Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: The Dirt on FIFA and Syria President Bashar al-Assad
June 9, 2014 8:17 AM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

This week: Racehorse California Chrome fails to win the Triple Crown, a German lawmaker calls Anglea Merkel on their version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, China censors web searches on the Tiananmen Square massacre, a long segment on FIFA, the organization that runs the World Cup (13m) (bonus: remix of FIFA President Sepp Blatter falling off a stage [19s]), and ending with the history of Syrian Dictator and professional monster Bashar al-Assad. And in connection with that, surprise musical guests Right Said Fred (3m)! Extra: the Tony Abbott piece from last week's show (4m).
posted by JHarris (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I cannot believe that RSF thing happened. It was awesome, despite their oldness and the obvious fakeness of the guitar playing.

The FIFA bit was great too, a lot of the angst that I feel about the IOC seems to also be appopriate WRT FIFA. And 4,000 workers dead in Qatar? I had no idea it was going to be that bad.

posted by sparklemotion at 8:47 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

  • Racehorse California Chrome fails to win Triple Crown.
  • "Wer Wird Millionär" (the German version of "Who Wants to Be A Millionaire") contestant who happens to be a lawmaker calls Angela Merkel for his lifeline.
  • 70th Anniversary of D-Day.
  • China Censors Internet Searches of Mentions of Tiananmen Square Massacre.
  • Top story: The 2014 World Cup and the many shameful aspects of its organizing organization, FIFA.
  • "AND NOW: Chris Matthews Reminds Everyone Who He Used To Work For." (Tipp O'Neill)
  • Syria President, brutal unmoveable dictator, and, but for a quirk of fate, ophthalmologist Bashar al-Assad, his strange journey, and his unexpected musical tastes. Musical quest Right Said Fred.
Both the FIFA and Bashar al-Assad pieces are terrific and full of quotable moments. The whole FIFA piece and a fair chunk of the one on Assad are on YouTube (and linked in the post). Here are just a few:
  • "FIFA is a comically grotesque organization. Telling someone about FIFA for the first time is a bit like showing them 'Two Girls One Cup.' You do it mostly so that you can see the horrified expression on people's faces."
  • "Brazilians are excited about everything." (Shows footage of celebrating girls in very sparkly and revealing costumes shimmying on parade.) "Here is how Brazilians celebrate Lent. They are thrilled with the idea of giving up chocolate temporarily."
  • "If you think FIFA can't get any more cartoonishly evil, this is their actual boardroom." (Shows a picture.) "That's right. FIFA literally modeled the room in which they meet on the War Room from Dr. Strangelove."
  • On FIFA, supposedly a non-profit organization, having a billion dollars in reserves: "When your rainy-day fund is so big that you have to check it for swimming cartoon ducks, you might not be a non-profit anymore." (Note: the illustration to this isn't from DuckTales, as Americans might expect, but seems more likely to be based on the Donald Duck/Uncle Scrooge comics that inspired the show.)
  • "FIFA, the 'humble non-profit,' even recently spent 27 million dollars to fund (the motion picture) United Passions, a fictionalized version of their history, starring, for some reason, Tim Roth as Sepp Blatter." (Shows clip.) "Who makes a sports film where the heroes are the executives?!" And: "The greatest film about Sepp Blatter has already been made. It's ten seconds long, and it's on YouTube!" (A version of it was linked in the FPP.)
  • The 2022 FIFA World Cup will be held in Qatar. "There is between one and fifty reasons that is an awful idea." One: Qatar gets up to 50 degrees Celsius. (That's half the boiling point of water, BTW.) Two: working conditions, migrant workers in Qatar can't leave the country without an exit visa approved by his employer, and one such person dies per day on the average while working in Qatar. "[T]he Qatar World Cup is shaping up to be the deadliest Middle East construction project since this one." (Shows picture of the Pyramids.)
  • "And yet, (Syria President Bashar Hafez al-) Assad is still there. He's like herpes, or A Prairie Home Companion, at this point he's clearly never fucking going away."
  • "[W]hat is this super-villain's backstory?" (Playing clips from a CNN news report.) "Okay, a volleyball-playing, music-loving ophthalmologist was not what I was expecting." "He's half mass-murderer, half your creepy sophomore-year roommate."
  • From leaked emails, we've gotten wind of his iTunes playlist. That is to say, his iTunes purchases, from his Apple products. A favorite of his (which they got lots of mileage out of some time back on The Bugle): "Sexy And I Know It" by LMFAO! "Yes he's a monster, but he's also a moron, which is why it's so frustrating that we're powerless to do anything about him."
  • Another band on the list was British group Right Said Fred, which brought about an inspired idea: get Right Said Fred to come on the show and perform a special remix of Assad's loved song mocking him. The song, which could be titled "You Too Awful (For This Earth)" is linked in the FPP.

