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John Oliver & Stephen Colbert on Russia, Evolution of “Stupid Watergate”: “We’re Turbo-F***ed”

Last Week Tonight is currently on hiatus, which is a huge bummer because there’s so much to tackle this week and it’s always a delight to see an uncensored John Oliver take on the absurdity and danger of the political climate today.

Fortunately, John Oliver, who’s currently “working but without doing a show,” went on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to talk about Russia, getting sued, and the Donald Trump Jr. incident. After Don Jr. tweeted out what appeared to be a self-incriminating email chain, reactions ranged from outrage to a kind of dumb-founded shock, because did he really just do that? 

Oliver, who had an entire episode around the Russia investigation a while back, described his first reaction as “Wow.”

“We came up with this framing device for it: ‘Stupid Watergate.’ The idea that it’s something with all the gravitas of Watergate but where everyone involved is stupid and bad at everything.” While Oliver says that the phrase was meant to be a self-contained joke, “current events are making it more relevant which is usually not how jokes work.”

However, there is a kind of uncanny, surrealist feeling to the entire situation. The Last Week Tonight host’s second reaction, was “Well this is something…as long as we live in a world where something means anything. And I’m not sure we do anymore. It seems serious but do we live in a world devoid of consequences now? I forget where we are in human history. That’s the kind of mind-blowing part.”

The sentiment feels like a testament to how low the standard has fallen. The bar is so low, we can’t even slip a Trump University degree under it. It feels like every few weeks (or days, or hours), some kind of scandalous statement, revelation, or completely frightening story comes out that we think will be the tipping point, and yet it never does. It seems like any legitimate criticism gets deflected somehow as fake news, a smear campaign, or get twisted around into becoming some grotesque positive from Trump’s supporters. Yes, these emails means something, but do words even mean anything anymore? Colbert shares the sentiment, observing how certain issues have always been polarizing, but “have we come to a nation where colluding with a hostile foreign power to manipulate our election is a left-right thing?”

“But the very fact you said that sentence out loud shows that we’re turbo-f***ed,” Oliver responds. Yeah, kinda.

They also bonded over getting suedColbert was the first on The Daily Show to ever get sued and Oliver more recently got in trouble for a segment on coal. Colbert won his case, and Oliver accidentally let it slip that he plans to do the same, rather than settling.

The two hosts also talked about their experiences in Russia, Oliver from when he interviewed Edward Snowden in 2015 and Colbert more recently, and what sounds like a terrifying experience of being surrounded by John Wick extras. You have to listen to Oliver talking about drills and guys coming into their rooms to truly believe it.

Oliver concludes the Russia conversation with this plea for comfort:

“It’s certainly not something that a rational person would think ‘I know what we should do, get in a cyber-security relationship with this country, our ally.” Hypothetically, but that would never happen. No one would ever suggest that, something that incomprehensibly stupid. We can’t live in that world right? Tell me we don’t. Please tell me.”

Yes, I would also like reassurance that we live in a world with meaning and consequences please. Please? Anyone?

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