John Oliver Actually Changed the World With These ‘Last Week Tonight’ Segments

John Oliver is a staple of late night television, where numerous people (particularly the millennial generation) tune in to watch Last Week Tonight for a decidedly different approach to trending topics. Generally broken down into 20-minute segments or shorter, Oliver’s approach has been called “very British.” He delivers trending topics and important events in a satirical tone while playing the part of the “friendly foreigner trying to figure out what’s going on.” 

It would be wrong to assume that these comedic bits, similar to the styles of Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live, has had no effect on the world. In fact, John Oliver’s late night talk show has produced striking results. One might even say that he actually changed the world with some of his Last Week Tonight segments. It’s a common enough phenomena to even have it’s own name: “The John Oliver Effect.” But which have had the largest impact? Let’s take a look.

The net neutrality segment (2014)

While many may not understand the true depth of what net neutrality is, it can be boiled down to the idea that internet providers should not be allowed to charge content providers to speed up delivery of their content as a priority over others. In 2014, John Oliver took to the air to vehemently protest the potential end of an era of free online expression. 

Oliver did not allow his passionate feelings on the issue to change his satirical tone, however. In a call-to-action, John Oliver called on his audience to “seize your moment, my lovely trolls. Turn on caps lock and fly, my pretties.”

It worked. Within a short time span after the net neutrality segment aired, the FCC received more than 45,000 emails. There was such a response that it caused the government agency’s server to crash. Just a few months later, the FCC was forced to adopt regulations that would protect net neutrality and ensure the future of free online expression.

The for-profit colleges segment (2014)

In 2014, John Oliver attack for-profit colleges, citing that they were a major factor in the skyrocketing American student debt problem. He supported this statement by point out that for-profit colleges represent a third of all US student loans, but only 13% of the total college population. Oliver stated that he was “not sure whether their morals or the education they offer are worse.”

The government began regulating for-profit colleges more strictly in 2015. Corinthian Colleges was even fined $30 million by the Department of Education for misrepresenting their job placement rates to draw in more students. 

The paid family leave segment (2015)

In a rather fitting Mother’s Day segment in 2015, John Oliver brutally attacked the current parental leave policy regulations in the United States. After announcing that “for many women, the current situation forces them to return far before they want to,” John Oliver played a montage of tired moms returning to work in both offices and retail environments.

The official YouTube video is cheekily captioned “Many American companies do not offer paid leave after the birth of a child, which means they probably shouldn’t run sappy Mother’s Day ads.”

While the federal regulations remained more or less the same, requiring companies to offer 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave to new moms, several companies turned independently towards more progressive policies.

The first to take action was Netflix, who announced they’d be offering “unlimited” parental leave during the first year of a child’s life. Microsoft came next, following with a policy that allowed for 12 weeks paid parental leave. Another major company to take action was Adobe, who changed their policies to allow new moms to take up to six months paid leave, and new dads to take up to 16 weeks.