John Oliver pulled a page from Oprah's playbook on this week's episode of HBO's Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. The host made history on Sunday night when he announced that the show was forgiving approximately $15 million in medical debt. The stunt gives the show the distinction of scoring the largest one-time giveaway in television history.
Confused? Here's how it went down.
Oliver explained that American households owe a total of $12 trillion in debt, $436 billion of which is 90 days or more overdue. "Debt buying is a grimy business and it badly needs more oversight," he said when he started the segment. "As it stands, any idiot can get into it. And I can prove that to you, because I'm an idiot. And we started a debt-buying company. And it was disturbingly easy." He continued to explain that after a $50 application fee, the show created the company CARP, named after the bottom feeding fish. CARP then proceeded to buy a $15 million medical debt portfolio for less than $60,000.
When Oliver explained why he had chosen to do so he said, "Because on one had it's obviously the right thing to do but more importantly we'd be staging the largest one-time giveaway in television history." Oprah had previously laid claim to that record when she gave everyone in her 276-person audience a Pontiac sedan in a giveaway that equated around $8 million.
But with his huge red button and money falling from the ceiling, Oliver broke that record. Jokingly yelling, "F*** you, Oprah!" as he smashed the red button. "I am the new queen of daytime talk!"
And while the stunt was both gracious, and hilarious, he did have a serious message for his viewers. "We need much clearer rules and tougher oversight to protect consumers from...companies like the one we set up," he explained. "But the least we can do with this debt, that I can't f***ing believe we are allowed to own, is give it away."
It was an incredible display of generosity, and quite literally, putting your money where your mouth is.
(Photo: Eric Liebowitz/HBO)