Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (2014–…): Season 7, Episode 6 - Coronavirus III - full transcript

In the first show from his makeshift home studio, John covers the horrible way COVID-19 pandemic is going and how Trump is mishandling it, how TV hosts are practicing social distancing, and how profoundly gleeful 90s erotic rat art can be.

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Hi there !

Before we start tonight,
I wanted to say a couple of things.

As you can see,
we're still not back in our studio.

We're not even
where we shot the last show.

We've all been working from home
this week, including me,

so I'm shooting this at home, alone,
with no one else in the room.

So, you won't hear
any laughter tonight.

Please don't feel that al all awkward,
it certainly isn't for me.

I started comedy
doing stand-up in England,

so I am more than used
to doing jokes to silence.

It's actually
how I'm most comfortable.



We had to shoot this on Saturday,
because it turns out,

everything takes longer to put together
when nobody is allowed near each other.

I want to thank our staff for working
so hard to make this possible.

I'd like to thank you for watching,
and for being patient

while we try and put the best show
we can together for you.

And I'd like to tell coronavirus
to go fuck itself.

Who am I kidding ?
Coronavirus doesn't watch this show.

It's more of a Bill Maher fan.
Now, please enjoy our stupid show.

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

SEASON VII, EPISODE 6

Hello again !

We're back with a show that's clearly
going to look a little unusual.

As you've seen, the coronavirus
has forced a number of late-night hosts

to record shows from their houses,
and we're no different,



as my home is, and this is true,
a blank white void full of sad facts.

Where else did you think I lived ?

A lot has happened
in the last two weeks,

and I'll start with arguably
the least important development.

The last time we spoke,

I mentioned the work done
by a very informative TikTok hamster.

Well, I'm thrilled to tell you,
it seems the hamster saw it.

A hamster offered more useful public
health advice in one 12-second TikTok

than the president has in multiple
addresses to the nation.

HAMMY FOR PRESIDENT

Yes ! Yes, yes, yes !
The hamster knows who I am !

It might show just how much
the isolation is getting to me

that it's genuinely heartwarming

to experience even a connection
like that right now.

And I'd love to say that I would vote
for that hamster for president,

but, given that their average life
expectancy is just three years,

I'm really gonna have to wait
to find out who its VP pick is.

But Covid-19
continues to rip around the globe.

On Friday, Boris Johnson,

who had bragged about shaking hands
with coronavirus patients,

tested positive for coronavirus.

India's prime minister

has imposed a nationwide lockdown
of its 1.3 billion residents,

with some police
punishing those who disobey

by hitting them with sticks
and making them do squats.

And in Italy, which continues
to be hit incredibly hard,

there's been a trend of local leaders
posting videos online

yelling at their citizens
for irresponsibly going outside,

and they're incredible.

I'm getting news that some would
like to throw graduation parties.

We will send the police
over with flamethrowers.

Now you're all marathon runners ?
Everyone asking to run ?

Where do you want to go ?

Explain to me these fucking mobile
hairdressers who go home to home

to style other women's hair.

What the fuck is that for ?

Do you understand
that the casket will be closed ?

Who the fuck is supposed to see you
with your hair all done in the casket ?

I know that seems extreme,
but he is right.

If your hair is bad, don't panic,
just let it be bad for a while.

Yes, people may see it,
and yes, it'll be embarrassing,

but you will get through it.

Trust me. Trust me.

Listen, trust me !

As for here in the United States,
the virus continues to spread rapidly.

We have more confirmed coronavirus
cases than any country in the world.

Number one ! Number one !

The president has only recently seemed
to realize the gravity of the situation.

As recently as a month ago,
he was saying we have it,

"very much under control", adding,

"Stock Market
starting to look very good to me !"

before abruptly shifting gears
to claim that he felt it was a pandemic

long before it was called one,

and then, just last week,
making this grand declaration.

I'm a wartime president.

This is a war. A different kind of war
than we've ever had.

Yeah, I guess it is different.

