Bruce Watson's Page > Posts tagged with "oliver"


Subject: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?

Forum: When it comes to harassment, what is your role?
I recently came across a pair of articles that, together, give an interesting glimpse into how the sexual harassment environment is changing. One covered Billy Bush’s appearance on the Late Show, where he reiterated that Donald Trump bragged about sexual harassment on the Access Hollywood bus. But when it came to explaining why he didn’t push back against Trump, Bush faltered, lamely pointing out that he thought Trump’s comments were a comedy routine.

The other article recapped a public disagreement between John Oliver and Dustin Hoffman that occurred during a panel discussion about one of Hoffman’s movies. Oliver surprised the actor by bringing up the sexual harassment allegations against him, and the discussion became heated. Members of the audience criticized Oliver for going off topic, but he explained that he felt it was important to bring it up, as “No one stands up to powerful men.”

Rather than focusing on sexual harassers and victims, these events put the spotlight on bystanders. Billy Bush chose not to speak out about Trump’s sexist comments, while Oliver chose to shift from a movie discussion — which his audience had paid to see — to a harassment discussion that many of them didn’t want to witness. But for all their differences, Oliver and Bush both made a decision about their values, their responsibility, and their willingness to create an uncomfortable environment in order to address a larger point. Faced with sexual harassers, they chose either to face the problem or to turn away.

It’s an issue that resonates: to a great extent, we’re all bystanders, and we’re all being forced to figure out where we stand on these issues. Knowing what we now know, can we still see “The Graduate” the same way? Do the events of this year change the way hear a Louis CK set, or see a Pixar film, or watch George Takei? Does Billy Bush’s failure change the way we react to our friends when they say something offensive? Where do we draw our lines between appropriate and inappropriate behavior?

Your Challenge

Our culture is in the midst of redefining many of its rules, and we are all part of that discussion. Where do you stand on the changing rules and perspectives around sexual harassment? Are we too insensitive? Are we oversensitive? What do you consider an appropriate punishment for a harasser? How about a bystander? Do you have a story about a time when you stood up to harassment…or failed to do so?

Subject: The Fake News

Forum: The Fake News
A few weeks ago, John Oliver captured the attention of the national media when he created Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, a legally-incorporated church. Basically a stunt designed to show how easy it is to open a church (and, not incidentally, dodge taxes), Oliver’s ministry drew attention to the IRS’ lax church taxation laws – not to mention the truly astounding lies and manipulations that television ministers are allowed to foist on the public.

This isn’t the first time that Oliver has combined journalism and satire. In fact, in-depth coverage of under-explored news stories has become a hallmark of his show, Last Week Tonight. In his few months on the air, he’s covered issues ranging from usurious traffic fines to LGBT discrimination, minimum prison sentences to food waste. In most cases, his coverage has been well-researched, informative, useful and…funny.

In some ways, Oliver’s blending of news and humor isn’t all that surprising. After all, he’s an alumnus of Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, a program that spent 16 years more or less perfecting the art of combining humor, news, analysis and political fury. And that blend of entertainment and news has struck a chord among viewers: according to a recent Pew poll, 16% of Americans trust the Daily Show – more than trust Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, and the Economist.

Oliver’s show, arguably, takes comedy news a step further: rather than simply rehashing the day’s news, each episode of his program spends a great deal of time drilling down on a single issue. Put in context, it could be seen as “60 Minutes” to Stewart’s “Nightly News.” It’s also a further evolution of the comedy news program.

Your Challenge

What is it about comedy news programs that inspires so many of us to trust them so deeply? Is it that they are unabashedly entertainment-based? Is it that they don’t seem tied to any absolute political agenda? Or is it something else? Is comedy-based news the future of news in America, or is it a short-lived fad that will die off before too long?