Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

John Oliver enlists Bill Nye to rebut bad faith arguments about the Green New Deal

Bill Nye, John Oliver
Bill Nye, John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Last Week Tonight started late on Sunday because of some sort of dragon incident, and, according to Oliver, was desperate to keep viewers’ interest so that people wouldn’t switch off before the Game Of Thrones rerun so that they could see “what garbage from craft services they’ve hidden as an Easter egg this week.” It was especially tricky since Oliver, as is his wont, set out to make a depressing, infuriating, seemingly intractable problem both enlightening and funny enough to keep even rabid (greyscaled?) Game Of Thrones enthusiasts from simply turning off the TV and curling up under the covers in a fetal position.

This week it was especially tough, as Oliver took on climate change, an existential threat so dire and pants-dampening that even staunch conservative and planet-despoiler Mitch McConnell (R-WV) publicly admitted that humans cause it a few weeks ago. And, sure, Oliver notes that the Senate Majority Leader finally coming around to what’s been the overwhelming scientific consensus for decades at this point is akin to him making a presentation about how ALF is just a little guy in a puppet-suit, it’s indicative of the irrefutable fact that human-caused climate change is going to threaten even rich white people’s beach homes in the not-too-distant future.

Not that you’ll learn anything like real talk from the “idiots” at Fox News, according to Oliver, whose bad-faith attacks of current GOP boogeyperson Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez essentially boil down to alternating hacky jokes about cow farts with occasional, red-faced shrieks of “Socialism!” Oliver went all-in on Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal proposal, not shying away from AOC’s suspect initial messaging (which inadvertently gave Fox pundits that hilarious cow fart material), but still pointing out how the proposal isn’t a comprehensive plan, but a wake-up call to those (like Joe Biden) who seem to think there’s some sort of “middle ground” in combating the extinction-level, self-inflicted catastrophe barreling down upon the Earth.

Enter Bill Nye, whose career “of explaining complex ideas with fun visual stunts” Oliver counted on to teach the attention-challenged viewers of HBO’s America about climate change. Nye, unfortunately for Oliver, wasn’t playing, instead somberly laying out the ways in which all the faffing around and outright cynically suicidal rapaciousness of the U.S. government is going to well and truly kill us all. (Nye did whip out some Mentos and Diet Coke action, but mainly just to keep the delighted Oliver happy.) Ultimately, Nye and Oliver broke down how the institution of the dreaded “carbon tax” on corporate polluters (which recently passed in Canada despite their conservatives seizing on the word “tax” like they’d just found a Salem spinster with a suspicious wart) as one major (but by no means solitary) way in which one of the Green New Deal’s proposals could actually make a difference for those who’d like their kids to breathe actual, non-bottled oxygen.


With one last exhausted sigh, Nye reappeared with a globe, a blowtorch, and a trio of fire-extinguishing methods. While the world literally burned beside him, Nye pointed to the solutions at hand, explaining, The planet’s on fucking fire,” and telling Oliver’s viewers “Nothing’s free you idiots—grow the fuck up.” As Oliver noted after Nye stormed off (with the malediction, “Safety glasses off, motherfuckers.”), “I think we’ve all broken Bill Nye.”

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.

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