John Oliver Comedy Packet

Several months prior to the premiere, I reached out to John Oliver’s people for a shot at a writing post on his HBO series. They sent me a submission packet.
The packet requested: Two “headline news” segments (national & international news); also requested were two outlines for more-detailed segments (which could include roving reporters, video, and so on) covering same.
I was given about 36 hours to conceive, write, edit, and submit all of the below. And it was December 30th. Sooo…yeah…no pressure.
In spite of what I think is some very strong — and sharp — satire, I didn’t make the cut. According to a contact it was due to my lack of TV credits, but the work was passed up the ladder one by one to the very top.
Damn travesty, I say. But I’m biased. The following is what I sent (warning: naughty words abound!)…
In an announcement that surprised
viewers and critics across our
Puritanical nation, Duck Dynasty
chief red neck and good, duck-murdering
Christian, Phil Robertson, announced that
he disapproves of gays and that
homosexuality is a sin.
It really was quite a shock – he
seemed so open-minded at the Ninth
Annual Beard-Pulling Finals.
GFX Image: A Truck Pull event, Duck Dynasty’s Robertson, his
beard looped around front bumper of a truck, they’re in a tug
of war.
Duck Dynasty network A&E replied by
placing Robertson on leave. But
then a Facebook page, calling to
Bring Back Robertson, reached more
than two-hundred-fifty-thousand
“likes.” At which point, A&E
buckled…or, rather, unbuckled.
To put this in perspective: Two hundred-
fifty-thousand likes is
approximately two percent of the
premiere episode’s viewing
audience. And the network bent over
faster than Ned Beatty in
Deliverance. That is to say they
crumbled like day-old duck pate
spread upon the ass of injustice.
GFX: Items listed below (NYC, Sailor, Officer, condoms, then
bigger condoms) appear next to John…
What I’m saying is A&E gave it up
faster than a sailor who hasn’t had
leave in eighty-three months, and
he’s coming ashore in New York City
the same day as the gay pride parade–
(aside; whispers)
In this scenario, the sailor is
very, very gay–
–and his commanding officer has
given him a box of condoms to carry
around town. The twenty-four pack.
Lubricated. Smooth, not ribbed –
for his pleasure. That’s how
quickly A&E got it on with this
barely vocal group. Because
Facebook Likes should hardly count.
Turns to nearby computer, clicks.
There, I just liked a page for
women in high heels stepping on puppies.
I don’t like that. I find it appalling! But
clicking Like is really easy.
Turns to nearby computer, clicks.
There, I just liked a NAMBLA page
calling for less restrictive laws
in four states.
So congratulations to this barely
vocal minority– no, no…it’s not
even a minority. It’s a flyspeck.
Congratulations to the vocal
flyspeck…on the dung-heap of Duck
Dynasty. And good work, A&E.
Long beat; new GFX.
Six states have been chosen to be
part of a commercial drone testing
program to, says the AP, “determine
whether drones can detect and avoid
aircraft and other obstacles.”
Other obstacles being…727s on
their way to Newark?
This sounds brilliant – only if the
drones are made of that same
squishy, cushioned, soft-foamy
malleable and possibly toxic mushy
substance of the Nerf football.
In related news, I’ll be testing my
new remote controlled M2 Bradley
military tank to see if I can avoid
obstacles on the ground.
My test sites are my local Gap
store, a nearby Ninety-Nine cent
store which, let’s face it, is
really one-thirty-nine and up and
this playground for kittens.
GFX for above list:
1. Image of tank in a Gap store, patrons running.
2. Crappy 99c store. W/an asterisk next 99c
3. Playground, kittens play on swings, in sandbox, etc.
I promise, it’s all perfectly safe.
Long beat; new GFX.
Security experts are saying that
the Target customers whose credit
and debit card info was stolen may
find even their encrypted PIN
numbers can be decrypted.
(beat; defeated)
What’s the fucking point anymore?
You know what, hackers? I fucking
give up. Here, just take it–
Pulls out credit card – reads:
6, expiration oh-six, twenty-fifteen.
