A lot’s happened since the writers strike first kicked off five months ago. Succession was still on, for one. But professional news quipper John Oliver didn’t get to talk about any of it, and now he wants audiences—and, more importantly, studio execs—to know that he’s “furious” about being so late to the punch.
Oliver opened Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight—the show’s first since the writers strike officially concluded September 26—by making up for lost time. In a wide-ranging and rapid-fire recap, Oliver covered just some of the biggest headlines from the almost half-year hiatus, including Trump’s mugshot (“He looks like he’s struggling to find Waldo on a crowded ski slope.”), Lauren Boebert’s Beetlejuice exploits, the coronation of King Charles (“the world’s oldest boy”), the Maui wildfires, Reddit’s meme-y use of Oliver’s face in their own protest (“To their credit, they used some pretty good ones.”), the cop slide (“cinema at its finest”), the Titan submersible (“Yeah, we missed that too! That was a weird few days.”) and more.
With one last dig at Fall Out Boy’s ill-advised cover of “We Didn’t Start The Fire” (“What else do you have to say? Nothing, Fall Out Boy!”), Oliver got serious. “I’d have loved to have covered all of these stories back when they originally happened. I wish so much that I could have told you these jokes at the time, but I couldn’t,” he said, before continuing:
Our writers, the people who wrote those jokes, were forced to strike for a fair contract for the last five months. And it was an immensely difficult time, not just for them but for everyone else working on this show and many others who could no longer do their jobs. And to be clear, this strike happened for good reasons. Our industry has seen its work severely squeezed in recent years. You’ve probably seen stories about writers and actors whose work you may even recognize, routinely not making enough to qualify for health insurance or afford basic needs, so the Writers Guild went on strike and thankfully won.
“But it took a lot of sacrifices from a lot of people to achieve that,” he went on. “And while I’m happy that they eventually got a fair deal and immensely proud of what our union accomplished, I’m also furious that it took the studios 148 days to achieve a deal that they could have offered on day fucking one.”
Still, Oliver hopes the strike encourages other industries, from baristas to auto workers to healthcare providers, to “find power in each other” and “take what the writers achieved and leverage it to win fair contracts for themselves too.” And, in case you were worried, the studios did at least allow the strike to end in time for Oliver to comment on one of the most sacred American traditions of all: Fat Bear Week. Thank god for that.