Last time I checked, almost 14 million people had watched on YouTube the stunning takedown of Donald Trump from Sunday’s edition of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” That’s easily more than 20 times the number that watched Oliver’s brilliant show in its regular Sunday HBO time slot.
The show’s lacerating 22-minute report—which featured, among other bits of brilliance, Oliver comparing the leading candidate for the GOP presidential nomination to a likely cancerous “back mole” that America needed to excise before the whole country goes down the drain—has already been seen by more than three times the audience that usually catches up with Oliver on YouTube and other digital platforms on a weekly basis.
Up until last Sunday, Oliver has eschewed taking aim at The Donald, resisting the Trump ratings crack that has had cable news on the glass pipe for months—and that has made the candidate, especially after Super Tuesday, the odds-on favorite for the Republican nomination.
Clearly, Trump is a master media virtuoso, who has played the 24/7, bottom-line-driven, multichannel, multiplatform universe to stunning political advantage. With the GOP nomination within his tiny-fingered (Oliver’s words) grasp even before Super Tuesday, the HBO host obviously had had all he could stand. So, in a frighteningly funny manner, he presented a devastating investigative report, noting Trump’s bankruptcies, diuretic untruthiness, anti-immigrant rants and dog-whistle signals to David Duke and other racists that he felt their discriminatory pain.
Noting that Trump could be truly funny and entertaining in his takedowns of Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and others who would cross him, Oliver deftly used humor to fight humor.
Confirming that Trump had a regal name, Oliver suggested that the way to undercut The Donald’s brand was a campaign to get him to change that name back to its German origins: Drumpf. “Let’s make Donald Drumpf again,” he proclaimed, and even launched the website DonaldJDrumpf.com, pitching signature red baseball caps with the slogan #MakeDonaldDrumpfagain emblazoned on them. Meanwhile, #letsmakedonalddrumpfagain made a gleefully enormous amount of noise on Twitter.
Many in the media punditocracy have decried the fact that satirists and investigative journalists have not done nearly enough to derail Trump’s White House run. Insightful media savant Michael Hirschorn took to Facebook and speculated that if Jon Stewart hadn’t taken early retirement from “The Daily Show” with Steven Colbert also departing from the Comedy Central fold to swim in the mainstream of CBS' “Late Show,” maybe they would have used their collective chops to expose the would-be Emperor Trump.
While I miss Stewart and Colbert in their former roles, I’m not sure they would have stopped this “Washington Apprentice” reality show from becoming a massive hit. Certainly, the one-two of Stewart/Colbert did pack a mighty satiric punch that is greatly missed from the conversation, although Colbert does still land a blow for freedom now and then. Still, a lot of what they did and Colbert still does is preach to an amen chorus.
I’d argue that their British brother-in-arms Oliver has taken searing political satire to even higher, more insightful heights, thanks to his preference and his platform. He’s also better at playing the viral multiplatform game—something Beltway politicians might want to keep in mind if they too wish to derail the Trump bandwagon.
But even with all those YouTube views, and numbers increasing daily, I don’t know if there’s a multimedia mugging that can derail Donald Drumpf from grabbing the GOP nomination—especially after watching him keep his bravado and tack to the middle in his Super Tuesday victory speech/press conference. Still, I will keep watching Oliver and his multiplatform stats, and hope for more investigative, funny truthiness to come. That mole is only gonna get bigger.