Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 5, Episode 13 - Guardianship - full transcript

John Oliver discusses a surprising letter from Kim Jong-un to President Trump, journalist Arkady Babchenko's rising from the grave, a British royal expert born an Italian American, and the fraught issue of senior citizen guardianship.

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Welcome to Last Week Tonight.

I'm John Oliver.
Thank you for joining us.

A quick recap of the week
and we begin with North Korea,

voted "Top Korea" by "We Meant It
Geographically" magazine.

This week, the June 12th summit
was suddenly back on,

after Trump met
with a North Korean envoy,

who had brought him this gigantic,
oversized letter from Kim Jong Un.

As if smiling while holding
a letter from a dictator

were not enough of a propaganda
coup for North Korea,

the president raved
about it to the press.

Would you like to see
what was in that letter ? How much ?

It was a very interesting letter
and at some point I may be,

I'll be able to give it to you, maybe.

As infuriating a president as Trump is,
he would be an even worse Moses.

"Wouldn't you like to see
what's on these tablets. How much ?"

"Maybe I'll show you later,
if you're lucky."

If that wasn't weird enough,
just eight minutes later

after calling the contents
interesting, this happened.

I haven't seen the letter yet.
I purposely didn't open the letter.

I haven't opened it. I didn't
open it in front of the director.

I said: "You want me to open it ?"
he said: "you can read it later."

I may be in
for a big surprise, folks !

Yeah, you might though !
You just agreed to a summit

without reading the contents of
the letter that convinced you to do it.

Worst-case scenario,
it's a declaration of war.

Best-case scenario, it says:

"Donald, it's me. I have run to North
Korea and I'm never coming back."

"Melania, brackets,
your third wife."

For now let's move on to Ukraine.

Or, as Vladimir Putin calls it,
"Bonus Russia".

Ukraine was rocked
by some horrifying news.

A Russian journalist, critical of
Moscow's policies in Ukraine and Syria,

has been shot and killed in Kiev.

Arkady Babchenko,
a prominent Putin critic,

was murdered on Tuesday.

That's what made what happened
on Wednesday more remarkable.

His friends, his family, even
his wife, thought he was dead.

But today,
a shocking turn of events.

Arkady Babchenko turned
up alive on Ukrainian TV.

His fake death was all part of what
was described as a special operation

to take down a team
of Russian assassins.

Babchenko faked his death to bring
down a team of assassins,

which sounds less like
a legitimate news story than the plot

of a spy thriller called "Your Dad
Would Really Love This Book."

The plan to fake his death came
about after authorities learned

of a $40,000 contract to assassinate
him, paid for by Russian forces.

The plot was organized by a
man identified only as "Mr. G",

which I assume
refers to this man.

That's right, Kenny,
your cover is finally blown !

You can't play jazz as smooth as that
without secretly being a monster.

Some of the details of this fake
assassination are amazing.

A make-up artist came to Babchenko's
apartment to stage his death.

His wife later found him lying
facedown in a pool of his own blood.

Which, it turns out,
was pig's blood.

He was then transferred to ambulance,
pronounced dead

and taken to a morgue where
he turned on the TV

and watched the news of his own
murder, which is pretty cool.

The only way it could have been
any cooler is if he watched it

on a Caribbean beach
with Tupac Shakur.

His coworkers were amazed
by this surprise news conference.

That is incredible to watch,
mainly because of how refreshing it is

to see an office where people
actually like their coworkers.

Normally if an office found out
a coworker thought dead was alive,

they'd quietly nod and go back
to talking shit about him on Gchat.

Some of you laughed
too hard at that.

Other media colleagues
were not quite as thrilled,

as CNN discovered
when they reached one friend.

I think the overriding emotion
that we all have right now is...

We're very pissed off.
He sort of put us through hell.

That's an understandable response.

I believe the apostle Paul's first
words to the resurrected Jesus were:

"real funny, shitbird".

It wasn't just his colleagues
with cause to be angry,

as a London radio host pointed out.

He apologized to his wife.
Wait for this, good lord.

He apologized to his wife because
she knew nothing about any of this,

so when she found her husband
in a pool of blood

having apparently
been shot in the back,

that was very real to her.

It's gonna to take quite a bunch
of flowers to get over that, isn't it ?

It is. He probably should get
his wife some flowers.

He won't have to spend any money,
he can pick up a ton at his grave.

Later reports indicated that his wife
was actually also in on the hoax.

At this point who can know anything
anymore ? Is he even married ?

