peanuts".

And ask
your favorite food manufacturer,

to whip out their peanuts
and present them to you.

And if they say to you
"we don't want to,

that's embarrassing,
nobody wants to see our peanuts,

they're orange,
and misshapen, and bumpy,"

you tell them again:
Show us your peanuts.

Do it, food makers !
Expose your peanuts to the world !

Because if you are going to shove
your peanuts in our mouths,

the very least you can do is tell us
what we're swallowing.

And now, this !

Across the broad expansive history
there have been billions of idiots.

As well as a handful of smart people.

We interviewed some of the latter group
for our ongoing series,

"Great Minds,
People Who Think Good".

This week's people
who thinks good, Jane Goodall.

In her 20s, Jane Goodall
achieved her childhood dream,

to live with and study
the Chimpanzees in Africa.

To whom she gave exotic names.

Hello Mike !

She had no formal training
or even an undergraduate degree,

but the discoveries
of this daring young woman

our understanding of these primates.

Starting with this bombshell.

The Chimpanzee is actually
modifying a natural object

to suit it to a specific purpose,
thus making a tool.

That's right. Chimps were making
and using tools,

albeit pretty crappy tools
for a pretty disgusting purpose...

but she also found something else.

Chimpanzees, like humans,
have a dark side to their nature.

Goodall was also the first to show
that these peaceful forest vegetarians

were actually meat eating assholes

who frequently who engaged in Chimpy
- Chimpy on Chimp - Chimposide.

After decades in the field,
Goddall now spends her time

traveling the world
to fight for a variety of causes.

With occasional interruptions
to speak with a not so smart person.

Dr. Jane Goddall, thank you so much
for taking the time to speak with me.

Well thank you for inviting me.

You are widely recognized as one
of the great experts on chimpanzee's,

what makes them particularly
so fascinating to you ?

I think because they're so like us,
and we now know biologically

we share 98 plus percent of our DNA
with them.

Blood system, the immune system,
the structure of the brain,

its all almost all the same,
just our brain is bigger.

And then for me,
of course, its the behavior...

The fact they have personalities,
they have happiness, sadness, fear.

They communicate with kissing,
embracing, holding hands,

patting one another on the back,
shaking the fist.

They use tools.

Is that what makes them
such great pets ?


They're the worst possible...
they're not pets.

I can't even say they're bad pets
because they're not pets.

They're nice acquaintances,
house bound friends.

They're not... there very cute and
sweet and cuddly when they're little

and what happens
when they're 5, 6, 7,

and why do people
have their face bitten off ?

Focus on the fact that when you
dress them up, they're so funny.

No they're not.

- What about a chimpanzee butler ?
- No.

At no point, in your time,
living amongst chimpanzees

did you think about pulling out
a monocle, a top hat and a silver tray

and training them
to bring you a cold drink ?

At no point did I think
any such ridiculous thing.

- Did you ever put a hat on them ?
- No.

- Never put a hat on a chimpanzee ?
- No.

I refuse to believe that.

We shall disagree
for the rest of our lives.

Okay, fair enough,
let's talk a little about your methods.

They were not enough
without their initial criticisms.

At one point of contention was that
you gave your chimps nicknames.

Why did people criticize that ?

- Not nicknames, names, just names.
- Just actual names.

Yes. I was, to be scientific,
I should have given them numbers.

What is the scientific argument
for not giving them names ?

If you give them a name
you're treating them like people.

I'm going to throw some names at you
and I want you to say

if you think they would be a good name
for a chimp or a bad name for a chimp.

- "Jessica Chimpson".
- Yucky.

- "Dr Ban Anapeel MD".
- Too long.

This is a little simpler....

- "Poo-throw Wilson."
- That's alright.

- Right ?
- Yeah, that's fine.

- That's good...
- "Poo-Throw-somebody-else".

Where are you going there ?

Poo Throw at people that I think
need poo thrown at them.

Jane who do you think
needs poo-thrown at them.

I'm going to pick somebody
like Hitler because he's gone.

"Poo Throw Hitler", great.

