Victor Luckerson in Time:
Comedians mock our cultural and political institutions on TV all the time. But it’s not every day that a comic’s jokes crash a government website or directly inspire legislators to push for new laws.
John Oliver, host of HBO comedy news program Last Week Tonight, is quickly building up that level of cultural cachet. While his forebears and former colleagues Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart spend as much time lampooning the news media covering world events as they do analyzing events themselves, Oliver’s show stands out for its investigations into topics as varied as the militarization of the police state, Net neutrality and Argentina’s debt crisis.
Oliver’s approach has even been cited as an inspiration for local government transparency. In January, a Washington State legislator proposed a new bill that would let citizens comment on new legislation using videos submitted online. The state senator backing the new bill credited Oliver’s ability to turn boring topics into viral phenomena through online video as motivation for the new initiative.