In the weeks since its debut on HBO, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver has slowly, if assuredly, evolved from being little more than a weekend knockoff of its progenitor The Daily Show, to finding its own unique voice and ability to take advantage of the more in-depth "coverage" afforded by the lack of self-censorship otherwise required for commercial television and longer segments due to the lack of on-the-clock commercial breaks necessary for its Comedy Central brethren.
That maturity and evolution revealed itself in full flower during last night’s lengthy segment on America’s horrific and insane — and getting horrificker and insaner — prison and incarceration policy.
Aside from being really really funny at times, the lengthy segment was one of the smartest, most complete, most accessible treatises I’ve seen on TV — or anywhere really — in a very long time, if ever.
It concludes with a laugh-out-loud Sesame Street-style song on the broken state of America’s prison policy, after covering obscenities along the way such as the explosive growth in our prison population; the failed "War on Drugs"; racial disparities in sentencing; our grotesque cultural fetish with "hysterical" prison rape humor; some fairly jaw-dropping Congressional testimony (courtesy of Sen. Al Franken); to the privatization and profiteering of the national Prison Industrial Complex which has culminated, as a judge described in 2012, in "a cesspool of unconstitutional and inhuman acts".
This smart piece is well worth watching in full for too many reasons to list here…
[Note: For a somewhat less amusing, if no less important take on one related issue not mentioned by Oliver during his otherwise surprisingly complete overview, see the second part of Ernie Canning's three-part 2012 BRAD BLOG essay on the so-called "War on Drugs", which discusses how legalization might well disrupt the economics of the Prison Industrial Complex and its increasingly relied-upon pool of slave — yes, slave — laborers.]
CORRECTION: Our original article had the name of HBO’s show wrong, as well as the quote from a federal judge about the privatized prison system in Mississippi. Both have been corrected above, thanks to commenter "Niemand" pointing out the errors below.