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Last Week Tonight enlists America's most beloved senior citizens to protect against scammers, hippos

John Oliver
Screenshot: Last Week Tonight With John Oliver

John Oliver spent the bulk of his main story on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight hipping us all to yet another thoroughly, soul-crushingly unjust thing we didn’t realize was so hopelessly screwed up until he decided to tell us about it. This week, it was the almost entirely unregulated, scam-happy wonderland called guardianship. That’s when a judge decides an elderly person can no longer take care of him or herself and assigns a state-appointed guardian to take over that person’s financial and personal affairs. And if you think that sounds like an industry that should have at least as stringent an oversight process as, say, opening up a food truck or running a dog washing business, you are not wrong.

In one particularly egregious case, a guardian named April Parks was shown to have fleeced the over 100 senior citizens under her care for, among other things, some hundred dollar stretch pants, all while billing the state for more hours than there actually are in a day, and then ditching the cremated remains of her deceased wards in a storage unit. As one critic of the broken system put it, people placed under guardianship “lose more rights than somebody who goes to prison,” a chilling appraisal since Oliver notes that only 12 states have any certification process for guardians, there are no federal guidelines, and the local, elected judges in charge of determining whether your grandmother is placed in the hands of a thieving monster often have little understanding of the issue.


Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself from being thrown upon the mercy of Ben Stiller’s character from Happy Gilmore. Oliver noted that speaking to your family in advance and setting up a durable power of attorney are solid steps toward golden years security. But he also brought in some of America’s oldest, funniest, crotchetiest celebrities to hammer the point home. William Shatner, Rita Moreno, Fred Willard, Lily Tomlin, and Cloris Leachman all appeared in a filmed piece to end the show, peppering in some genuine advice to their AARP card-holding peers alongside some comic old-person digressions. Like about the startling number of deaths from hippo attack every single year, just one of the many unforeseen dangers lurking out there that might send your incapacitated, aged self into the hands of an unscrupulous guardian. With an accumulated wisdom of well over 400 years, the feisty actors all chimed in on the need to safeguard your finances—and your physical well-being. Listen to Cloris Leachman, people—hippos are fucking killing machines. Oh, and talk to a lawyer.

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Dennis Perkins

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