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5 Shows like Last Week Tonight: Let’s Talk Politics

James Thomas itcherSatire is hard and having to pull it off perfectly every week sounds like torture to me. TV shows like ‘Last Week Tonight’ have perfected this through smart jokes that reveal mainstream American news to be so absurd that people are better off watching ‘Game of Thrones’ and forming their opinions on geopolitics after studying maps of Westeros. If you are, like me, a news junkie who likes to laugh, check out shows like ‘The Nightly Show’, ‘Real Time with Bill Maher,’ and ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’. ~ James Thomas

Expat Facts

John Oliver is probably one of the funniest Englishmen to hit American shores since General William Howe or Mr. Bean.

John worked for years on ‘The Daily Show’, America’s best fake news program, the place where many educated Americans go for reliable news. But, after outgrowing the limitations of ‘The Daily Show,’ wanting to work only once a week, and to be free to use dirty words, Oliver skipped over to HBO.

The show is smart, informative, and covers everything from the state of FIFA to America’s military industrial complex. It constantly challenges American viewers to recognize that even though government and news resources can be absurd, the most absurd thing is how much the average person can change the nation.

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Shows Similar to ‘Last Week Tonight’…

‘The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore’ (Comedy Central, 2015- )

I was glad to see that another alumnus from ‘The Daily Show’, just like John Oliver from ‘Last Week Tonight’, has escaped from the hilarious shadow of Jon “Stew Beef” Stewart.

Larry Wilmore is the type of subtle topical comedian who has the good sense to be funny first, and clever and informative second. He is so charming that he can make issues like racially motivated police brutality and the corrupting influence of money in politics seem as cute as kittens kicking their paws in the air.

The man is an expert of the “dad joke”, sounds like someone gave my funny uncle his own television show, and for some reason the most important people in America seem to think he’s funny as well, and often drop by for a visit.

Similarity Match: 95%
Like ‘Last Week Tonight’, ‘The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore’ deals with controversial issues with more snark than you’d find in a sorority house and more common sense than you’d find in congress, but as the name implies it airs more than one night a week and has more guests.

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‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ (HBO, 2003- )

The reason I enjoy satirical news is that it gets to the truth with the honesty of a bull putting its horn through a matador’s chest, and then mailing the man’s remains back to the bull fighter’s family.

Thanks to this sort of blunt approach to news analysis, I can count on ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ letting me know any bias upfront. Bill Maher is many things, most of which I shouldn’t write here, but subtle is not one of them.

Like ‘Last Week Tonight’, Maher’s show is on cable television, so there are no censors policing his language. The fact is that Bill is most likely one of the funniest men alive today but also one of the most hated.

Similarity Match: 90%
Unlike ‘Last Week Tonight’, ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ has a panel of guests and the show tends to get as argumentative as dinner with intolerant relatives. However, both shows allow their hosts to speak like adults.

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‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ (CBS, 2015- )

I was surprised to find that after years of portraying a fictional, neurotic, self-aggrandizing, self-absorbed media monster, Stephen Colbert managed to transition from ‘The Colbert Report’ to ‘The Tonight Show’, becoming a self-absorbed and respected media monster.

This show was a big opportunity for any comedian, and there were rumors of many talented people taking the “big chair” with possible candidates including Louis C.K. and Chris Rock.

But when they went to Stephen Colbert, they stuck the craziest personality in satirical television on network TV and made him the most beloved man in the world all over again. After years of working on TV series like ‘Last Week Tonight’, there is no doubt that Colbert was up for the job.

Similarity Match: 80%
While both ‘The Late Show with Stephen Colbert’ and ‘Last Week Tonight’ have hosts who got their start eating from ‘The Daily Show’s’ trough, Colbert’s new show is much lighter and happier.

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If You Like ‘Last Week Tonight’, You Will Like…

Shows like ‘Last Week Tonight’ are made to make the news, which is often presented to the populace like a dirt sandwich with extra dirt sauce, palatable while reminding the audience that common sense still exist.

The next two shows are a bit different as the first show is based in the UK and the second is more consistently aired than John Oliver’s show.

‘Mock the Week’ (BBC Two, 2005- )

As one of the few Yanks to actually stay abreast of global affairs, particularly politics in the UK, ‘Mock the Week’ is one of my favorite shows.

What I love about this show is that it does tend to examine more international stories, unlike many American satirical series similar to ‘Last Week Tonight’, giving me an excuse to actually learn the names of countries not on the North American continent. Thanks to this show I now understand the difference between a prime minister and a president, and know that people in Scotland find my accent hilarious.

‘Mock the Week’ also offers up juicy tidbits of global political idiocy to a whole panel of popular comedians from the UK, taking a chunk out of the host’s ego, something that is anathema on American television.

‘Mock the Week’ deals with the same sort of topical insanity as ‘Last Week Tonight’, using dry but rapier British wit. However, this show has a whole panel of guest comedians to round out the hilarity.

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‘The Daily Show’ (Comedy Central, 1996- )

As an American news junkie, I ironically picked up my interest in politics and socio-economic issues from a fake news show known as ‘The Daily Show,’ which was hosted by the comedian Jon Stewart (best known for his superb acting in ‘Half Baked’ and ‘The Faculty’).

Honestly, though, most people from the States with enough brain cells to know that the UK has a parliamentary system, considered John Stewart to be the most reliable source for news in the country, superior to the noisy idiocy of the 24 hours cable news networks.

Now hosted by the South African comedian Trevor Noah, the show is continuing its tradition of delivering scathing satire and being labeled as a communist think tank by right wing politicians.

Unlike ‘Last Week Tonight’, ‘The Daily Show’ airs four times a week, but both shows deal with important issues, and John Oliver started his satirical reporting career on ‘The Daily Show.’

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And Now the News

The shows on this list prove that sometimes the jester is the best person to go to for unvarnished truth as some of the best jokes are funny because, sadly, they are true.

Do you think thoughtful comedians are more reliable than network news presenters?

Let me know in the comments down below.

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