Or is his wife Babchenko in a dress,
holding a fake passport,

ready to flee the country ?

And it's why some reporters
criticized Babchenko,

arguing that this plays
into Russia's hands

in dismissing actual crimes
as "fake news".

Babchenko has been borderline
cocky in the wake of this operation.

Having cheated death,
Arkady Babchenko says

he will live to dance
on Vladimir Putin's grave.

I really hope that's true, Babs,
but I wouldn't be so sure.

You're implying that because
you faked your death,

you're somehow immune
from future assassination,

which I don't think
is how anything works.

You're assuming that Putin
will end up in a grave,

and there's no way that's true.

When Putin does die in 400 years,
his body will simply explode

into hundreds of bats that
scatter into the night sky.

We'd like to move onto the UK,

where, now that Prince Harry
is officially off the market,

the country's most eligible bachelor
is Mervyn Gurzcrop Crawlings,

from the village
of Mudford Sock.

He can't hear you, so speak up !

He's 32 years old.
So your move, ladies.

If you were one of the millions who
watched last month's royal wedding,

you remember this man, chairman
of the British Monarchist Society,

who provided color commentary
about the royal family.

What we're seeing is quite the change.
She's brought a California lifestyle.

She's slimming him down,
she's putting him on shakes.

What Brit
doesn't like meat ?

I'll take this one: Morrissey.
I mean, pretty famously, Morrissey.

Try it, offer him a steak sometime
and see what happens.

That man is
Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills Esquire,

and if you think
that's the most British he gets,

look at this actual photo of him,
taken, I assume,

at the Alice In Wonderland
wrap party or in the year 1865,

the only two times
that outfit should be legal.

This week, we learned something
amazing about him.

This royal expert
seemed like the real deal.

What Meghan wore was absolutely
ideal for the ceremony.

But get this: this royal expert
is from New York.

Born Tommy Muscatello, in the small
upstate town of Bolton Landing.

It's true. That British man is
Tommy Muscatello from New York.

And that is a destabilizing
thing to learn.

If this guy isn't British,
who the fuck is ?

Am I actually British ?
Well let me reassure you:

my parents are listed
in my phone as "Mr. And Mrs. Oliver"

so I am definitely British.

What is most galling
about Tommy Muscatello is that,

as a defender of the monarchy,
he used his airtime to argue

that Meghan was a brash interloper
who needed to proceed with care.

You do not upstage the future
queen of this country,

especially when you're coming in
the way you are.

When you start to take the spotlight
from someone like Catherine

and then you swoop into the UK:
"Here I am, American !'"

You're wanting to upstage the Duchess
of Cambridge and the future queen...

I won't have it.

You won't have it, will you ?
Let me make this perfectly clear:

Meghan Markle's American passport
is not an insult to anyone.

"Thomas J. Mace Archer-Mills
Esquire," is offensively British.

That is the equivalent of a British
pretending to be an American

and calling themselves
"Jefferson Budweiser McNuggets, Jr".

It's actively racist.

Since he was outed as an American,
he has done a round of interviews,

in which he's doubled down
on his Britishness.

Look at what happened when
he was asked an obvious question.

I have to ask you, how did
you get your British accent ?

It's what I was taught.
It's what I studied, two online courses

and also practicing with my people
I consider close friends and family.

Do you ? Marvelous !

Online courses ?
I'm calling bullshit on that one,

unless University of Phoenix
offers a class called

"How To Convince People
You're Not From New York"

"By Doing A C-Minus
Hugh Grant Impression."

In case you're wondering about
that "close friends and family" line,

he has an agreement with two,
unrelated, elderly British individuals

to call them
his grandfather and grandmother.

He went to Europe, met an old lady,
asked her to be his grandmother

and now he knows
all about the monarchy.

If that sounds familiar,
it's 'cause it's literally

the exact backstory
of Babar the Elephant.

When he was pressed on all this,
he got a little testy.

I stopped living in New York
when I was in my teens.

The way I speak is the way I speak.
It's natural to me.

I am good at what I do. I'm
knowledgeable in my subject.

I know more about the British
monarchy than most people in Britain.

That might actually be true and
that should've tipped everyone off,

most British people, we don't care
either way about the monarchy.

But the thing that bothers me
is that pretending to be British

by becoming a royal expert
is just so lazy.

If you want to pull the wool
over people's eyes,

get a spot on "The Daily Show", bide
your time, perfect your fake accent

and land your own weekly
program on HBO.

Have I said too much ?

And now this.