Security code 8-1-2, and
my pin is 5-8-8-5. You win! Go for
it, knock yourselves out — I don’t
care anymore. Just stay off eBay,
I’m still in arbitration over a
Downton Abbey limited edition tea
That’s right, because I love
Downton Abbey! And tea time! And
you bastards can’t take that away
from me!
GFX: Photo of John superimposed into Downton Abbey logo, with
John in Patriarch position, wearing bowlar, monocle, sporting
large muttonchops, & holding a cup of tea (pinky out).
Long beat; new GFX.
According to the Wall Street
Journal, it’s conceivable that in
the near future, airline passengers
will no longer be identified by a
boarding pass but rather by their
physical facial characteristics as
read by a complex computer.
Organizing against this are
Hollywood stars over the age of 30.
GFX: Plastic surgery poster-boys (& girls) of Hollywood.
And also Mickey Rourke.
GFX: Mickey Rourke Before & After plastic surgery.
(into megaphone)
Attention, Russian citizens. There
is nothing to fear from the recent
suicide bomber attacks.
Attention, suicide bombers: The
next time you suicide bomb Russia,
we will come down on you like Drago
on Apollo Creed with the full
breadth of the law – which may or
may not include killing you…
After you’ve carried out your suicide bombing.
Another beat (to let it sink in).
(sans megaphone)
This is absolutely true. In
response to the recent suicide
bombings in former Stalingrad,
Volgograd – which sounds vaguely
like a place in a Harry Potter
novel but is not – Russian
lawmakers, according to the L.A.
Times, are now considering
reinstating the death penalty…
For those who carry out suicide
Oh, sure, laugh all you like. But
this is just the kind of tough-as-
that will turn off your on-the-

fence suicide bomber.
No, no. Think about it: You’re a
suicide bomber about town. You’ve
got your grenades, a little dynamite
strapped to your thigh, you’re
thinking, Hey, I’m a cowardly
pissant bastard, I think I’ll go
blow up some innocent people today.
But, wait, what if the grenade
fails, and I only blow my dick off
with the TNT? Aw, hell, what’ll they
do to me?
What? What’s that you say? I could
get the death penalty if I don’t
carry out my suicide attempt
(mulls this over)
I better double up on that TNT!
I mean, come on, Putin! The
Olympics are just weeks away – and
this, this is your solution to the
suicide bomber problem? How did
this come up as a suggestion…I
can just picture it now. There’s
Putin in his meeting room–
GFX: Putin at a boardroom table — shirtless. Each person
listed below appears at the table…topless (like the famous images of Putin seen all over the news).
–He’s surrounded by Prime Minister
Dmitri Medvedev, Deputy Prime
Minister Olga Golodets, and perhaps
Minister of Health Veronika
John looks to image of topless women, Medvedev & Putin.
A lot about Russian diplomacy is
becoming clearer and clearer.
And their solution to this crisis
is the death penalty. Well, not to
fear – because there’s a country
ready and willing to step in
against the Muslim extremists–
VIDEO CLIP: An announcement of the U.S. offer of assistance
for security in Russia.
Yes, National Security Council
spokesperson Caitlin Hayden has
sworn the U.S. will stand by
Russia’s side.
NSC’s Caitlin Hayden appears in earlier image – topless.
(beat; aside)
You know, I’m not sure which
disturbs me more, the fact that
our security council spokeswoman
has the same first name as half
the 7th grade girls at a New York
City private school, or that, with
all the breasts in that photo, my
eyes are still drawn to Putin’s.
Seriously, I can’t stop staring.
Where were we? Oh yes, we had
just painted a big, fat target on
the arse of our country, tempting
the Muslim extremists further, so
that we can stand side by side
with Vladamir Putin — who, I
should add, is in no way a complete
and total ass-hat in every
conceivable way who–
GFX: Images of U.S. headlines to support each of the below…
–Murders his citizens, imprisons
them without any rights, nor does
he overreact to criticisms of
either himself or his government.
1. From Washington Post: Two Putin Critics Take Bullets To
Head (http://tinyurl.com/9zqtgm)
2. The Telegraph: Jailed Russian oligarch remains defiant
after ten years (http://tinyurl.com/lwemdxe)
3. USA Today: Pussy Riot members sentenced to 2 years in
prison (http://tinyurl.com/q84wzq2)
My point is simple: We must make
it clear that we’re making this
offer to help protect innocents
from being murdered, not just for
the safety of United States
citizens here and abroad, but
because we should not be the
country showing support for the
policies of a dangerous, dangerous
man – who, admittedly, has a truly
incredible rack.
