On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver (new episodes weekly on Crave), the British comedian changed up the typical format of his show, sticking with one main theme throughout the half hour. In this case, it was public shaming, with the Emmy winner looking at the good and bad of the increase of trial by internet. Focusing on a handful of examples, including the recent Varsity Blues scandal and the 1995 affair between President Bill Clinton and intern Monica Lewinsky, Oliver explored how we as a public determine when it’s okay to publicly shame a person. In the case of Lewinsky, the then 22-year-old felt the wrath of the world in her public shaming, with much of the venom directed towards her coming from late-night hosts. The most relentless of the bunch was Jay Leno, to whom Oliver delivered a message on Sunday night. “Go f— yourself, Jay Leno!”
Oliver’s shout out on Sunday night was partly fueled by Leno’s latest comments. Appearing on on March 13, Leno said he hoped to see “…a bit of civility come back” to late night TV. “I did it when Clinton was horny and Bush was dumb,” said Leno.
So, now that the US has a brilliant president, things should be civil? What year does Jay Leno think it is right now?
Oliver, who admitted that he too had helped write jokes aimed at Lewinsky, said, “Many comedians have since expressed regret about things they have said about her, although one who hasn’t – and was among the most relentless – was Jay Leno.”
Playing a montage of just some of the jokes Leno fired at Lewinsky as the scandal was unfolding (they are beyond disgusting), Oliver refused to be part of the unspoken brotherhood of late-night hosts sticking together, instead calling Leno out. Way out.
“Those jokes have not dated well in any sense of the word and they’re pretty rough, especially coming from a guy who just this week complained about late-night TV, saying that he’d like to see ‘a bit of civility come back,’” said Oliver. “You know, like that time that he did a bit with a fake book about Lewinsky titled ‘The Slut in the Hat,’. And if that’s what he means by ‘civility,’ may I offer my new book, ‘Oh, the Places You Can Go F— Yourself, Jay Leno!’”
Oh, hell to the yes, John Oliver.
Sunday’s examination of public shaming is one of Oliver’s most powerful episodes in what is already one of the best shows on TV. Highlighting the media circus and almost completely one-sided shaming of Lewinsky in the mid-1990s, Oliver revisited the scandal, interviewing the woman who, let’s not forget, was only 22-years-old when she had an affair with a man who literally held the highest office in the country. Bit of an imbalance? Yeah, we think so.
Amazingly, Lewinsky survived years of being publicly shamed and relentlessly hounded by the press and somehow came out the other side, finding inspiration to help others who have been forced to endure public shaming and online bullying. In 2014, she penned the Vanity Fair article and has continued to write about cyber bullying for the magazine, as well as becoming a public speaker and giving her own TED Talk.
She’s also really funny. Why didn’t CNN ever cover that aspect of her life in the mid-1990s?
it’s #NationalNappingDay … brb…
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) March 11, 2019
Exhibiting a resilience and perspective that is stunning to witness on screen, Lewinsky discussed in detail the effects the scandal had on her life, including her inability to find work in the years following the shaming. Calmly pointing out the glaring double standard of the affair, Lewinsky addressed why she decided not to change her name. “The investigation and the scandal has my name and I’m therefore attached to it,” said Lewinsky. “Bill Clinton didn’t have to change his name. Nobody has ever asked him ‘did he think he should change his name?’”
Lewinsky says that in some was she wishes social media had been around when her affair became public knowledge. “It might have been worse in that there would have been a lot more opinions out there, but where it may have been better would have been that I think I would have heard some support from people. It might have been a little more balanced.”
Only hours after Sunday’s episode aired, Lewinsky tweeted that she’s already seen a huge change in people’s perceptions of her and noted that much of that was from Oliver’s apology for his past jokes. Let’s hope Leno is the next comedian to take ownership for his part in one of the worst public shamings in history.
SHORT SAPPY THREAD: ♥️ overwhelmed by + grateful for the lovely comments + reactions to @iamjohnoliver ‘s piece on public shaming on @LastWeekTonight. john’s regret over his past jokes about me (mild in comparison to many others), has had an inspirational knock-on effect.
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) March 19, 2019
A beacon of hope for anyone going through online bullying or public shaming, Lewinsky, a woman who has become ubiquitous with public shaming, had this to say: “You can get through it. You can move past it. I know it feels like in this one moment that your life will forever be defined by this, but it won’t.”
Oliver and Lewinsky’s interview is currently the number one video on YouTube as of this writing. Wouldn’t it be nice if this was the clip that was the first thing to pop up online when Googling Lewinsky’s name?
more important, v grateful for the words of support on here re @LastWeekTonight . hope these kinds of conversations help anyone suffering know you’re not alone + you can survive it. it will get better. *
— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) March 18, 2019