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John Oliver gloriously demonstrates why rich assholes really shouldn’t sue John Oliver

John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

Suing a guy with an Emmy-winning late-night show whose only mission is making unholy sport of venal, duplicitous, rich old jerks is, well, something you do if you’re Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray. You remember Bob Murray—the owner of the largest privately owned coal company in the country, pal of Donald Trump, and guy routinely sued, himself, for unfair and unsafe work practices? No? Well, perhaps Mr. Nutterbutter will refresh your memory, the 7-foot-tall squirrel mascot Last Week Tonight created to first mock Murray back in 2017, via an in-depth exposé about Murray’s infamous litigiousness toward his critics, and a novelty check reading “Eat Shit Bob.”

Or if not that, then perhaps the predictable and drawn-out ensuing legal battle where Murray described his hurt feelings at being called “a geriatric Dr. Evil” and, on Fox Business, accused critics of his penurious disregard for worker safety as being “very evil.” (See, the whole “evil” thing is a dead giveaway, Bob.) Or maybe you heard how Murray’s suit—characterized by Oliver in his extended and glorious clapback on Sunday’s show as a so-called SLAPP suit, used by rich wrongdoers everywhere to intimidate citizens, activists, and news outlets—was eventually thrown out of the West Virginia Supreme Court after Murray’s plutocratic bullying was opposed by, among others, an uncharacteristically catty ACLU.

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Well, thank goodness that’s over and Oliver and HBO can just forget all about Bob Murray and Murray Energy’s long and documented history of both critic-stifling nuisance lawsuits and rapaciously irresponsible business practices. Naw, just fucking with you. Oliver first went in-depth into how the failure of Murray’s “bullshit effort to silence us” still wound up costing the show and HBO a lot of money (including a tripling of their libel insurance, even though they won their case), and how other people who’ve criticized Murray and other corporate polluters (individual protestors, small-town newspapers, citizen Facebook groups objecting to a company called Arrowhead Landfill dumping toxic ash in their community) haven’t had teams of corporate attorneys on their side. Showing clips of Murray buddy Donald Trump touting his plan to “loosen up the libel laws” so that he can more successfully file $5 billion lawsuits against an author who dared claim that Donald Trump is not a billionaire, Oliver explained how some 30 states have laws banning such SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) tactics by rich and powerful individuals and entities. (Though not West Virginia, where neither Oliver, HBO, nor Bob Murray reside.) And how those SLAPP suits are employed solely to cow us poor peons and our piddling free press from objecting to the Mr. Burns-esque evil that they do.

Still, having been forced to go through Bob Murray’s ultimately abandoned, time-and-money-sucking SLAPP-fest has certainly chastened Oliver and Last Week Tonight. Psych. Again, c’mon—what show have you been watching?

Noting how Murray’s habit of swamping critics with frivolous lawsuits has, for example, seen virtually no coverage of the two lawsuits against Murray for workplace sexual harassment and misconduct (including one incident allegedly involving one of his passed kidney stones, because if you’re going to be evil, you might as well pull some out of your dick), Oliver explained to his viewers that both he and HBO legal are getting so worn out by the whole drawn-out ordeal that he’s decided just to not talk about Bob Murray any more. Of course, that doesn’t mean he can’t sing about it—or, rather, sing, dance, wheel out a quartet of Mr. Nutterbutters, Broadway star Brian D’Arcy James, a full chorus line, and glorious animated Times Square fireworks spelling out “Eat Shit Bob” in the New York sky. Musically noting how, in dismissing Murray’s case, the judge restated that over-the-top jokes about, say, a lawsuit-happy coal company CEO masturbating to Schindler’s List, killing Jeffrey Epstein, being the Zodiac killer, and doing unspeakable things to tourists at the M&M store are protected speech, Oliver and his musical theater troupe happily and literally flipped off Oliver’s tormentor, culminating in the lyrical promise, “See you in court, fuckface!”

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Dennis Perkins

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