On Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, John Oliver expertly examined the shoddy, hastily chosen things that work within to transform everything around them into a rotten, oozing, painful, potentially life-threatening nightmare. And he did that in his opening segment, running down the week in Donald Trump and the Republican Party. But then Oliver moved on to his main story about the shockingly lax manner in which medical implant manufacturers are allowed to shove any old hare-brained, cobbled-together nonsense right inside people’s bodies. As warning, Oliver told his audience he was going to use a safe word (“Opossum!”) before delving into the most Cronenbergian of body horrors, a courtesy, once again, any deliverer of Donald Trump news stories should employ in deference to viewers with weak stomachs for pus, sandpapered genitals, or the insidious yet sledgehammer-brutal dismantling of American democracy.
But, just in case even a second-hand description of almost completely unregulated medical implants doing horrible things to people’s flesh makes you want to heave—Opossum! Hip implants (manufactured by DePuy Synthes) whose metal-on-metal wear-and-tear turned patients’ surrounding flesh into something akin to “black cheese” soaked in used motor oil. A popular birth control implant (Essure, by Bayer), whose side effects (internal bleeding, perforated organs, um, death) led to it being pulled from the market—after thousands of women got hurt. And don’t get Oliver started on the vaginal mesh industry that’s being sued by every personal injury lawyer who can afford to buy ads on Lifetime for, well, the word “cheese grater” led Oliver to cry “Opossum!” even though the ensuing testimonials had only descriptions, not pictures.
Luckily, Oliver has a deep bench of famous guests to help call attention to bogus, irresponsible bullshit. And if you heard the words “vaginal mesh” in the above story and thought of one particular 30 Rock character responding, “Nice try, prolapse!,” then Oliver was way ahead of you. With the former and always Jenna Maroney aping those class action lawsuit TV ads by calling on unsuspecting consumers to “Listen the fuck up!,” Jane Krakowski gave the sort of enthusiastic call for stricter FDA oversight and public awareness that Jenna might have been forced to make as some sort of court-mandated community service. As Oliver noted that, currently, many manufacturers are left to their own devices to test the efficacy and safety of their implanted time-bombs, Krakowski compared the many, often ill-conceived implants out there to the various screen Batmans. “Some are great,” Krakowski cautioned, “but new ones aren’t necessarily better. And there are definitely a few you don’t want to let inside your body.”