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John Oliver and the rise of investigative comedy

It speaks volumes about the current state of journalism in the United States that it takes a 38-year old British comedian to draw attention to topics much of the mainstream media has chosen to ignore, using investigative reporting methods many of these organisations have long abandoned.

Take Donald Trump. A lot has been written and aired about the bombastic billionaire Republican presidential candidate. But when John Oliver – the host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight – turned his fire on Trump Sunday, he touched a nerve that even other presidential contenders had failed to. After trashing Trump’s business record and denouncing the property magnate turned reality TV star as a “serial liar,” Oliver launched a campaign for the Donald to be referred to by his ancestral German name ‘Drumpf.’ By March 2, the #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgain campaign was trending on Twitter and the episode had been viewed by more than 50 million people on YouTube.

This is the kind of crowd-pleasing trouble-making that has helped make Oliver one of the hottest tickets on American TV. Since April 2014, the British stand-up has used his satirical show to deal with some of the thorniest issues on the planet. Among the topics tackled: Net neutrality, the rise of Islamic State, Europe’s refugee crisis and corruption at the governing body of world football FIFA. Along the way he has interviewed luminaries and heavyweights such as whistleblower Edward Snowden and scientist Stephen Hawking. Read More