The very British put-downs of Speaker
of House of Commons, John Bercow.

Order !

Mr. Docherty-Hughes,
you're in a very emotional condition !

Let me say to the honorable gentleman
who I've known for a long time,

when he comes to reflect on his
comeback, he can do better than that.

Those prating away
should cease doing so.

It's stupid and counterproductive.
Both sides shouting their heads off.

It's very downmarket,
it's very low grade.

You are a boisterous fellow, you appear
to be chewing some sort of gum.

You may be a cheeky chappy but
also an exceptionally noisy one.

You were much better behaved when
you were at Oxford University !

Mr. Pound, you're
supposed to be a senior statesman.

Calm yourself, man !
Get a grip of yourself, man !

Calm yourself, take up yoga.

Take some soothing medicament or
go and lie down for a little while.

Let me say to the assiduous but
overenthusiastic government whip,

the honorable gentleman
member for Hexham,

that his role is to be seen
and not heard.

He was born and raised in Brooklyn.
Now moving on.

Our main story tonight
concerns senior citizens.

People who stay active by
playing shuffleboard, going on walks

or performing their hit
"I Can't Get No Satisfaction"

in front of packed arenas.

Many senior citizens remain
active and independent,

like this woman, who CNN
interviewed when she was 104

and shared
her secret for her health.

- You're drinking Dr. Pepper.
- That's exactly right.

This stuff is good.
It's got sugar in it,

and two doctors told me that if I drink
it, I will die, but they died first.

Follow-up question:
did you kill those two doctors ?

You seem awfully proud of that fact.
I'm not saying that you did,

I'm saying serial killers always
want recognition for their crimes.

We have a lot of senior citizens.
49 million Americans are 65 and older

and that number
is expected to sharply increase,

in a demographic surge that some
called the "Silver Tsunami",

the nickname
Christopher Plummer goes by

at his underground
cage-fighting ring.

If you get caught in
the Silver Tsunami's flurry of fists,

you're waking up
in the hospital.

Not everyone remains as sharp
and self-sufficient in their old age

as that murderer
laughing at her dead doctors.

Some of us are going
to wind up needing extra care.

That could place us in a system
called guardianship

and I'll let a Maryland judge explain,
as a camera pushes into his face.

A guardian is someone
appointed by the court

to act on behalf of an individual
under a mental or physical disability

and as a result, is unable
to make responsible decisions

about his or her care or property.

He's right. That zoom
wasn't actually planned.

The cameraman was so taken by
the judge's animal magnetism,

he couldn't resist
moving in closer.

The final shot was just the camera
pressed up against his mustache.

Guardianship is an important,
valuable tool.

Here is how it works:

an elderly person who lives
alone is showing signs of dementia.

Any concerned person
could petition a court,

which might appoint a guardian,
to help them make decisions.

That could be a family member.

Or if there is no family,
or if the family is fighting,

the court might appoint a professional
paid to manage their affairs.

When this system works, it's great.

But it probably won't surprise you
that is not what this story is about.

That's simply not what we do on
"I Wanted To Watch A Comedy Show"

"And Go To Sleep But Now I'm Sad
With Johnny Joy-Killer."

Let me show you what can happen
when guardianship goes wrong.

Take the case
of Rudy and Rennie North.

They were living happily
in Las Vegas when one day,

there was a knock on the door,
I'll let Rudy take it from here.

I open the door and they said that
they were "officers of the court."

Rudy says the officers
gave the couple three options.

One, we call the police.

Two, we have
you go to a psychiatric ward.

Choice three ?
An assisted living facility.

That is three terrible options.

Like playing "fuck, marry, kill"
with the Chipmunks.

None of them ! None of that. I'll kill
myself ! Taking the easy way out.

There was a knock on
the Norths' door

and they were moved to a facility,
by a woman they had never met,

who was given control of them
by a judge, who they also never met.

They got out
from under that guardian's control,

two years later,
most of their money was gone.

Something that Rudy is
still furious about.

They're strippers.
They strip everything from you.

We have nothing left. No money,
no assets, nothing. Nothing left.

I really feel for him, although,
I also must defend strippers here

because they get rid of their own
clothes, not somebody else's.

Someone who walks around getting
rid of other people's clothes

is either a criminal or Tan France
from the reboot of Queer Eye.

Let's talk about
our system of guardianship.

Far more people
are under it than you may think.

One study estimated the figure to be
around 1.3 million people

and guardians can have a huge
power over people under their care

or their "wards".

