Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: US Influence on Homosexual Persecution in Uganda
June 30, 2014 7:42 AM - Season 1, Episode 9 - Subscribe

This week: Luis Suarez bites another player in the World Cup for the third time. Snakes and bees drive the terrorist organization Boko Haram out of the Nigerian forest. Obama requests $500M in aid for moderate Syrian rebels. US Supreme Court decides Hobby Lobby case. Politicians misuse the word "literally." Ugandan persecution of homosexuals intensified due to influence by American evangelical groups. Interview with Ugandan transgender activist Pepe Julian Onziema. Part 2 (web exclusive).
posted by JHarris (15 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
This show needs to be an hour long. I sincerely hope Comedy Central picks it up after Colbert leaves so we can get 2 hours a week out of Oliver. (Though the freedom to mock corporations the show currently has may suffer.)
posted by Catblack at 9:27 AM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oliver has stated in an interview (the one on Fresh Air) that he greatly enjoys the freedom of not being beholden to advertisers, so that seems unlikely. Also, Comedy Central has already picked a replacement for Colbert in the form of Larry Wilmore. It remains to be seen if he can pull it off, he's not been one of the more prolific Daily Show correspondents. Being an hour long would be interesting but would greatly increase the show's workload, and he's already had to put The Bugle on hiatus until September because of it.
posted by JHarris at 10:12 AM on June 30, 2014

The recap:

In the news
Luis Suarez bites another player in the World Cup for the third time. Snakes and bees drive the terrorist organization Boko Haram out of the Nigerian forest. Obama requests $500M in aid for moderate Syrian rebels. The Last Week Tonight made a commercial to aid in the search for "appropriate vetted Syrian rebels who are not terrorists."

Supreme Court to decide Hobby Lobby case, determining if for-profit corporations have religious rights. (Update: Supreme Court finds in Hobby Lobby's favor [MeFi], although, as usual for the Court, the devil's in the details.) The government is also being sued by Mennonites in charge of Conestoga Wood Specialties, or as Oliver refers to them, the "Diet Amish."

And Now
Politicians literally misusing the word "Literally."

Top story
In response to a clip noting that 19 states plus the District of Colombia have ruled to allow gay marriage: "That's right, we are nearly halfway to full nation-wide marriage equality. Which means it's about to become a question of which state is going to be last. Who could it possibly be Mississippi? We don't know. We don't know Mississippi. It could be anyone Mississippi."

Unfortunately, while this is a positive thing for the United States (and brings on a brief bit of celebration with a sign reading "AMERICA DID IT," a big cake, cheerleaders and a "rock and roll George Washington"), the new United Nations General Assembly President, Uganda's Sam Kutesa, an act that was protested because of Uganda's harsh anti-gay laws. Oliver: "Calling Uganda's laws harsh doesn't really do them justice. That's like calling Josef Stalin 'a bit of a grump.'" "So, the moral arc of the universe is long, and and it bends away from Uganda. It's like people from the Dark Ages could build a time machine, get into it, travel to 2014 Uganda, step outside, and say, 'Oh shit, it didn't work.'"

"Now you might wonder, how can the UN allow a representative of the Ugandan government, which has also been accused of corruption and the brutal suppression of dissent, to be in charge of their general assembly?" Well, UN Presidents are chosen based on geographical rotation, and the African nations had already decided to present him as their candidate. (WARNING: PONY REFERENCE HERE. You get to hear John Oliver say the words "Princess Twilight Sparkle.") You might take the fact that 81 countries still outlaw homosexual behavior. But still! The US is breaking out of it! Here's the AMERICA DID IT sign again! Bring out the breakdancing Lincoln! USA! USA!

Although... Uganda's anti-homosexuality laws date back to the British colonial days. Awkward....

And persecution of homosexuals shot up due to the actions of a small group of American evangelicals. Oliver (quietly): "So, what you're saying is... America did this." (Uh-oh, there's that AMERICA DID IT sign, a Statue of Liberty is popping out... Oliver: "Get back in that cake! All of you, get out of here and think about what you've done! Shame on you!")

The bill was promoted in Uganda due to the actions of one Scott Lively, who is also running for Governor of Massachusetts, and trying to reclaim the symbol of the rainbow from gayness with the song "The Rainbow Belongs to God." Oliver plays a hilarious clip from its video. "I have a feeling that if Kermit ever heard that song, he would immediately insist on one fewer songs about rainbows." (I attempted to find the video on YouTube but it appears to have been marked private. Here is the post on Lively's blog introducing it.)

