Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 1, Episode 24 - The Lottery - full transcript

Last Week Tonight features in-depth and critical look at state lotteries. It also looks at the Turkish Prime Minister's Grand Palace and a Salmon shooting cannon.

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

Episode 24

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

Thank you for being with us.
A quick recap of the week.

We begin tonight in Turkey:
the country named

after the fourth best sandwich
and the third best burger.

Turkey's president Erdogan,
is an important ally to the US.

But a controversial figure at home.

Erdogan has been a divisive leader.

There has been police brutality,
charges of corruption on his part.

Suspicious financial dealing, calling
to intimidate newspaper editors,

telling their family members how they
should hide large sums of money.

If you want to effectively hide
large sums of money,

I've got two words for you:
velcro wallet.

No one will ever suspect there
is money in those. Done.

You are welcome.

Erdogan unveiled his latest polarizing
project. And it is a doozy.

Turkish president unveiled
his new presidential palace

amidst huge controversy.

Opposition politicians mocked
the extravagance of the palace,

which has 1000 rooms
and a cost more than 270 million euros.

A thousand rooms ! Impressive,
because after 500 rooms,

you must be straining to think
of what to do with them.

This is my giant room
full of tapioca pudding.

On your left is the Pivenary, with
12 000 photographs of Jeremy Piven.

It's the world largest collection,
outside of Jeremy Piven's house.

Over here is my "room" room,
where I watch the movie "The Room".

This whole palace is insane.

on 1.6 million square feet of land

and this is what drives up the price,
it's in an excellent school district.

The location has been controversial.

Environmentalists are angry
the complex is being built

on one the city's
best preserved green spaces

and that hundreds of trees
were cut down.

Ergodan offset that environmental
impact by buying a Sodastream,

we're square.

But Erdogan is not relenting,
even saying:

"no one can prevent
the completion of this building."

"If they are powerful enough,
let them come and demolish it."

That takes some balls.
Which is doubly impressive,

considering that,
a few years back,

he had his balls stomped on
by a horse.

Don't you dare feel sorry
for that man.

He has a thousand rooms in which
to nurse his crushed balls.

And to that Turkish horse,
I say this:

you should not step
on people's balls,

but in this solitary instance,
kudos horse, kudos.

Let's move on to local news:

citizens of New York got
an exciting internet opportunity.

The city's top-level domain, dot nyc,
is available to all New Yorkers.

New Yorkers are now eligible
to purchase dot nyc domain names,

because sometimes a Wesleyan alumni
email address isn't enough

to let people on the internet know
you live in Brooklyn.

There was an immediate rush
to register web addresses.

Even from ex-mayor
Michael Bloomberg.

The law firm representing Bloomberg's
foundation purchased

several hundred .nyc addresses
related to his name.

Some are normal like
official Mike Bloomberg dot nyc,

but some aren't as flattering,
Mike Bloomberg is a dweeb dot nyc.

Or Mike is too short dot nyc.
Many others were vulgar.

They were vulgar. Because these
are some actual domain names:

"fuck Bloomberg dot nyc",
"fuck Michael Bloomberg dot nyc",

"fuck Mike Bloomberg dot nyc"

and "Michael Bloomberg is too
short to be president dot nyc".

I am guessing, this all began
with Bloomberg walking up to his staff:

"what do people like
to say about me ?"

and after about 400 suggestions,
saying: "Stop. Let's buy them all."

He left a few on the table.
For instance,

while he did get "Michael Bloomberg
is a weiner dot nyc", with an e-i,

the "i-e" version is still available
or it was available.

Because to be honest,
we bought it,

and we are using it to host
a photograph of Bloomberg

with a possible erection during
a hurricane Sandy press conference.

So we're not wasting it.

We also bought
"tiny tiny Mike Bloomberg dot nyc",

to host an image of him sleeping
in a matchbox bed.

You'll wake him !
He's so tiny !