- An amazing name for a chimp.
- Fantastic !

While you were living with them,

you learnt that chimps
had specific vocalizations,

can you tell me
a little about that ?

If I'm eating something,
and you want some...

And you come up to me.
You might beg. Just like that.

But I don't want
to give you any so...

Pretty obvious.

No, you don't say that,
you say...

I ain't giving you any;
I don't like you.

Alright Poo-Throw Hitler,
take it down a notch.

Dr Jane Goodall,
thank you so much for talking with me.

Let's end this interview
in the traditional manner.

Thank you.
I should do it chimp-ways.

And we'd be going...

Excitement, food.

And finally tonight...
Let's talk about Toronto.

Because tomorrow morning,
they will choose a new mayor.

Now, sadly,
current mayor Rob Ford,

everyone's favorite
walking beefsteak tomato

is not running for re-election.

But don't despair,
for there is another...

Rob Ford has a brother, Doug Ford,
who "is" running for mayor.

If you wondering how alike they are,
please enjoy this little clip !

I got ya.

The funny thing,
like all typical siblings,

the goal is when you're on a seesaw
is to jack your sibling off.

You know what ?

You laugh, but he's right.

On a seesaw, you really
want to jack your sibling off.

You want to do anything to get him off.
Beat him off that seesaw.

Make him come, down to the ground
because you beat him off so hard.

On that seesaw.

But look, now, to become mayor,

Doug Ford has had some tricky
political obstacles to overcome.

His brother has allegedly used
anti-semitic language in the past.

Doug was asked about that in a debate
at a Jewish high school in Toronto.

I'm going to play you the first
few seconds of his response.

You know something ?
My, my doctor, my Jewish doctor,

my Jewish dentist, my Jewish lawyer,
my Jewish... hold it... accountant.

"Why, why is everyone booing ?
I love Jews !

I love everything about you ! The
tiny hats, the big crackers that you,

eat your weird Christmas candles !
I love it !

Why are you booing me ?"

It wasn't the best response, sure.
Which is why,

after having a night to sleep on it,
Doug took a second crack at it.

The Ford family
has an extensive relationship,

a great relationship
with the Jewish community.

Matter of fact,
my wife is Jewish.

How about that ? That is
a convenient fact to have remembered,

seemingly in the middle
of your sentence.

Unfortunately a local reporter
then casts doubt on Doug's claims,

forcing Doug Ford to bring out
his definitely Jewish wife

to talk about
her definitely Jewish heritage,

which went definitely
spectacularly well.

My mother's family
has Jewish bloodlines.

I don't practice Judaism.
I never have.

So listen,
she doesn't practice Jude-ism.

Hence, I guess her use
of the term "Jude-ism".

Though her ancestors may
or may not have been jude-esque.

None of this matters
because by that point,

Doug Ford had moved
on to his next scandal,

after being overheard
allegedly referring

to the journalist who'd questioned
his wife's "Jude-ism"

as "a little bitch", a charge
he then spectacularly denied...

I was falsely accused
from the Toronto Star.

I was having a private conversation
walking out with two staff members.

And I guess they just assumed I was
talking about someone in that room.

It had nothing to do with anyone
in that room last night, whatsoever.

I was talking
about a different little bitch,

in a completely different room.

If I was talking about that little
bitch, she'd know about it.

Why are you booing me ?"

Look, Toronto: I think I speak
on behalf of the rest of the world

when I deliver you this message.

Please, elect this man !

Sure, his brother was fun,
but at a certain point,

we felt bad laughing at him.

Whereas Doug Ford
doesn't have a drug problem,

he's just an asshole.

A non-chemically-assisted asshole.

So please, Toronto, I beg you !

Let us laugh at your asshole
for another four years.

Yours sincerely, everyone
who does not live in Toronto.

Thanks so much for watching,

we'll be back next week,
good night.

Some chimps can actually
roll their tongue, can you ?

Some people can.
You're one you can't.

- What does that mean ?
- I don't know.

- What's wrong with me ?
- Or what's wrong with me ?

- Let's put it that way.
- You're right, yeah.