It's like World War II,
only the enemy is invisible.

Or, like the Vietnam War, only this
time, Trump is actually taking part.

And yet, incredibly,
after briefly embracing the need

for everyone to engage in social
distancing to flatten the curve,

on Tuesday,
our "wartime president"

seemed to already
be considering giving up the fight

and encouraging
everyone to go back to work.

We're opening up this incredible
country because we have to do that.

I'd love to have it open by Easter.

I would love to have it open by Easter.
I will tell you that right now.

I would love to have that, it's such
an important day for other reasons

but I'll make it
an important day for this too.

Setting aside the "Easter's
an important day for other reasons"

the date he's setting
is just two weeks from now,

which is objectively
way too soon !

Although, if you are going
to pick a holiday to break quarantine,

you could do a lot worse

than one honoring the time that Jesus
was supposed to stay inside and didn't.

It's worth taking a moment to appreciate
just how irresponsible that attitude is.

Because we wasted so much time
that we could've spent preparing,

the virus is now widespread.

And thanks to how we have botched
the rollout of testing for the virus,

we still don't know exactly
how bad things are.

Strict social distancing measures are
our best shot at slowing this outbreak.

Epidemiologists have said, "If it were
possible to wave a magic wand"

"and make all Americans
freeze in place for 14 days"

"while sitting six feet apart,
the epidemic would sputter to a halt."

Now, obviously,
that magic wand is impossible.

But, some people aren't even
doing anything close to that.

And if you need proof
of just how true that is,

just listen to the understandably
exasperated governor of Kentucky.

We have a positive case from someone
who attended a coronavirus party.

And this is the part

where, I, the person
that tell everybody to be calm,

have to remain calm myself.

Good luck with that, because you just
used the phrase "coronavirus party."

And his disgust
at that infuriating term

was perfectly expressed
by his sign language interpreter

who really got across

the whole "what the fuck is wrong
with you people ?" sentiment.

Truly, that gesture speaks
for America right now.

GIF that woman, immediately.

So, we absolutely should not
be relaxing measures yet,

and Trump actually
can't force states to do that.

It's up to governors,
some of whom, from both parties,

are taking this very seriously.

Unfortunately,
other governors are not.

Ron DeSantis, in Florida,

is still resisting issuing
a statewide stay-at-home order.

And in Texas, Lieutenant Governor
Dan Patrick took things even further,

agreeing with the president

that the economic damage of a lockdown
is just too great to bear.

I'm not living
in fear of COVID-19.

What I'm living in fear of is
what's happening to this country.

And you know, Tucker,
no one reached out to me and said,

"As a senior citizen,"

"are you willing
to take a chance on your survival"

"in exchange for keeping
the America that all America loves"

"for your children
and grandchildren ?"

And if that's the exchange,
I'm all in.

What are you talking about ?

First: if you really want to die
so the U.S. economy can boom,

we have a system in place for that,
and it's called Black Friday.

Have at it !

Second: we know what's happened
in other countries like Iran and Spain

that didn't take
social distancing seriously.

They're now home to mass graves
you can see from space,

and ice-skating rinks being used
as makeshift morgues.

I'm in no way minimizing the economic
suffering caused by the shutdown.

And we should do everything we can
to mitigate it.

This week's stimulus bill

is probably only the start
of what is needed for workers.

The idea that people should sacrifice
themselves for the economy is absurd

and yet,
it actually gained traction this week,

co-signed by a variety
of conservative pundits,

perhaps no more enthusiastically
than this guy.

I contend there are millions
of Americans, just like me,

that will look at their children
and their grandchildren's future,

and they will say, "I am not
going to have them a slave to debt."

"I am not going
to erase their future"

"because I was afraid to die."

I'm not afraid to die.

I am afraid
that our nation might die,

and that dooms millions
to poverty,

illness, starvation,
and a lack of hope.

Let's see if that will trend.

Yeah, let's see if that will trend,
you thirsty bitch.

But you get that the coronavirus
is not the "Hunger Games", right ?