We also got "Bloomberg eats baby
corn as if it's real corn dot nyc."

None of these are for sale !
You might've bought three elections,

but you can't have these !

I would encourage everyone
to go to right now

and buy the domain name
of your choice.

As of this taping,
all of these are available !

There is no better feeling on earth
than owning something

a desperate billionaire
is unable to purchase.

Finally tonight: I would like to talk
about salmon.

Cat food for people.

Tuna's understudy that
you hope never has to go on.

And "that stupid fish that
doesn't know how rivers work."

Salmon famously have to fight
its way upstream to spawn.

Thanks to hydroelectric dams,
that's become difficult.

Don't worry, because as we found
out recently, America is on it.

I'm Ben Tracy in Washington state,
where we're going to introduce you

to a pretty sweet piece of technology
known as the salmon cannon,

coming up on CBS This Morning.

Sometimes, people say
the news has lost its touch,

but everyone now and then,
they fucking nail it.

A cannon that fires fish through
a tube, and over a dam, is incredible.

If you're wondering what it looks like
when they come out,

the company that makes it,
called Whooshh Innovations,

produced a spectacular slow-motion
video, set to classical music.

In your darkest moments of despair,

when you see a world
torn apart by war,

remember that video and think
"we can do great things".

Let me tell you how much
I love the salmon cannon.

So much, we made our own
cannon this week.

So, this thing is pretty powerful.
Who wants to give this puppy a go ?

Let's see
where this salmon ends up.

The situation in the Mid East,
only getting more complicated...

Okay, so we know it works.
Let's fire two fish somewhere else.

Thank you spatulas...

Very nice. Let's try
something a little more difficult.

You took my daughter from me,
what did you expect ?

I'm not trying to deny it
but I don't remember.

- That's convenient.
- It cost me your love !

This is the greatest object
that has ever been invented.

I am emptying this bucket,
let us see how big we can go.

I'm Michele Beadle, incredible footage
coming from Houston Rockets' practice

where Dwight Howard
was injured making a block.

Howard broke two fingers
and is expected to miss...

of the Obama administration...

A new report about
Iran's nuclear program...

That's why it's important...


What the hell ?

Breakfast !

Olive oil.

Interesting how...

Cut, stop. R2, awesome,

except it's bleep bleep squawk bloop,
stick to the script...

I'm glad they didn't ask you...

It gets better.

And the Broadway play...

15 blade.

I quit, I can't work like this.
Shut up, Chewie !

Salmon !

Moving on...

Let's move to our main story:
the lottery.

The second best use of magic marker
on Ping-Pong balls,

after Kermit the frog's eyeballs.

Now, this past week saw
a huge Mega Millions draw.

A big winning lottery ticket
sold in New York !

Lots of people here have been
peeking at their lottery tickets.

The Mega Millions mystery
this evening. $321 million jackpot.

The search
for the winner is on tonight.

The winner shouldn't be hard to find.
If someone at your work marched in

and told everyone to go fuck
themselves, that's your winner.

Don't worry
if you didn't hit the jackpot.

You will have an unbelievable
number of other opportunities.

44 states have lotteries.
You can't have missed the commercials,

featuring everything from
a Ping-Pong ball thunderstorm,

to a furry dressed as a cat playing
with a ball of money,

to a weird lucky man deciding
to spend his lottery winnings

terrifying a penguin
by taking it hang-gliding.

That is a bizarrely specific use
of a big lottery win.

I'm strapping a penguin to my chest
and taking to the skies.

Fuck you, evolution !
I decide who flies ! My choice.

Lottery commercials are seductive
and they're everywhere.

States spend half a billion dollars
on them every year.

Because the lottery is a massive
moneymaker for them.

Last year alone, lottery sales
totaled about 68 billion dollars.

$68 billion ! That's more than
Americans spent on movie tickets,

music, porn, the NFL, MLB
and video games combined.

Americans spent more on the lottery
than they spent on "America".

