“You Didn’t Even Notice” Last Week Tonight

By Angela Hart

My favorite segment on "Last Week Tonight" is, “A country you think about so little,” in which John Oliver will follow up an introduction to a country pointing out that you (the audience) did not even realize the area highlighted on the map is not the country’s true location. On Sunday, June 15, 2015, the area in the news box was highlighted for several seconds, supposedly depicting Azerbaijan, before Oliver stated, “That is not even a land mass, that is the Caspian Sea.” Prior to this segment, Oliver had done this gag with Uruguay. He said, “Uruguay; a country you think so little about, you didn't even realize that that's not Uruguay.”

This has become a running joke demonstrating that Americans have selective exposure about world issues and lack global knowledge. Whether this trend is due to a person’s own lack of interest in global matters or the absence of diversity in current news programs, Americans, are not as aware as they could be. Students are expected to learn geography, but the physical boarders become harder to remember as the years pass. Unless something is spoken about or brought up every so often, one may forget about it.

Pointing out the fact that people believe a highlighted map in a news box demonstrates the power of the newscaster and his team. Most people would not take the time to research a country’s location, believing the picture on television to be true at face value. Oliver allows the highlighted section to stay on the screen for several moments before he discloses the real location. However, in those few moments, viewers would be unlikely to realize that falsity of the map’s depiction. When the joke was first used on Uruguay, the live studio audience howled with laughter implying they believed the map and Oliver’s introduction – until he told them otherwise.

For instance, On May 3, 2015, Oliver addressed the fact someone threw a mango at President Nicolás Maduro. When introducing the segment, Oliver said, “Venezuela, a country you think about so little, you didn’t even realize that’s not Venezuela. This is Venezuela. Actually, that’s not Venezuela either. This is Venezuela, except it isn’t because Venezuela was the first one all along. But, the fact you didn’t notice is the point.” The area shown as Venezuela changed three times before "Last Week Tonight"went back to the original highlighted portion. Oliver acknowledged that the joke was meant to draw attention to the fact people didn’t notice and could not tell if he, as the reporter, was being serious or not.

Viewers of satirical programs tend to be more politically engaged and interested in current events. Utilizing America’s affinity for satires, "Last Week Tonight" is causing people to reexamine their knowledge of different countries particularly by bringing attention to their lack of geographical awareness.