Because they may have to make
financial and health decisions,

they can have access from wards'
bank accounts to their health records.

As for the wards themselves,
they can lose a lot of their rights,

from being able to vote in elections
to being able to get married.

No small thing,
as one judge will tell you.

Guardianship is a massive
intrusion into a person's life.

They lose a lot of rights.

They lose more rights
than someone who goes to prison.

Less rights than someone in prison.
That is pretty shocking.

The only things that you do have
the right to do in prison

are sleep, eat, work out, and play
backgammon with Phil Spector.

He's really good at it.
It's all he does now.

He's finished with the killing.
That was just a phase for Phil.

The fact that guardians gain control
of their wards' finance is problematic.

Private guardians can bill for each
service they provide,

from leaving voice messages
to just opening the mail

and they can take payment
directly out of their wards' estate.

And those charges can accumulate fast,
and sometimes seem ridiculous.

The family of Marie Long objected
to her guardians taking her

on a weirdly expensive outing.

Look at what Sun Valley charged Marie
to send her and their worker

to a Phoenix Suns basketball game.

Over a thousand dollars for
research, phone calls, a limo.

Sun Valley even charged Marie

$228 to "determine the effect
of the game on her mood."

They charged her $228 to figure out
how a Suns game affected her mood.

Which is absurd,
I'll tell you that for free:

it was a Phoenix Suns Game,
it made her sad.

Try it yourself, go to a game
and see if it improves your mood

to see Dragan Bender put up four points
and one and a half rebounds.

Spoiler alert, it won't.

When Rudy and Rennie's guardian,
April Parks,

was confronted over some of what
she'd charged them for,

she didn't stand her ground.

Rudy and Rennie
were charged $780 each

for court filings and travel time
to court on the same days in 2013.

That's over fifteen hundred dollars
to this couple.

Who you're saying doesn't have
enough money already.

We will happily reverse
those charges out.

How about $108 Parks charged Rennie
to buy her a pair of stretch pants.

- 108 bucks sound reasonable ?
- I'm happy to reverse that.

Can't just do a bunch of shitty things
and then say "I'll reverse it".

This is someone's life,
not a fucking Missy Elliot song.

You probably need good stretch pants
if you're going to put your thing down,

flip it and reverse it.

The Norths weren't the only ones

who had questions
about April Parks' billing practices.

She had up to a hundred wards
at a single time,

and in a court case
a curious fact emerged.

Parks was a no-show in court,

but her voice was heard through
her own financial records.

Some days were 100 hours
of billing. Not physically possible.

100 hours a day
is not physically possible.

Unless she was working on Mercury,
where, as we all know,

each day lasts fourteen
hundred and seven earth hours.

That's a joke exclusively designed
for Neil DeGrasse Tyson.

I hope you enjoyed it, Dr. Tyson,
absolutely nobody else did.

Out of interest,
did you enjoy it ?

Yeah, but the time you gave
was the rotation rate of Mercury.

That's not the same thing
as a day.

A day on Mercury would be
from sunrise to sunrise.

On Mercury, that lasts three times
longer than what you just gave.

Shut up, Neil !
Why do you have to ruin everything ?

Enjoy something for once
in your life. What is wrong with you ?

You feckless, never mind.
It's not worth it. Bad idea.

April Parks' cavalier approach
to her wards continued

even after some of them died,
because when this guy here

bought a storage unit at auction,
you will never guess what he found.

27 urns.
27 sets of different ashes.

Some a few years old, others
from the early two-thousands.

Somebody had the gall to store
a family member in a storage unit.

That somebody according
to Valley Funeral Home directors

was this woman, April Parks.

She just left urns,
full of other people's family members,

in a storage unit.

And the only way that could've
been in worse taste

was if she'd poured them into a pinata
for a 9-year-old's birthday party.

"Happy birthday, Matthew.
Nine's a fun age."

Parks was arrested, not for the urn
thing, which was completely legal.

She is facing trial on over "200 felony
charges including racketeering,"

"theft, exploitation
and perjury."

How did she even get so many
wards in the first place ?

Why didn't the Federal Bureau
of Guardian Oversight stopped her ?

Because that agency doesn't exist.
We just made it up.

And the fact that one of the symbols
on that logo was Harvey Keitel's face,

should've really been
a giveaway for you.

Guardianship is the responsibility
of state and local courts,

meaning in most places,
everything about it,

from who becomes one, to who
they oversee is up to local judges,

who may be elected
and may have no legal training.

