John Oliver is a comic genius, but he's also one of the greatest public servants when it comes to issues that face the nation... even if you had no idea the issue even existed. Thanks to Oliver, many of us learned about the intricacies of the criminal defense system, messed up bail requirements, municipal fines that can land you in jail if you can't pay and prisoner reentry complications when you get out.
Despite being British, he's a damn national treasure. Here are the 13 stories that were the best and most important of 2015.
1. Destroying Big Pharma’s outrageous spending to influence doctors
17-minutes of a scathing attack on the pharmacutical industry's bypass of the expertise of doctors and marketing straight to the consumer.
“Drug companies are like high school boyfriends,” Oliver joked. “They’re more interested in getting inside you than in being effective once they are there.”
2. John Oliver on Big Tobacco: “The agricultural equivalent of U2″
If there is one thing tobacco companies love to do it's finding new creative ways to put their products into the hands of new users who have long lives of usage ahead of them. Many countries are fighting back. There are fewer users and yet the tobacco industry is more profitable than ever.
"It's an aging product that's decreasing in popularity and yet it just can't stop making money," says Oliver. "It's basically the agricultural equivalent of U2."
3. John Oliver eviscerates Congress over America’s crumbling infrastructure
One of the most terrifying things John Oliver has covered. Our roads and bridges all over the country are falling apart. This will make you think twice before you drive over a river with a sketchy bridge.
"Much like most Botox recipients and competitive cloggers, the average dam is 52 years old and has something deeply broken inside of it," said Oliver. "Infrastructure is like Legos. Building is fun, destroying is fun, but a Lego maintenance set would be the most boring fucking toy in the world."
4. John Oliver reveals the stunningly racist history behind why some U.S. territories can’t vote
Over 100-year-old racist rulings that decide that those born in the U.S. territories don't have the same constitutional rights as those born in the United States.
"The American part of American Samoa is really a title that doesn't mean anything," said Oliver, "like 'People's Choice award nominee' or 'social media expert.'"
5. A “fuckbarrel” of fines: John Oliver reveals the disturbing way police are preying on the working poor
There are far too many people living paycheck to paycheck who can’t pay fines upfront when slapped with them. If you can't pay the fine you're issued another fine on top of that. Eventually, there are so many fines people go to jail. It's a never ending cycle that many can't get out of.
“That situation is ridiculous,” Oliver said. “The only people who should be that excited about people waiting in line to hand over way too much money are Apple executives. That’s the only time.”
6. John Oliver perfectly sums up everything that’s wrong with standardized testing
The scariest two words in any school among both students and teachers are "standardized tests." There are even parents who are opting their children out because the tests are so ridiculous. But apparently everything that you are as a kid boils down to one test. It's messed up and Oliver tells the world why.
“Something is wrong with our system when we just assume a certain number of kids will vomit,” Oliver said. “Tests are supposed to be assessments of skills, not a rap battle on 8 Mile Road.”
7. John Oliver rips America’s disgraceful maternity leave policy: Thanks for giving us life — “now get the fuck back to work”
Fun fact: The U.S. is one of only two countries in the world that doesn’t offer paid time off for new moms.
“This is not how its supposed to work,” Oliver said. “Mothers shouldn’t have to stitch together time to recover from childbirth the same way that we plan a four-day weekend in Atlantic City.”
8. John Oliver blasts the U.S. bail system for locking up poor people regardless of guilt
There are basically three options a person has upon arrest — “go to jail, plead guilty to avoid waiting in jail for a trial, or pay a bail bondsman to front the bail costs," according to John Oliver. It ultimately leads to many innocent people pleading guilty because they assume they can't win.
“Poor people are regularly choosing to admit guilt just to get out of there and that isn’t good,” Oliver said. “The only time that’s appropriate is in a Catholic confessional. ‘What do you mean is there anything else? I don’t know, I masturbated into a kiwi fruit. Is that what you wanted to hear? Just let me leave, I have stuff to do.”
Thanks to Oliver, the New York City system actually changed its bail requirements for low-level offenders.
9. John Oliver blasts media’s tone-deaf transgender reporting: Medically speaking, their genitals are “none of your f*cking business!”
It’s been a milestone year for transgender visibility but transgender people still must face a host of ignorant and demeaning comments about their lived experiences and a slew of terrible laws that hurt them. Oliver brilliantly explained:
“Transgender people have a gender identity that differs from the one they were assigned at birth. And that gender identity is not the same as sexual orientation. Gender identity is who you are, sexual orientation is who you love. Some transgender people do undergo hormone therapy or sexual reassignment surgery as part of their transition, some do not. And interestingly, their decision on this matter is, medically speaking, none of your f*cking business!”
10. John Oliver reveals the shocking, “surprisingly legal” ways in which gay people can still be discriminated against
Even though same-sex couples can marry, there are still a slew of laws that are still in place that discriminate against LGBT people.
"Discriminating against gay people is surprisingly legal in much of the country," he continues. "The fact is, in 31 states, people are at risk of being fired, evicted or refused service just because they're gay. So while federal law may guarantee a gay couple's right to get married, it offers exactly zero guarantees about their rights to do the things that follow that."
11. John Oliver: If you’re forced to rely on “hideously broken” public defender system, “you’re f*cked”
There are people who are accused of a crime and can't afford anything other than a public defender. The problem is, their case loads are so substantial that some only get seven minutes to prepare for their case.
“Fifty years after the Supreme Court gave everyone the fundamental right to an attorney, even if you can’t afford one, we now have a system where the most vulnerable people are potentially being charged for access to a hideously broken system,” Oliver said. In a nutshell: “This is the American judicial system, not Candy Crush!”
12. John Oliver just brilliantly made this election a matter of life and death
When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld “nearly all” of Obamacare in their 2012 decision, that wasn’t entirely enough. “Health care is like a pair of gym shorts — even if it covers nearly all it is supposed to, you’re still left with some problematic gaps and terrible things can happen,” Oliver explained.
Thanks to states who refuse to expand Medicaid people are literally dying. In the end, the election still screwed them. Best bet at this point is really just to move.
13. John Oliver’s best piece ever: This brilliant expose on our endless prison cycle is an absolute must
“For a surprisingly high number of prisoners their time on the outside may be brief,” Oliver says because the national average of recidivism is 50 percent. Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Corrections John Wetzel says we’re spending $80 billion to fail half of the time. But when you look at the challenges that those who served their time face on the outside, it isn’t hard to see why they end up back in jail.
Most epic John Oliver of all time
The biggest mic drop moment of John Oliver is the time he went after the televangelists. It might have happened this year but, it's the most epic of all time.
Thank you, John Oliver. Thank you.