You can't volunteer yourself
as tribute.

And what you're doing
is actually much darker

you are actively
volunteering others,

including people of all ages
with health conditions, to die.

And even if these guys
are okay with letting the coronavirus

kill as many people as it feels like
so that the economy's protected...

Which, again, really ?

... there are, and I cannot believe
I have to say this,

significant drawbacks to hundreds
of thousands of people dying.

Hospitals would be
completely overwhelmed,

which means people suffering
from things that aren't the coronavirus

also wouldn't be able
to get the treatment that they need,

leading to even more people dying,

which, to put this in the only terms
that they seem to care about,

also tanks the economy.

So, relaxing social distancing
right now

isn't just trading
one bad outcome for another,

it's trading one bad outcome
for both bad outcomes.

It's shitting on your cake,
and choking on it, too.

It's critically important

for America to be getting a clear,
consistent message

about the severity of the threat
that we're currently facing.

That is the only way that we will
be able to manage this virus,

contain casualties, and get back
to something resembling normalcy.

And floating an Easter end date

isn't the only troubling decision
the president has made.

Right now, one of the major challenges
facing hospitals across the country

is a critical shortage of even basic
personal protective equipment

like masks, respirators,
gloves, and face shields.

Because they are running short,
to an alarming extent.

There are people that literally
are wearing bandanas

because they have nothing better
than that to protect themselves.

I've seen people using
the plastic protector sheets

to put in as a, as a face mask.

I've seen people
even wearing ski goggles,

Halloween costumes that were masks
to try and cover up parts of their face.

Holy shit. That is terrifying,

both for the medical workers who are
risking their lives to help patients,

but also for the patients.

Imagine being hospitalized
for coronavirus

and then seeing this
walk through the door.

I'd opt out. Yeah, I might die,

but that's better
than whatever this freaky shit is.

And it's not just masks

hospitals also need equipment like
ventilators to help people breathe.

Without enough of them,
people will die.

And yet, as recently as Thursday,
Trump was choosing

to not so much address the problem
as try and minimize it.

Watch him dismiss
a request for ventilators

from New York governor
Andrew Cuomo.

I have a feeling

that a lot of the numbers
that are being said in some areas

are just bigger
than they're going to be.

I don't believe you need
40,000 or 30,000 ventilators.

You go into major hospitals,
sometimes they'll have two ventilators.

And, all of a sudden, they're saying,
"Can we order 30,000 ventilators ?"

Yeah, that's the problem.

Hospitals don't have that many
ventilators, and there's a pandemic.

Trump must be so confused
by fire departments.

"You walk into most houses,
they've got some sinks,"

"maybe a few cups,
now they're on fire"

"and they say they need hundreds
of gallons of water sprayed at them."

"I just don't buy it."

And the thing is,
medical equipment shortages

are a problem that Trump
actually could help solve.

As a wartime president,
he has a major tool at his disposal:

the Defense Production Act.

It enables the federal government
to compel companies

to prioritize the production
of essential supplies.

People have been begging him
to use that authority for weeks now,

but he only did
so for the first time on Friday,

to force GM, and only GM,
to make ventilators.

And it's not like the DPA
can magic them out of nowhere.

It could still take months
for companies to make them.

That is why it would've been
nice if Trump had invoked it

fucking months ago when he saw
it was a pandemic before everyone else.

And there is still so much more
he could be doing with the DPA.

It also allows the federal government
to take charge of allocating materials,

like protective equipment, and direct
them to where they're most needed.

And without that happening,
right now,

states are competing against
each other in a free-for-all,

as New York governor Andrew Cuomo
will tell you.

I am competing with other states,
bidding up other states on the prices.

You have manufacturers who sit there
and California offers them $4,

and they say,
"California offered $4,"

I offer $5 and another
state calls in and offers $6.

It's not the way to do it.

No, it isn't.
States obviously shouldn't have to hope

they can outbid each other
for boxes of lifesaving equipment,

while the nation watches.