In much of Texas, guardianship
decisions are made by county judges

and only 29 of the judges
in those 211 counties are lawyers.

The rest are farmers, car dealers
and insurance salesmen.

Those courts do not have the resources
to monitor cases properly.

When Texas recently audited their
guardianships, they found that

over 3 000 wards had died
without the court knowing.

And "are they alive or dead ?"
is the absolute least you should know

about someone under your care.

If a zookeeper didn't know
that 3 000 of his animals were dead,

you'd put someone else
in charge of that fucking zoo,

or rebrand it as an
"open-air exotic meat market."

And on top of all this,
only 12 states require

professional guardians
to be certified at all.

So just about anyone
can become one.

Government Accountability
Office looked into this,

their findings were troubling.

Most jobs handling even
small amounts of cash require

some sort of criminal background
check and or a credit check,

but the G.A.O. found in most cases
guardians for the elderly

can handle millions of dollars
and states failed to require either.

It's like putting the fox
in the chicken coop basically,

they'll steal money.

Exactly. Although not every fox
is out to steal from you.

That's an offensive stereotype based
on Swiper from "Dora The Explorer".

It's not all foxes.
Hashtag not all foxes.

I'm looking at this that
also says "no tall foxes".

But I do agree with that as well.
A tall fox would be very scary

and awareness must be raised,
hashtag no tall foxes.

This lack of oversight is worrying in
a system that can be easy to fall into

and very difficult to get out of.

It took Rudy and Rennie two years
to get out from under April Parks.

It was not easy. Although luckily for
them, Rudy was pretty determined.

We're going to pursue it all their way
and we're going for their balls.

Just so they know.
It's their balls we want.

Okay, that's fine.
Rudy seems determined.

He also seems like the first person
in history interested in balls.

Generally, balls are to the body
what Starz is to a cable package.

It comes with it,
we understand that,

it's not nice to look at, and nobody
really knows what to do with it.

I am not saying that guardianship,
as a system, is inherently bad.

There are people who need it
and there are going to be more of them

as the Silver Tsunami approaches.

That is all the more reason for us
to improve its checks and balances,

to more funding for oversight.

There are steps everyone can take to
avoid being taken advantage of in.

Experts tell it is important to have
honest conversations with your family

and I know, that sounds
like a fucking nightmare.

but you have to have these
conversations about how you want

you and your finances to be taken
care of, should the need arise.

That will help prevent
a court from having to step in

and appointing a private guardian that
could turn out to be an April Parks.

There are some concrete
legal steps that you can take.

If you are a little older,
you may not want to hear advice

from a fresh-faced "holy-shitis
he-really only-41-year-old ?"

We've enlisted some help
to get the message across.

We all get old eventually.

It's just part of life.

Someday you will too.

you won't age as well as us.

We're glamorous celebrities with access
to skincare technology

that won't be
on the market for decades.

Look how supple my cheeks are.

- You might not age at all.
- You might die tonight, young.

- By getting hit by lightening.
- Or eating too many Tide Pods.

- Or getting killed by a hippo.
- That's more likely than you think.

They kill hundreds
of people each year.

Think they're cute ?
They're killing machines.

Look at this.

Hippos are terrible.

We're not here
to talk about hippos.

- I am.
- Me too.

I love hippos.

We're not talking about hippos ?

I thought this was
a whole hippo thing !

Getting older can mean needing
someone to help look after you.

Make sure that that's someone you
know and not some random person,

who just wants to spend your money
on fucking stretch pants.

Select someone to serve as your
healthcare representative.

Someone who can make decisions
under a durable power of attorney.

- Name people you trust.
- Like your son, or daughter.

- Or close friend.
- Or Mr. Tom Hanks.

- Tom Hanks is the best.
- Such a nice boy.

Jimmy Stewart would've been
my go-to guy, that was in the past.

Make sure they're people
you'd be comfortable with.

- Making financial or health decisions.
- On your behalf.

I hereby make Tom Hanks.

Mr. Tom Jefferson Hanks.

My healthcare representative.

This clipboard is filthy.

- Signed, yours truly.
- Done.

Always share these documents
with your friends and family.

Discuss your plans
so everyone's on the same page.

And even if this feels far off.

You've got to start
planning for the future now.


Also, hippos are killing machines.

That's the real message here.

Fuck hippos.

What is wrong
with you people ?

That's our show, thank you.
See you next week ! Good night !

They kill hundreds
of people each year.

You think they're cute ?

They're fucking machines.
No not fuck...

And how do I know that ?
You may well ask.