John Oliver Bombed at the Sesame Street Gala for Blasting Wall Street Too Much

Oliver took issue with bankers comparing their predatory institution to the Muppets
John Oliver Bombed at the Sesame Street Gala for Blasting Wall Street Too Much

John Oliver’s appearance at the Sesame Street Gala was brought to you by the letter B, for “Bankers, Get Bent.”

Despite his outstanding success, HBO’s most curmudgeonly comedian still isn’t accustomed to the kind of lifestyle that seventeen-time Emmy-winning late-night hosts typically enjoy. Oliver has gone on record as saying that, if he was ever asked to host the Academy Awards, an honor typical of talk show hosts like himself, he would “poison the room” with “visible contempt” for the celebrity circlejerk that his peers treat with the importance of a presidential election.

Oliver’s history of hating the pomp and circumstance of pretentious, elitist and self-important ceremonies made him an interesting choice to appear at the Bank of America-sponsored annual benefit for the long-running PBS children’s show, and, when a BofA executive attempted to equate their own institution with the show about puppets learning colors, he couldn’t resist getting himself booed offstage for calling them out. 

“I want you to think about how hard it is to make that happen,” Oliver said of his less-than-rosy reception at the PBS fundraiser. “The theme of the evening was kindness!” That throughline, says Oliver, is the reason his night started to go off the rails. According to him, Sesame Street convinced Bank of America to sponsor the event by giving one of their executives an empty, ego-boosting award, and, when said executive accepted the participatory trophy, she remarked, “I’ve been thinking about how appropriate it is that Bank of America and Sesame Street have teamed up tonight because we are two organizations built on kindness.”

Despite Oliver’s best attempts at self-restraint, he couldn’t control himself after the executive continued to heap hollow praise on her own predatory organization. When it was finally his turn to speak, Oliver stepped onstage in front of the sea of bankers and glibly lambasted them, saying, “It’s been odd to hear talk of kindness from Bank of America, an institution that had the highest foreclosure rates over the last ten years.” Immediately, a chorus of boos began bouncing off the walls of the theater that would not cease until he left the stage.

“All I remember is Bert looking up at me with such disappointment in his eyes,” Oliver said of the blowback to his completely reasonable criticisms. I hope that Bert remembers his boot-licking when he and Ernie are out on the street because their landlord took out a mortgage with BofA at 18% over 30 years. Maybe he’ll be able to move in with Oscar — assuming the bankers don’t take the can, too.

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