In his role pinch-hitting as The Daily Show anchor while Jon Stewart directs a feature film called Rosewater, John Oliver has demonstrated a candid, hilarious fury that is unmatched in its impact by Stewart’s usual well-meant silliness. People have called Stephen Colbert the heir to 1950’s primetime BS-caller Edward R. Murrow, and Colbert is certainly unmatched in his own way, but after seeing Oliver in the limelight, it’s hard to imagine a more urgent rebuttal to the media and political hypocrisy of our day.
Last night Oliver didn’t have to work hard to demonstrate the ridiculousness of television news coverage, which like the rest of the mediasphere was agog over a simple sketch by admittedly gifted businessperson Elon Musk. First NBC called Musk “the inspiration for the Iron Man’s Tony Stark character,” but while Musk was indeed studied by director Jon Favreau for his depiction of Stark in the first two Iron Man movies, the comic book hero predates the birth of the South African entrepreneur by eight years. CNN then demonstrated the relative speeds of trains, planes, space shuttles, and Musk’s Hyperloop concept by playing with toys and making childlike wooshing sounds. Meanhwile an earnest co-anchor on a FOX affiliate repeatedly insisted to his colleague that Elon’s name was “Elton.” As John Oliver says, “Clearly, no one in the media is able to understand this story.” Maybe that’s because beyond the pipe dream, there’s very little to understand. Musk made a drawing, but he’s expecting someone else to build it. Oliver concludes, “That’s like saying, hey you know what we should do? Find a vaccine for cancer. Someone get on that, I’m just the ideas man.”