Last Week Tonight
host John Oliver regularly pokes fun at his own show: Sad Zazu’s Mildly Interesting Explain Train, as he recently referred to it, tends to feature exhaustively researched walkthroughs of serious subjects, sprinkling jokes onto piled-high plates of information about everything from public shaming and the opioid crisis to psychics and astroturfing. As if to take that particular bit to an entirely new level, Oliver steered Sunday’s Explain Train towards a subject best known for constituting 99.9% of small talk: the weather.
Unlike “two colleagues in an elevator,” Oliver doesn’t really discuss the weather itself—which, as we all know, consists of “the hots, the wets, the whooshes, the brrrs and of course, the flashy-flashy boom-booms”—so much as the business of its prediction, a system that, like so much else under our terrible president, is “under serious threat.” Critically at issue is the National Weather Service, a government entity and subset of NOAA that provides cost-free weather forecasting data to just about every weather info source imaginable, including industry leader AccuWeather: “Without [NWS] data, every AccuWeather forecast would just be, ‘Fuck if I know,’” Oliver explains.
Being the United States, we can’t just enjoy a nice thing—we have to squeeze every possible dollar out of it. Enter AccuWeather founder and current CEO Joel Myers, and his brother, former CEO Barry Myers, whom Oliver identifies as the leading proponents of weather prediction as a for-profit industry, rather than a public safety resource. Interview footage shows Joel Myers taking credit for saving Eddie Vedder’s life (Oliver’s Vedder impression is a sight and sound to behold) and unwittingly demonstrating why weather prediction as capitalist pursuit is a ghastly prospect: He recalls his company saving a pair of Union Pacific trains from being destroyed by a tornado before noting in the next breath that the tornado went on to devastate a town AccuWeather wasn’t being paid to protect. Who warned that town, you ask? It was the NWS, proving Oliver’s point: “Freely shared information has tremendous potentially life-saving value.”
Still, Joel and Barry Myers stand opposed to the NWS providing that value, and you’ll never guess who stands with them. Yes, Barry Myers is Trump’s nominee to head up NOAA (and therefore the NWS), yet another of the myriad ways in which this utterly corrupt president has signed his name on the wrong side of history. Myers’ nomination has been held up in the Senate for two years now, but as Oliver shows, his confirmation would be as much a boon to AccuWeather’s bottom line as a crushing, potentially lethal blow to the American people’s best interests.
In closing, Oliver renders the “abstract threat” of the attack on the NWS as an ‘80s-tastic weather graphics package, warning viewers to brace themselves for Superstorm Barry.
Watch Oliver’s segment in full below.