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PoliticsFebruary 19, 2019

John Oliver’s weird fixation on New Zealand: the complete works (so far)


Joining dancing dildos, flags, Eminem and ponytails, getting-left-off-maps can now be added to our rolling collection of the Last Week Tonight show’s coverage of its most favoured/lampooned nation. 

Update, February 19, 2019: Topical comedy programme Last Week Tonight has returned to HBO for 2019, and its dedicated New Zealand Monitoring Unit has delivered already. It may have been too late for the Homeric glories of the Unruly Tourists™ – John Oliver reportedly said the only story they regretted missing over the break was “the barbaric British family in New Zealand” – but they’ve found something else already to chew on, in the form of the story about Ikea leaving NZ off its world map.

How to explain the ongoing fixation with New Zealand? We are quaintly amusing and you can make some very good jokes about hobbits and sheep, there’s that of course. But perhaps, too, it’s good business when social media and low-rent websites like the one you’re reading now hyperventilate. John Oliver may be fixated on New Zealand, but not as fixated as we are fixated on his fixation on us. Or maybe it’s as simple as the pleasure of saying New Zealand. The part-human, part-otter host relishes our silly name, swimming in every stressed syllable.

Whatever. In the item, Oliver bemoans the plight of our proud nation, “a place that’s basically Times Square, if all the people were sheep, and if all the neon signs were also sheep, [and] keeps getting picked never in the dodgeball game of maps.”

Update, May 16 2017: It may be going too far too say Bill English has broken John Oliver, but he has evidently prodded a raw nerve. Following the second Last Week Tonight journey into Eminem versus the National Party (see May 8 update), the New Zealand prime minister was asked by Scoop “Patrick” Gower for his critique. He hadn’t seen, he said, but hoped for the sake of the show’s audience that it was funny, because “some of the stuff I’ve seen he does isn’t very funny.”

A piqued Oliver has responded, with another monologue devoted to New Zealand politics. And, I’m sorry to say, in doing so he’s proved Bill English’s point.

Update, May 8 2017: Last Week Tonight has lampooned, not for the first time (scroll down for the original 2014 item), New Zealand’s “ridiculous court case” featuring the National Party and Eminem, which sounds especially funny in a New Zealand accent according to John Oliver, aka Johrn Orlivahh.

Update, Feb 15 2016: Steven Joyce has, as he himself pretty much willed, made the Last Week Tonight climax. As it were. (See the Spinoff’s essential examination of the incident here.)


Original post, October 20 2015:

No one felt the demise of Australian prime minister Tony Abbott harder than the practitioners of topical comedy. Happily, however, political piss-takers can still turn in their moment of need to New Zealand’s prime minister.

He may not be in Abbott’s onion-munching bizarro class, but nevertheless he, and New Zealand politics more generally, has delivered a regular stream of material for John Oliver, host of Last Week Tonight.

His most recent appearance on the US show followed an interview with Radio Hauraki, in which the PM faced an interrogation on matters including peeing in the shower and whether or not he had lately “fed the chickens”, which according to the internet is a euphemism for masturbation.

Such is the circle of life, or political media mockery at least, that Mr Key has now invited John Oliver to visit New Zealand and attend one of his press conferences. Yes, one of his press conferences.

Here are the PM’s full New Zealand appearances to date. (Let us know if we missed any.)

First, from this week, John Oliver recaps the appearance on Radio Hauraki by the Prime Minister of “Hobbit Australia”.

Either he didn’t get the chicken-feeding reference, or, and this is really terrifying, it was beyond the pale even for his show.

On John Key and the ponytail:

On the 2014 election – specifically, the Eminem legal issue:

On the flag debate (see also this earlier take on the subject), feat Laser Kiwi:

Oliver emerged, remember, from the chrysalis of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and that show, too, had dear old godzone on its radar. From 2011, here’s an underwhelming bit of filler from Jon Stewart on New Zealand politics:


For true nostalgic completists, here’s Key on the Letterman Show in 2009 doing that Top Ten performance:

And, if you absolutely must, this was his invitation to Letterman to visit New Zealand, also from 2009, before his visit to the show:

Keep going!