How many see John Oliver in India

TV and satire: Jon Stewart's flagship Brit goes self-employed

John Oliver holds the rogue mirror up to America in his show "Last Week Tonight".

Chelsea is pregnant! Lost plane hijacked to Pakistan? Human Barbie Doll Fitness Video! Anyone who tunes in to US news channels such as CNN, ABC or Fox News these days has to come to the conclusion that the fate of the world depends on the pregnancy of a president's daughter, a crashed plane or the emergence of an entertainment industry without borders. International and domestic political conflicts are staged in the style of Hollywood films, backed up with colorful maps on which the city of Cannes has already been relocated to the Bay of Biscay, as CNN happened to report on a G20 summit.

You can switch it off - or take a particularly close look and label the madness as such; Jon Stewart's "Daily Show" on Comedy Central has been doing so since 1999, and it says as much about his acuteness as it does the hollowness of news television when polled by many media consumers as the most credible source of news .

Oliver follows in Colbert's footsteps

Stewart is a great promoter of comedic talent; his former correspondent Stephen Colbert is now a star with his own show, the "Colbert Report", and will follow talk show legend David Letterman on CBS next year. Now another former employee sets out to impale the blind spots and dullness of the American news world. Every Sunday evening John Oliver looks back on the events of the past week on the pay channel HBO (known for outstanding series such as "The Wire" or "The Sopranos").

And that's very, very funny. In the first broadcast, the 37-year-old Brit reported on the elections in India, which are hardly noticed in the USA. "Let's get to Gandhi first," he said at the presentation of the ruling Congress Party's top candidate, Rahul Gandhi. "And I find that this is not the first time this sentence has been spoken with a British accent." Subsequently, the state of Oregon got its fat after sunk a quarter of a billion dollars on a dysfunctional health insurance website. This website was advertised with an alternative hipster-style commercial at the time, and Oliver turned the tables. The singer Lisa Loeb - a 90s icon of the same hipsterism - throws the Oregonians the in a musical sketch, which is modeled on the outside of this unsuccessful PR venture and deliciously satirized the self-image of Portland, Oregon's most important city, as the metropolis of American hipsterism It was stupid not to have looked closely at their elected politicians when they negligently jeopardized their health care.

The food industry, which prints false health claims on its sugary breakfast cereals and sodas, has also been washed away. A highlight was Oliver's interview with Keith Alexander, the former head of the US spy agency NSA. "You say the NSA has to have the whole haystack to find the needle in it," said Oliver, quoting the NSA's core argument for collecting gigantic amounts of private data. "That's right," answered Alexander. "Yes, but you don't just have the haystack, you have the whole barn, the farm, the entire area and photos of the farmer's wife in the shower!" Alexander never had to parry such astute questions at his hearings in Congress.

The liberating power of the swear word

Oliver, who studied at Cambridge and was part of The Footlights theater group that produced comedic masters Monty Python, Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (known as the sardonic House MD), can do one thing above all on HBO for him would forbid the prudish American broadcasting regulations on freely available channels: He can swear like a pipe sparrow. No beep shamefully drowns him out when he describes an outrageous political nonsense for what it basically is: namely bullshit.

("Die Presse", print edition, April 29, 2014)