John Oliver made his debut as the temporary host of “The Daily Show” on Monday night, and he did not disappoint.
“Let’s all just acknowledge for a moment that this is weird. It looks weird, it feels weird, it even sounds weird. It sounds weird to me and this is my actual voice,” he began, joking that host Jon Stewart was taking the summer off learning to be a cobbler in Italy. (In fact, he’s in Jordan directing a movie.)
But otherwise there was little time for the getting-to-know-you banter and “harmless, ‘I’m British’ jokes” Oliver had planned for his first night in the anchor’s desk. That’s because, despite Stewart’s assurance that the summer is a quiet time for news, Day 1 brought the monumental story of the National Security Agency’s clandestine surveillance program, PRISM.
“Jon Stewart is barely out of the door and it turns out that not only is the government tracking everyone’s phone calls, but that’s just the tip of the [iceberg],” Oliver said. News reports then laid out all the Orwellian details: The government has virtually unrestricted access to Americans’ Internet histories and email accounts, and is building a massive data center in Utah capable of storing 5 zettabytes of information.
“Zettabytes? You’ve actually got to be careful with those, I think that’s how Michael Douglas got throat cancer,” Oliver quipped.
From there, he introduced a new segment called “Good News! You’re Not Paranoid.” (“Brought to you by tinfoil. Why not wear it as a hat?”)
The gist? The NSA is at least as shadowy and omnipotent as Hollywood screenwriters and various conspiracy theorists have made it seem.
Oliver was, however, able to find a very narrow silver lining in the news.
“We now know that the government has been collecting an unprecedented amount of information on that small select group of us who either make phone calls or use the Internet,” he said. “I’ve got to say, the Amish are feeling pretty …. smug right now. Or they would be feeling that way if they had any idea this story was happening.”