This is the government's response to
a pandemic, not fucking "Storage Wars".

Again and again,

Trump has failed to give this crisis
the seriousness it requires.

And make no mistake:
this is serious.

Too often, people discuss this
in bloodless terms,

citing the eeriness of empty streets
or closed schools.

But while the streets
may be empty,

hospitals are increasingly
bursting at the seams

and the agony this virus causes
is profound.

I'm sure you've been reading
the same stories I have,

of the woman whose 44-year-old
husband died from this,

or the parents of a 25-year-old
placed in a medically-induced coma.

The health care workers
on the front lines

know that this is just the beginning.

Today
is kind of getting worse and worse,

we had to get a refrigerated truck

to store the bodies
of patients who are dying.

We are right now scrambling to try
to get a few additional ventilators.

I want people to know that
this is bad. People are dying.

We don't have the tools that we need
in the emergency department

and in the hospital
to take care of them.

And it's really hard.

Yeah. And this
was always going to be hard,

but it actually didn't need
to be this hard.

And that is why
it's so profoundly disheartening

that we're being led
through this crisis by a man

who may be less equipped
to deal with this historical moment

than anybody in recorded history.

Watch what happened
when one reporter pressed him

on whether
his Easter deadline was wise.

Lawmakers and economists
have said

that reopening the country
by Easter is not a good idea.

What is that plan based on ?

Just so you understand,
are you ready ?

There are certain people that
would like it not to open so quickly.

Certain people would like it
to do financially poorly,

they think that would be very good
as far as defeating me at the polls.

I don't know if that's so,
but I do think it's so...

There are people in your profession
that would like that to happen.

For fuck's sake,
no one is thinking about you !

These guidelines
did not revolve around you !

For once, something has come along
that is more toxic and more threatening

than this president, and somehow
he's got fucking stage envy.

I know this isn't the first time
that I've criticized Donald Trump.

But I can't tell you how much I was
rooting for him to do this better.

Handling a crisis well
is not inherently political.

Take Ohio governor Mike DeWine.

I disagree with him
on basically everything.

But he's doing
a pretty good job so far.

Also, if I'm honest, I never
really liked Andrew Cuomo before this

but I will admit: he's doing admirably
well and I can't wait

to get to the other side of this when
I go back to being irritated by him.

I wish I could honestly say
that we're going to be fine,

but I don't know that.

Most of us will,
but not all of us.

The number who won't is very much
up in the air right now.

What is clear is that
a crisis of this magnitude

ends up revealing a lot
about who you are as a nation.

And not all
of what's being revealed is good.

This virus is exposing some central
vulnerabilities in our medical system,

our political system
and our national psyche.

Hospitals that have spent years
trying to operate at maximum efficiency

are now watching that efficiency
turn into scarcity.

Our decentralized government,
which can be good,

when local leaders are empowered
to protect their communities,

has also led to states fighting
each other for resources

and a patchwork quarantine strategy
that will almost certainly

draw out the agony of this crisis.

Meanwhile, we're being forced
to confront some of the strangest,

darkest implications
of our national mindset,

in which market-worship threatens
to become a fucking death cult.

But, at the same time,

this virus has exposed some reserves
of real strength in this country.

We've seen extraordinary heroism,
kindness, and ingenuity

from everyone
in essential lines of work,

from our grocery store workers,
to those making deliveries

and especially
our medical professionals,

who deserve, among other things,
a fucking parade

whenever we're allowed
to have parades again.

And the least we can do right now
is help them.

Right now, what we all choose
to do outside of our hospitals

has a direct and significant impact
on what happens inside of them.

The more strictly that we all
follow social distancing guidelines,

to the maximum extent that we can,
the easier it will be

for our healthcare workers
to do their jobs.

It is the only way to counteract
an appalling federal response

that inspires a mixture of anger,
bafflement and disgust

perhaps best summed up by my
new favorite sign language interpreter,

who said, if I may translate:
"What the fuck ?"

And now, this.

