Must-see morning clip: John Oliver urges you to rethink the death penalty

"The death penalty is expensive, potentially kills innocent people and doesn't deter crime," he declared

Prachi Gupta
May 5, 2014 5:28PM (UTC)

Settling into his second week as a late night television host, John Oliver pursued some of the week's toughest (and most disturbing) news stories, including Oklahoma's botched execution. "I know what you're thinking," John Oliver cautioned the audience of "Last Week Tonight" on Sunday, "'You're not gonna really do a comic take on the death penalty, right? It's your second episode. I haven't even decided if I like this show yet.'"

Calling the penalty "fucking horrifying," Oliver used comedy and wit to walk through the arguments that proponents of the death penalty use. One by one, he knocked them down, debating the overall effectiveness of the policy.


"What we know now is," he summarized. "The death penalty is expensive, potentially kills innocent people, and doesn't deter crime. And here is where it gets hard -- harder than is potentially appropriate for a comedy show late on a Sunday night: but if we are going to answer difficult and profound questions, as the president told us to, the toughest one is probably, 'if someone is guilty of committing a horrible crime, and the family of the victim want the perpetrator executed, do we want to live in the kind of country that gives that to them?' I would say, 'No.' You, might very reasonably say, 'Yes,' or at the very least, 'uughhhhmmm.'"

"But it is a question that is going to need an answer," Oliver said. "And in the meantime, a much easier question is: Do you want to watch a YouTube video of a tiny hamster eating a tiny burrito?' Because at this point, you have fucking earned it."


Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at

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