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

John Oliver knows facts won't sway the unvaccinated, but he tries anyway, bless him

John Oliver and friend
John Oliver and friend
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight

John Oliver is known for a lot of things. Self-deprecatingly sharing unflattering pictures of his younger self that person’s hairdo choices. Spending “business daddy” HBO’s Last Week Tonight budget on elaborately weird mascots. Voicing chatterbox animated creatures, because a guy’s got to eat. But Oliver should really have a patent at this point on the word, “Okay,” specifically when followed with an ellipsis and pronounced with the weary but ready-t0-snap exasperation of a retail clerk having to explain to their one-hundredth customer of the day why, yes, the store’s clearly posted mask policy applies to him or her, too.

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“Okay ...,” made its appearance only once during Oliver’s main story on Sunday concerning those people in this county that are still choosing not to take the COVID vaccines. And that one only came after a montage of anti-vaxxer clips from Fox News “frozen dinner duke with a TV show,” Tucker Carlson, so that hardly even counts. As Oliver, in his signature measured, thoughtful, and invective-peppered manner, ran through all of the ways that Carlson’s smirking bullshit was, in fact, smirking, potentially deadly bullshit, the host wrapped up his report by noting, helpfully, “I hope that answers at least one of your gape-mouthed bad-faith wonderings Tucker, you scrunch-faced fear baboon.” Look, sometimes an “Okay ...” just won’t cut it.

And while it’s fun to whack away at disinformation piñatas like Carlson, self-confessedfucking moron,” Joe Rogan, and “The Human Football’s Neon Scream Hour” (Alex Jones’ show), Oliver conceded wearily that nothing he says, no matter how well-reasoned, backed by pesky facts, or emblazoned on the tiny tank top of an HBO-subsidized giant cicada mascot costume is going to sway the truly dispiriting number of vaccine doubters out there. For one thing, as Oliver notes, vaccine skeptics aren’t the sort who are going to sit through a sardonic Brit’s comedy bit about why their willful ignorance is actively prolonging our national nightmare and literally killing people. The clip Oliver plays of the guy who won’t get vaccinated as he visits his intubated, COVID-afflicted (and unvaccinated) mom in the ICU pretty much sums that up. What Oliver did do was give all of his viewers the homework of watching his science-backed, researched, vetted, and peer-reviewed facts about the safety and efficacy of the COVID vaccines (a shocking number of which are sitting unused as demand declines all over the country), and do the in-person convincing to vaccine-hesitant loved ones themselves.

After all, who’s going to listen to some British comedian scold those spinning conspiracy theories about Bill Gates putting microchips into each dose of the various COVID vaccines. Or debunking serial shooting victim-harasser Alex Jones’ vein-throbbing rants that everyone who takes the vaccines will 100 percent be dead in ten years. Or Tucker Carlson deliberately misrepresenting every single aspect of the vaccination program in order to “spread bullshit around during a global pandemic” in a quest for ratings and to feed the roiling, ravenous pit of self-loathing and squealing inadequacy that long ago swallowed his soul? (Just speculating on that last part.) But, as Oliver notes, referring viewers with recalcitrant relatives to the facts he’d presented so assiduously (although with plenty of time for as aside about how nice it would be to live as an egg) presented, those people might just be willing to listen to concerned family members and friends urging them to just get one or two tiny (free, life-saving) little shots for their sakes. Or, hey, blackmailing them by withholding Fox News and Facebook-addicted relatives from ever seeing their adorable grandkids again until they turn off the Tucker Carlson spigot and get vaccinated. These are just ideas.

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