Yes, We Are Still Doing These.

And Now: Hey, Look !
We're Social Distancing !

As you can see, we are social
distancing ourselves

by keeping at least six feet apart,
I'm sitting at the anchor desk.

And, if it keeps turning,
you'll see, yep, there I am.

Thanks for waking up with us
on this March 19th, I'm Erin Fehlau.

I'm Jamie Staton.

We are very spread apart today.
At least six feet apart.

We're spread out,
trying to stay at least six feet apart.

We're all spread out. We're
probably not quite six feet apart.

- We're not sitting six feet apart.
- Why do you think I'm leaning back ?

We're gonna be just speaking in boxes
throughout the show.

It's like a Brady Bunch-style.
Hey, Chernéy.

- Am I going the right...
- It's a little backwards.

You don't like, look at me.
It's kind of the box.

I'm going to turn it over
to County Executive Parisi.

Thank you, Janel.

We should stand six feet apart.

We should both
stand six feet apart.

You and I. Yeah.

We are demonstrating social
distancing. Thank you very much.

Moving on.
Finally, before we go this week,

I'd like to talk briefly
about television:

the one and only method by which you
should let Guy Fieri into your home.

And even then,
it's not a great idea.

To deal with the relentless
onslaught of upsetting news

coupled with the crushing boredom
of never getting to leave your house,

you've probably been watching
a clinically disgusting amount of TV.

I know I've binged
so many shows,

I'm worried I'm gonna reach
the end screen of Netflix,

which, I imagine, is just the words
"Look at what you've done to yourself."

It's also impossible to watch things
to take your mind off the coronavirus

without
thinking about it anyway.

Even small things feel weird now,

like when characters
eat together in public,

or go to work in an office,
or take an intimate boat trip

with their two best friends
to kill their third best friend.

I just hope Tony washed his hands
for two "Happy Birthday"s

after riddling Big Pussy's
enormous body with bullets

and dumping him
into the Atlantic Ocean.

It's the only responsible way
to do that.

If you are worried that you might be
running out of content

that can help you mentally escape,
then you're actually in luck.

I was recently introduced

to one of the greatest pieces
of television ever broadcast,

and it begins like this.

Thank you all very much
for being here

and welcome to the 1992 edition
of Gallery 33,

this annual event when we celebrate
the richness of the artistic talent

of the South Central Pennsylvania
area.

Okay, first:
is that what 1992 looked like ?

'Cause it looks like 1988 went
to a party where the theme was 1983.

How long did it take 1992 to get
to South Central Pennsylvania ?

Is it currently 2011 down there ?

And, if so, can I please move
to South Central Pennsylvania ?

It sounds wonderful !

But still, nothing particularly
out of the ordinary so far there.

Just a local TV art auction.
Nothing to see here.

Apart from this.

The next item, number 71.
It is a watercolor,

titled "Surfacing"
by Brian Swords of York.

Brian Swords' work sells absolutely
marvelously here on Gallery 33.

His cartoon characters
are delightful,

and he lets us each imagine whatever
we'd like to with these things.

These two rats are jumping up
out of the water.

Are they ? Are they, though ?

Are they really jumping
out of the water ?

I guess that's the beauty
of Brian Swords' work.

Like all great art,
it's open to interpretation.

That woman might see
two rats jumping out of the water,

while I see one rat absolutely
dining out on that other rat.

There's no right answer.

But if you are not sure
what side you're on here,

it might help to see another piece
that Swords donated that day.

Brian has sent us another piece that
we know is going to sell like hotcakes.

His work is admired and
collected by lots of people.

It's the kind of a thing where you
just read it for what it says to you.

- Very delightful.
- And everyone enjoys it.

It's item number 70, watercolor
"Sheets and Pillowcases".

Again, 19 inches wide, 24 high.
The assigned value, $75.

Yes, the assigned value
for "Sheets and Pillowcases"

by Brian Swords of York
was $75.

Is that too little ? Too much ?

