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John Oliver’s New Take on the News-Comedy Genre

John OliverVariety examines how HBO’s “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” fits into the news-comedy landscape, concluding that Oliver’s show is “shaking up the genre anew, providing a sort of investigative journalism that is not seen in any of the other comedy-news hybrids on the air”:

In recent weeks, Oliver has presented a segment lasting than 13 minutes on the “net neutrality” debate and one of more than 16 minutes about the troubles of dietary supplements pitched by luminaries such as Dr. Oz. He eviscerated FIFA, the governing body behind the World Cup, in a bit lasting 13 minutes and 14 seconds, according to a video posting from HBO on YouTube.

How different are Oliver’s content pieces? The typical segment on the often hard-hitting “60 Minutes” typically comes in between 11 minutes and 13 minutes, according to a spokesman for the CBS newsmagazine. Producers at “Last Week Tonight,” declined through an HBO spokeswoman to comment.

“I see Oliver as the next logical extension of the genre,” said Dannagal Young, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware who studies the use of political satire. Oliver, she said, “is going beyond traditional satire to give audience members specific directives that allow them to take action on the issues he deconstructs on the show.”

At the TVNewser Show in April, Fox News’ Bret Baier praised Oliver for his coverage of the elections in India: “After I saw that, I said ‘we are dropping the ball on that coverage.’ And it’s something that people, I think, need to know about, just for the betterment of us,” he said.

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