It's a little strange for
the government to be running

what is basically
a gigantic gambling business.

But we don't think about lotteries
like that.

Perhaps because they're sold to us
more as charitable foundations.

Three billion dollars for education
opens a lot of doors.

The Tennessee lottery, game-changing,
life-changing fun.

Education matters
to Oregonians.

$5 billion in lottery dollars
have gone to public education.

It does good things.

Every time
you play a New York lottery game,

a portion of your sale goes to aid
New York state school children.

New York lottery: everybody wins !

Thank you for being a friend.

Those ads are implying that anyone
who does not play is selfish.

Why don't you want to educate these
harmonizing children, you monster ?

"Everybody wins ",
"the lottery does good things"

"it's game changing, life-changing fun."

Is it ? Does it ? And do they ?
Let's start with the basics:

the lottery generates
$68 billion in sales a year.

Where does that money come from ?

Over the last two decades,
lower income households spend

a higher percentage
of their money on lottery tickets.

Lots of people like to gamble
and for lower-income households,

lottery's an affordable way to do it.

When wealthy people
want to take risks,

they invest in the stock market
or leave their wife for Amber,

without signing a pre-nup,
because Amber's forever.

Besides, she just gets you !
She's tiring but she'll be there.

The lottery is in the business
of selling people hope.

Start a college fund for our kids.

Start a college fund for their kids.

A game with jackpots
worthy of your dreams.

Mega Millions. Dream mega.

That feels like
an ad for a mutual fund.

The lottery is not an investment.

Those mega dreams
are mega unlikely to happen.

What are the real chances ?
A lousy one in 176 million.

Winning the Mega Millions
is akin to getting struck by lightning

while you're being eaten by a shark.

That is both an evocative image
and an amazing pitch for a movie.

There's this guy.
He's getting eaten by a shark, see ?

Lightning hits him,
he switches minds with the shark.

Shark wins the lottery.
It's 'Freaky Friday' meets 'Jaws'.

I'm calling it...
Slumshark Gillionaire.

Channing Tatum has passed.

The lottery does have some
smaller games and prizes,

but even then, it pays out a much
lower percentage of its revenues

than even horseracing.

When you lose the lottery and
you're angry with your ticket,

you don't even have the satisfaction
of knowing it'll turn into dog food.

And yet
we are still drawn to the lottery.

Partly because
we're told to ignore the odds.

It's your dream,
anything can happen.

Dream, play, win.

You never know.

Power your dreams
for just two bucks.

In the time you watch that montage,
I bought these lottery tickets.

Someone's gonna win,
it might as well be me !

Even when people do win big,
things tend to go south fast.

We've seen tragic headlines
about winners like:

"Lottery Winner Blows
Through $27 Million",

"Lottery Winner Found Dead",

or "Brother Hired Hitman
Over $16 million Jackpot Win".

It seems winning the lottery
can be like marrying Tom Cruise.

It seems amazing in your mind.
You might dream about it happening.

But if it does, five years later,
the magic will be over,

you'll be estranged from family
and you will have seen things

you can never unsee, never.

In Israel, lottery winners
are photographed

wearing masks
to protect their identities.

In the '90s, this is how one man
from Gaza collected his prize:

Most winners don't turn up
with a bag over their head,

but this Palestinian
wanted to remain anonymous.

Winning is such a curse that you
can find yourself in the Middle East

with a bag over your head because
something "good" happened to you.

So why do people play ?
For some, they can't stop.

The lottery can be addictive.
States know this.

Many lotteries offer resources
to help problem gamblers.

The Illinois lottery has a section on
their website for "responsible gaming",

although, when we clicked on the link,
we got a pop-up ad for the lotto.

There is a reason that the first
step in a 12-step program

isn't: "Congratulations !
Why not reward yourself"

"with a refreshing gin and tonic ?"

I'm sure that that is just
an innocent mistake.

Like if you Google "lottery
intervention", this is what comes up:

Need a lottery intervention ?

