John Oliver’s Sunday night rant took on the prison system and the racist drug war last night, and he managed to both prick the conscience and be hilarious at the same time, which has pretty much become the HBO comedian’s brand.
He first informed the audience with alarming factoids like: “Two million people are in jail in America. That’s more than in China. China! We don’t have anything more than China! Except, possibly, debt to China.”
Then there are the facts that the prison population has increased eight-fold since the 1970s, half of all people in federal prison are there on drug charges, and blacks are sent to prison for drugs at about ten times the rate of whites. “The War on Drugs,” says Oliver, “seems a little bit Draconian and a lot racist.”
That’s putting it mildly.
There is even a Sesame Street song explaining prison now. That’s how common it is, and how prevalent it is in the lives of children. But at least that show is trying to take on the subject in a serious way, Oliver says. No one else seems to care. The rest of popular culture just seems to think that jokes about prison rape are the funniest things ever.
The rant is hilarious, troubling and ends with a little Sesame Street song of Oliver’s own design.