posted by JHarris at 9:13 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

John Oliver has already won my heart forever, but if he hadn't, he surely would have by taking a cheap shot at A Prairie Home Companion.

Adding one more to the incredible quote pile, "All dictators should know: approval in a rigged election should be like a spring day. High sixties. Low seventies."
posted by gladly at 12:40 PM on June 9, 2014 [5 favorites]

The first Bugle to cover Bashar al-Assad's music-listening habits (which became a running gag over the next several episodes) is likely 187: The President's Playlist.
posted by JHarris at 12:43 PM on June 9, 2014

gladly, I actually left that quote out only because I thought I had included too many already. The FIFA section is so great, so overflowing with wrongness, that I felt I had to quote so much of it.
posted by JHarris at 12:45 PM on June 9, 2014

God bless HBO for playing nice with YouTube on this show.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:22 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

No such thing as too many!

I'm very curious to know if LWT tried to get LMAFO first and failed, or if they went straight for Right Said Fred.
posted by gladly at 1:56 PM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I'd assume LMAFO was busy, because that'd be the best act to bring up.
posted by mathowie at 3:04 PM on June 9, 2014

I think the show is really starting to find its feet. He's got a great formula in talking only about 3-4 subjects for the whole show, gradually developing his argument, sprinkled with some (occasional juvenile) punchlines, and ending with genuine outrage, and all without seeming too hopeless and cynical. Hopefully, HBO hangs on to it.
posted by cacofonie at 3:41 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm glad it was Right Said Fred. The smile after the "you're an asshole" verse seemed really genuine, and they're out of the mainstream so don't have to worry about pulling any punches with the lyrics.
posted by Gary at 4:29 PM on June 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wouldn't doubt that LMFAO had been purposely overlooked by Oliver. They have said some hilariously mocking things about them on The Bugle.
posted by JHarris at 8:03 PM on June 9, 2014

The Right Said Fred thing... just... OMG... I'm dying. That was so perfect.
posted by dnash at 8:18 PM on June 9, 2014

I think LMFAO is on hiatus right now.
posted by Gymnopedist at 10:01 PM on June 9, 2014

This show is fabulous and is an excellent side benefit to my decision to just go ahead and pay for HBO this season of GoT.
posted by norm at 6:34 AM on June 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

The first Bugle to cover Bashar al-Assad's music-listening habits

The "beautiful language" German is also a frequent Bugle gag.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 8:06 AM on June 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was in stitches. He is excited about the World Cup like a 13-year-old girl would get excited about meeting Justin Beiber. And the music at the end was picture-perfect.
posted by Night_owl at 9:20 AM on June 10, 2014

I relistened to Bugle 187 yesterday while in the pizza mines, and it turns out that "I'm Too Sexy" isn't actually the song Assad bought on iTunes, but a different song by Right Said Fred, although one that's tons less recognizable. It probably wouldn't be as entertaining for viewers though, even if it using a different song does have less of an Assad-slight-annoyance factor.
posted by JHarris at 10:20 AM on June 10, 2014

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