During Sunday night’s episode of Last Week Tonight, John Oliver made an impassioned plea to his viewers.
“We need to stay here and fight,” the comedian said.
For the last eight years, we’ve had a president we could assume would generally stand up for the rights of all Americans. But that is going to change now. So we’re going to have to actively stand up for one another. And it can’t just be sounding off on the internet or sharing think pieces or videos like this one that echo around your bubble. I’m talking about actual sacrifice to support people who are now under threat.
It was a striking monologue—not just because it was distinctly earnest, but also because it was distinctly unfunny. The comedian’s first show since Donald Trump clinched the U.S. presidency (which doubled, as it happens, as the comedian’s final show of the 2016 season) had its laugh-out-loud moments, but for the most part Oliver’s message was sober. It was sad. It largely dispensed with the jokes in favor of some selective Real Talk.
In that, Oliver’s show fit in well with the work of his fellow comedians as they’ve grappled with the upcoming presidency of the man they largely opposed. The past several days have seen comedy, effectively, stop laughing. Election night basically broke Stephen Colbert. Kate McKinnon replaced SNL’s traditional, jokey cold open with a rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”—and then capped the performance off with the exhortation to viewers, “I’m not giving up, and neither should you.” Dave Chappelle, directly after that, declared at the end of his SNL monologue that “I’m wishing Donald Trump luck and I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.”