Play the new DC Fast Play Games
from the DC lottery.

Feel the thrill
of winning instantly.

Are you kidding me ?
Someone at the DC lottery

deserves a promotion
before they go directly to hell.

At the same time they're supposedly
addressing problem gambling,

states are expanding into
even more addictive products.

Look at Oregon !

The lottery makes about $1 billion
every two years.

About 80% of it, maybe
even more, 86, 90%...

That's what
we're running on the screen.

... comes from one source, mostly
video slot machines or video poker.

The majority of Oregon's lottery income
come from video slots and video poker.

Meaning that Oregon claims
"this" is a "lottery" machine.

Just like this is a lottery wheel !
And this is a lottery table !

And of course we all remember
Martin Scorsese's movie, "Lottery".

Machines like these are not only
addictive, they are lucrative.

Internal Oregon lottery data
indicates that regular lottery players

lost an average
of $106 dollars per year.

Whereas video poker and slots players
lost an average of $2 564.

That's an insane amount of money.
You could buy a '98 Mazda.

And you should. It's got
a moon roof and six-way speakers !

Get in it now and drive in the opposite
direction from any video poker machine.

Good luck if you live in Oregon,
cause these machines are everywhere.

There are more
than 12 000 of them in the state.

That kind of ubiquity puts
some people in serious danger.

My boyfriend and I have gotten
into fights over, you know...

I'm just going somewhere
with a friend of mine

and I end up
playing video poker...

Or I'm supposed to buy food
and I come with no food and no money,

and as soon as I walk in the door,
he knows.

Then we don't have any food.

The machines that are causing her
such trouble are run by the state.

A state which proclaims
its lottery "does good things".

It may not be a coincidence
that the logo for the Oregon lottery

is someone crossing their fingers,
the universal sign for lying.

Maybe, the next question...

Maybe the next question
should be this:

why do state lawmakers
keep approving all this ?

As those children told us, lotteries
are about good causes like education.

That's always been the excuse.

State lotteries were illegal
in this country until 1964,

when New Hampshire
launched the first one,

under the guise
of a very familiar message.

How come you're buying
one of these tickets ?

This is the first one in the country
and I would like to participate in it.

I also think it's for
a very good cause, education.

There's not a better
reason to buy one of these.

There isn't a better reason.

But there are better "ways"
to fund education.

Sales tax, bake sale, or putting
cash in an envelope,

writing "school" on the front
and mailing it.

For all the claims that lotteries
are a huge boost to education,

the reality is a little different.

Our investigation of government
spending in the 24 states

that dedicate lottery funds
for education yields a bad report card.

The percentage of state spending
on education is down or flat

in 21 of those states.

Lotteries provided no additional
funding in 21 out of 24 states.

As math students in one
of those places would put it:

"that is nearly fifty percent."

How is this possible ?
Let's look at North Carolina.

Their governor inaugurated the
"North Carolina education lottery"

nearly a decade ago
with big promises.

When the lottery is implemented,

we'll be adding another
half billion annually for education.

Half a billion extra !
That sounds great.

You think by now,
all North Carolina preschoolers

are strutting around in fine
bespoke suits,

quoting Nietzsche
and Kierkegaard.

But in fact, North Carolina
spends less per student

than it did before
the lottery even began.

If you're thinking,
how is that possible ?

It's because money in state budgets
tends to move around.

Trying to add money
for one purpose

is a bit like trying to piss in one
corner of a swimming pool.

It's going all over the place,
no matter what you claim.

Let me give you
just a narrow example:

In 2012, North Carolina used
$100 million of lottery money

for school construction,
that didn't mean the budget

was $100 million bigger
than it would've been.

While that money was flowing in,
other money was flowing out.

A portion of corporate income taxes
used to go toward construction,

but when the lottery passed,
that money went away,

substituted with lottery revenue.

Where's the corporate tax
money now ? Who knows ?!