Scott Lively is pretty funny -- indeed, a clip of him speaking to a crowd of young people has them laughing at him -- but he's less funny when he goes to Uganda and is treated as a great man. Just one quote from Lively: "How dare you say that homosexuality and pedophilia are equated? Well, they are equated." He also calls lesbians molesters and compares gays to Nazis.

One of the most prominent anti-gay preachers in Uganda is Martin Ssempa. Here's a quote, spoken while he shows slides to his congregation: "Do you know what they're doing in the bedroom? I did research and I gathered their information. (Shows slides.) Now, they start off by touching each other's genitals and smelling each other." Oliver: "I've gotta say, for an anti-gay pastor, that man clearly had very quick access to a lot of fetish porn." Ssempa is funded both by American Christian groups and by the US Government, to the tune of $40K, for providing abstinence-based birth control education.

Oliver "But if you want a single sound bite that sums up the depressing scale of American cultural influence on Ugandan homophobia, it is this." The following clip presents an Ugandan woman saying: "In the beginning it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve." Oliver: "That's not a Ugandan saying. Let me give you three names that are not especially common in Africa: Adam, Eve, and Steve."

But there is a glimmer of hope. Clips are shown of a particularly rancorous interview between an anti-gay talk show host and Ssempa, against Pepe Julian Onziema, a soft-spoken transgender activist. The first question asked: "Why are you gay?" Throughout an hour-long trial by fire, Ssempa and the host grill Onziema about supposedly recruiting young people into his "system," and bring out vegetables and accusing him directly (Ssempa shaking them in his face) of doing lurid things with them. Amazingly, Onziema keeps his cool and remains reasonable, even amused, throughout. Oliver: "Pepe Onziema is the Gandhi of Uganda! He is: Ugandhi!"

And Oliver brings him on the show, that is, Last Week Tonight! Oliver: "Pepe! Thank you so, so much for being here. I guess my first question has to be... why are you gay?" Of course, he's kidding. Here is the interview, and here's a web exclusive second part, on YouTube.
posted by JHarris at 10:26 AM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Great show, the interview was great. I wasn't expecting Pepe Onziema at all, total surprise for me.
posted by Pendragon at 12:28 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

>already picked a replacement for Colbert in the form of Larry Wilmore.

You'll have to read this in Larry Wilmore's voice but: Seriously? Larry. Wilmore?
posted by Catblack at 12:47 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

and here's a web exclusive second part

Thanks for posting, I wouldn't have seen it otherwise.

John Oliver's offer of assistance via drone are so charmingly maniacal.
posted by warm_planet at 3:51 PM on June 30, 2014

I loved that he politely asked if he could drink some water. What a monster. (How nice are the Last Week Tonight mugs, by the way...I'll have to see if the HBO Store has them yet)

It was super weird that that Ugandan ambush interview show was called "Morning Breeze". Sounds more a soap fragrance than a program where they attack gay people.
posted by inturnaround at 7:27 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ok so seriously anyone have any clues on how to get his glasses (Onziema, not Oliver)? They are awesome and I want them.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:07 AM on July 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

According to interviews I've read, as part of their approach HBO indicated they were willing to up it to an hour once he "got on his feet" and into the swing of things. He's also said the amount of creative freedom he has is somewhat daunting. After seeing this episode, I very much believe it.
posted by absalom at 12:47 PM on July 2, 2014

Also: I am thrilled that Larry Wilmore is getting the nod for the post-TDS timeslot. He's one of my favorite Daily Show correspondents and am interested in seeing what he does with a greater voice.
posted by absalom at 12:50 PM on July 2, 2014

"The Rainbow Belongs to God" on Vimeo. It's even better than I thought it would be.
posted by mr. manager at 12:32 PM on July 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oooooh. (starts casting eyes about for people to inflict this on)
posted by JHarris at 2:00 PM on July 3, 2014

Larry Wilmore's never really impressed me. Call me when they give Jessica Williams her own show.
posted by Zozo at 8:46 AM on July 4, 2014

A reminder to everyone -- Last Week Tonight is off this week.
posted by JHarris at 1:47 AM on July 7, 2014

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