During last week’s Season 9 premiere of his hit HBO series Last Week Tonight, John Oliver delivered a blistering takedown of the right-wing panic over critical race theory—which conservatives have redefined to mean any conversation about race that they’re uncomfortable having, and appears to be a smoke screen used to push their broader agenda: school choice.
Tonight’s edition of the Emmy-winning show saw Oliver set his sights on the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.
“As we are all now painfully aware, Vladimir Putin, Russian president and World War III edgelord, began an assault on the second-largest country in Europe this week, shelling several cities and sending troops across the border. It has been horrifying to watch, and CNN, during its coverage of air raid sirens in Kyiv, somehow found a way to make it even worse with this terrible transition to break.”
Yes, while airing footage of air raid sirens ringing out in Ukraine’s capital, CNN cut to an Applebee’s commercial featuring a cheesy country anthem dedicated to cold beer and fried chicken, all while the giant caption “RUSSIA INVADES UKRAINE” continued to frame the ad.
“I mean, it’s not great, is it?” asked Oliver. “And it’s not just that they cut to a commercial for a restaurant chain whose food can only be described as ‘sometimes warm,’ it’s just so aggressively American, from the country song that thinks listing food counts as lyrics all the way to this human boot barn shaking his non-existent ass.”
Applebee’s, for their part, put out a statement after reading, “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine… [the ad] never should have aired, and we are disappointed in the actions of the network.”
“And that is some deft international diplomacy from the home of both the ‘Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad’ and the ‘Tipsy Leprechaun.’ And you know when Applebee’s is apologizing for interrupting the coverage of Russia invading Ukraine, this week got seriously out of hand.”
Putin’s invasion has received widespread condemnation from the international community, the Pope, and even George W. Bush, who stated, “I join the international community in condemning Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion of Ukraine…”
“Hold on, George. Not from you,” said Oliver. “You are not the guy for this one, because that statement only would have made sense if it ended with ‘…Oh shit, now I hear it. Sorry. I’ll shut the fuck up now.’”
The justification that Putin has repeatedly used for his invasion is the “denazification” of Ukraine—even though, as Oliver pointed out, “Despite the fact that Ukraine’s current president is both Jewish and had family members die in the Holocaust.”
“I don’t want to play ‘who’s the biggest Nazi’ here—that, after all, is what Twitter is for—but between Zelenskyy and Putin, if you are looking for who is more like Hitler, I’m just gonna go with the ethno-nationalist despot invading sovereign European territory and who is also a terrible fucking painter,” offered Oliver.
“Look: What Russia is doing in Ukraine is completely indefensible,” he continued. “Even Putin allies, like Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, are coming out against it. You cannot make a case for what is happening.”