There's not even a warm spot
where it once was.

But in a unconnected

North Carolina plans to cut corporate
taxes over the next two years.

Thanks for playing the lottery,
North Carolina ! Better luck next time !

Despite all this, states are not
only keeping faith in lotteries,

they're trying to reach new players,
by putting it on your cell phone.

Illinois launched an app to let you
buy tickets on your phone.

Which is terrifying. We all know
that if, starting right now,

your mother could play the lottery
as easily as she plays "Candy Crush",

she'd be preparing Thanksgiving
dinner over a trash can fire.

I'm sure that Illinois will make
the same argument everyone does:

"it brings
in money for good causes."

Except, lotteries are bad for losers,
often bad for winners

and a compromising way
to assist state budgets.

Gambling is a little like alcohol.

Most people like it,
some are addicted to it

and it's not like the state
can or should outlaw it altogether,

but it'd be strange if the state
was in the liquor business,

advertising it by claiming
that every shot of vodka

helps schoolchildren learn.

Thank me for being a friend !

I'm gonna get those kids an IPad !
I'm a winner ! Everybodys a winner.

And now this:

People on TV misunderstanding what
the term 'spoiler alert' means.

Spoiler alert, there's no one
food, that's gonna perk you up.

Not a spoiler.

Train versus tractor trailer

and spoiler alert,
the tractor trailer loses.

Not a spoiler.
We just saw what happened.

Some of the newest additions
at our nation's zoos

and spoiler alert,
they're adorable.

Not a spoiler. Everyone knows
baby animals are adorable.

That classic summertime pattern
is going to be returning

but it may be a little bit of
a spoiler alert for your weekend.

You're using it wrong.

The jobs numbers are in and
spoiler alert, they're really good.

Reporting news is not a spoiler.
That's your job.

Will Republicans take control
of the US Senate ?

They need six seats to pull it off,
so what will happen ?

Spoiler alert, we don't know.

No !

And tonight, finally, I have some
good news and some bad news.

The bad news is,
this is our final show of the year.

The good news is,
we will be back in 2015.

Frankly, that seems like

a poor decision on HBO's part,
but we're not complaining.

We've had a fun year, dealing
with all the most important stories,

from dead space sex geckos,
to pole-dancing chickens,

to Scottish unicorns,
to whatever this was...

This exuberance is never going to
blow up in our face ! USA !

That was a show about vicious
anti-homosexuality laws in Uganda.

Amazingly, that's actually true.

There were also
the occasional musical numbers.

Our prison population
is bigger than Slovenia.

Because we put people in jail
instead of treating schizophrenia.

You find a better rhyme for "treating
schizophrenia" ! It is not easy.

It has been a fun first year
and I want to take a moment to thank

our whole staff,
who have worked hard

and to thank the other personnel
who've helped us a great deal.

First, the characters from our
prisons piece.

- Thank you so much for your help !
- No problem, Mr. Oliver !

I can't believe
you're already done for the year.

It's just flown by, the time !

Can't believe you're going on vacation
after only 24 episodes.

I don't know about "only" 24.
That seems like a lot.

Jimmy Fallon does five shows
a week. And his are an hour long.

- I'm not Jimmy Fallon.
- I wish you were.

- He's amazing.
- Total entertainer. Quadruple threat.

Yes, he's so handsome, too !
So good looking.

,I get your point.
You like Jimmy, I get it.

I wanted to say thank you, you look
transfixed by the idea of him.

I wanted to say thank you
not just to you guys

but to some others,
before the season ends.

So let me take this opportunity
to thank our pole-dancing chicken,

with our sexy soybean,
our horny space gecko !

Our Miss America !
Our Scottish independence unicorn !

Our breakdancing Lincoln !
And our supreme court dogs !

Here they are !

Who's a very important check
and balance, you are ! You are !

Thank you so much for watching !
We will see you next year !

I can't thank you enough !
Good night !