I guess I'd say: "Fuck yes"
and "Fuck no", respectively.

But I accept I could be
reading too much into this.

Maybe these two rats
are just innocent friends

who like to smoke cigarettes
by candlelight and hug each other

in positions that make it impossible
to ignore their visible genitals.

Maybe that's what rat friendship
is all about. I don't know.

I'm not a rat,
despite all evidence to the contrary.

I think I know what might
decide this once and for all.

Please bring on item 734.

Item 734 next, a watercolor titled
"The Smell of Wet Fur",

by Brian Swords of York.

This is another in the continuing
series by Brian Swords

of his amusing drawings and paintings
of rats in unusual circumstances.

In this case
"The Smell of Wet Fur",

two in a hot tub,
obviously enjoying the evening.

What more can possibly be said ?

What more could be said ?
A lot. A lot more can be said.

I could spend a full dissertation
examining the subtle brilliance

of this work alone,
it would be called:

"Ratfucked: Passion and Pathos
in Brian Swords of York's Grey Period"

and I have already written it,
this quarantine has been productive.

But every artist
eventually paints their masterpiece.

And "The Smell of Wet Fur"

isn't even Swords of York
at the height of his talents.

For that, I give you lot 735.

Item number 735
is a watercolor,

"Stay Up Late"
by Brian Swords of York.

It's 24 by 18 inches.

Brian's work began,
the Biohazard series began

as a statement about brutality
to experimental animals

and has developed into a whole scene
of these rather unusual rats

involved in all types
of normal human activities.

Magnificent. First, kudos
to that camera operator.

That is the best use of a slow pan
I have seen in a long time.

But two, why are those rats
"unusual" to you ?

Is it the fact that they have
human torsos but rat heads ?

Or, that they have butts
with two cheeks,

but also tails poking out of them ?

The fact that they have hands with
grasping fingers and opposable thumbs

but only four of them ?

Or, is it that in a world defined
by icy distance,

they aren't afraid to recklessly
love another soul

better than most people
could love themselves ?

Because if that's unusual ?

Then, buddy,
I don't wanna be usual.

So look, here is the thing.

Did I enjoy stumbling over these clips

and the work
of an undiscovered artistic pioneer ?

Yes.

Did it make me feel a little better
after weeks of feeling depressed ?

Yeah, it did.
But it also gave me an idea.

Because clearly, we're stuck
for the foreseeable future

doing this show
in a hyperreduced format.

That's not really the HBO way.
Is it ?

There's a reason that
"Game of Thrones" wasn't called

"Game of Folding Chairs
and Normal-Sized Lizards".

This network never planned

on following up "Dragons Fight
a Zombie Army Over Big Ice Wall",

with a single shot of a guy
who hasn't left his home in two weeks.

So, that means two things:

one, we have some budget
left over this week.

And two, it comes at a time

when I just got really interested
in the art market.

Not the entire art market,
of course, mainly just this picture.

Let me be clear: I want "Stay Up Late"
by Brian Swords of York.

I know someone bought it
in 1992 for $80.

I also know everything
has its price.

So, I am offering the current owner,
whoever you are,

$1 000, plus a donation of $20 000
to the food bank in your area.

This is real.
So, if you own this masterwork

or you know
the lucky person who does,

A URL that was
disappointingly available.

I want that piece of art hanging
behind me on this wall next week.

And if I don't get it,
I will keep looking for it.

Because this is America.

You can't get a test for Covid-19,
or Purell, or a ventilator,

or a sense of empathy
from the person in charge,

but if you try hard enough,

damn it, you can get a picture
of two nude rats

locked in a passionate post-fuck
embrace hanging on your wall.

You have to still be able to get that.
That is what this country is all about.

If we give that up,
we're basically just France.

Please,
find the painting and email me.

Thank you so much for watching.
I hope you're all well.

We'll see you next week.
Good night !

Okay.

Okay.

LAST WEEK TONIGHT
WITH JOHN OLIVER

END OF EPISODE 6,
SEASON VII