John Oliver just did something great for more than 9,000 people in huge debt
Only a comedian as talented as John Oliver could take a very un-funny issue like crippling medical debt and turn it into something hilarious and awesome. In his latest Last Week Tonight main segment, he did more than entertain and educate people (which he always does flawlessly). He focused on a very serious issue of crippling medical debt and a pretty corrupt industry centered around debt purchase and collection. And, because he’s brilliant, he turned all that scary seriousness into some insane laughter.
But he did more than just make elicit laughter by making hysterical comparisons between shady debt collectors and Lays Biscuits and Gravy chips (among other things). He actually made television history by staging the largest financial giveaway ever.
After explaining just how complicated and convoluted the debt industry has become, he revealed that he had actually formed one of these collection companies himself. And with just a minimal website and small fee for a legal company, he says, “We were soon offered a portfolio of nearly $15 million dollars of out-of-statute medical debt from Texas at a cost of less than half a cent on the dollar.” That was all debt from about 9,000 people that he now has the right to legally collect on if he chooses.
So what does he do with it? He researches a company that specializes in debt forgiveness and decides to forgive all of it. Which means he basically gives away almost $15 million worth of money in a split second on TV. The only moment of televised kindness that had ever come anywhere near that was Oprah’s iconic episode when she gave a car away to every single audience member. Oliver calls out that moment and makes the point that her giveaway was valued at almost half of his. Then, in typical hilarious fashion, Oliver declares, “I am the new Queen of daytime talk!”
The entire segment (like all of his segments) is enlightening to watch. The build up to the last few minutes of the historical giveaway will be even more meaningful when you take the time to learn the straight up shady details of the debt collecting industry. But if you just skip ahead to the last minute of him pushing an oversize button and making it rain dollar bills as he screams happily to the heavens, that’s totally worth it, too.