Last Week Tonight returns for its ninth season of hard-hitting political comedy and beneficent pranksmanship this Sunday. Appearing on Tuesday’s Late Show, host John Oliver swore to friend and former Daily Show correspondent Stephen Colbert that he genuinely doesn’t know yet what the premiere episode will be about, not that it would matter much when it comes to putting bums in seats.
“If I were to say with any of our shows what they were going to be, it’s not like it would be a great sell,” admitted Oliver of Last Week Tonight’s signature, episode-long main stories about, say, the insidious infiltration of disguised product integration into your local news. Still, as viewers of Oliver’s habit of enlivening seemingly dry subject matter with British cheek and the occasional expensively illustrative mascot costume know, Last Week Tonight is more about the journey. Even if that journey ends with Oliver simply pushing the plunger and blowing another godforsaken year’s worth of injustice, malfeasance, and all-around human awfulness straight to hell.
With Colbert hinting that he’s thinking of following Oliver’s lead in televised stunt-demolition in the near future, Oliver admitted that the two times he’s concluded seasons with a big ol’ explosion were restoratively cathartic. After lighting the fuse to demolish representations of both 2016 and 2020 with a fiery bang, Oliver noted that the lack of a last-episode 2021 stunt spectacular came from the fact that that first post-Trump year “cleared the lowest imaginable bar” in not making him want to spend HBO’s money to symbolically transform it to smoking atoms.
Still, as Oliver noted in casting a glance over how things are heading in America, the four-year cycle in pyrotechnic “ka-ka-boom”s likely means he’ll practice not flinching in front of another Burt Reynolds-worthy cinematic detonation soon enough. Explaining that his professional demolition team’s caution, “For about half a second you’re going to feel like you’re on fire,” wasn’t quite as helpful as intended, Oliver prided himself on not visibly reacting to his 2020 live stunt, even as he told Colbert that the shockwave “moves your heart a little bit.” And if Oliver’s response to his team’s warning was, “You sound calm but the information you give me is haunting,” well, that could probably describe viewers’ reaction to the average Last Week Tonight.