John Oliver on Puerto Rican Debt Crisis


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By Joe Messina

With Last Week Tonight on HBO, John Oliver has taken his combination of political talk, news, and comedy to another level. It’s hard to imagine a comedian spending an entire half hour of television discussing one relatively unsexy political issue. And he manages to simultaneously inform people and be genuinely funny throughout.

Yesterday, Oliver focused on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. He welcomed Lin-Manuel Miranda, Puerto Rican native and creator and star of the Broadway phenomena In The Heights and Hamilton to discuss the issue, but Oliver started the segment by making fun of a hokey circa 1950s Puerto Rican tourism video.

Over footage of a “coconut mask festival,” which is exactly what it sounds like, the narrator gleefully told viewers that the festival takes place just 45 minutes from Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan. As the camera focused in on a woman in an especially strange and elaborate mask, the narrator asked, “How would you like to see this the morning after?” followed by a stilted laugh.

“Wait…did that 1950s narrator just make a sex joke?” Oliver asked. Imitating the narrator’s affectation, he added, “Why, if you’ve got the moxie, you can fuck every crazy masked stranger on the island. Ha ha ha ha ha!”

Getting back to the debt crisis, Peurto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla explained that the commonwealth’s debt has become unpayable. The island’s poverty rate has reached 45% and the government has increased sales tax from 7% to 11%.

Miranda recently appeared before Congress to plead for them to step in, even half-jokingly offering them Hamilton tickets in exchange for their help.

“That is incredible, because I’m amazed even he can get tickets,” Oliver said.

There is far too much to this crisis for me to explain it all here, but I hope I’ve convinced you to watch Oliver do so.

Watch the whole clip below.


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