John takes out vodka and a glass, pours, drinks, & toasts:
Za vas, Volgograd!
[Translation: “To you, Volgograd!”]
Segment Title:
A Woman’s Place is In the Interrogation Room
SUMMARY: In-Depth coverage of India’s over-the-top reaction
to NY arrest of a female diplomat and how their offense at
the treatment of Ms. Devyani does not mesh with their
cultural ideals — nor ours, sadly.
(Estimated times of each section outlined is in [brackets])
I. John Intros story with summary of arrest of Devyani
Khobragade. [1:30]
An international incident was
caused a few weeks back when NYPD
officers swooped in upon a
dangerous international criminal…
With sarcastic tone, he fills in BG on story, segues into…
II. John briefly outlines Indian culture. [1:00 – 1:15]
IMAGES below are utilized similar to Colbert’s “The Word.”
He explains:
– Their culture dictates a woman must first obey her father,
then her husband, and then her son: “Which I think means a
son could get away with almost anything.”
[Bieber naked for his grandma: http://tinyurl.com/lbosqxq ]
– Males are the Head of the Household, control all finances,
& marriages: “This is of course always a smart idea.”
[Headlines of Bernie Madoff, Trump casino bankruptcy, Duck
Dynasty patriarch discussing marrying 15-y-o’s]
– Women have no legal authority.
[IMAGES of: Gay marriage/DOMA shot down; end on shot of happy
gay couple]
– Arranged marriages are still the norm, while “love
marriages” are looked down upon.
[Above image of gay couple changes: One male becomes female,
remaining happy guy, now sports a sad face]
– Indian women, even if they’re poor, are taught they must
be hospitable to men in all situations.
[Image of Hooters waitresses; foreshadowing things coming
later in segment. (Maybe: Photoshop: Hooters girls positioned
as footstools for patrons)]
[Cultural info above from EveryCulture.com]
(off above list)
And that last one is perhaps where
we went wrong. To clarify this,
we’ve made a short educational
III. A Satirical Bollywood Music Video [1:00 – 1:30]
– Essentially a short Vid w/overlays of bold, colorful
designs coupled w/fast cuts, music, & people in gold lamé.
– Story told in video: Boy meets girl, girl wants boy, girl
asks father, father says no, father makes girl unhappily
marry different boy. Original boy walks into the sea drowning
self, as Bollywood singers dance around him gaily. The End.
IV. Back to John: [:45]
(off video)
That’s just our understanding of
it. And, without putting too fine a
point on it, we haven’t even
brought up any of this:
FILE FOOTAGE: News of the myriad gang rapes and atrocities
against women in India in the last year.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not on
an American High Horse here. The
U.S. isn’t much better, and we’re
not even having the conversations
about the atrocities committed here
like they are in India.
But how is it that India is so
offended at what happened to Ms.
Khobragade that their External
Affairs minister said “India is not
over-reacting to the treatment to
its diplomat by the U.S.”?
Really? It’s not? Not even a
FILE FOOTAGE: Obama being burned in effigy, blockades removed
from U.S. diplomatic locations in India, marches against the
U.S., violent demonstrations, etc.
This segues into final section:
V. John (or field reporter) interviews former India citizens
and perhaps diplomats. [2:00]
Typical interview setting (meeting room, etc.) –
John (or field reporter) will have a makeup person, hair
person, cue card person, boom operator — all are Hooter’s
girls, scantily clad.
Throughout, Interviewer scolds the women for doing a bad job.
Within this setting, Interviewer asks serious questions,
probing whether or not Indian culture may devalue and/or
demean women — unlike the U.S.
Suggested Interview Questions:
– “Slavery isn’t so wrong so long as you’re paying $3 an
hour, yes?”
– “The U.S. is clearly superior, b/c we allow our women to
enter the work force in important roles such as waitresses,
greeters, or even salesgirls. Can you speak to this?”
– “In the U.S., we don’t demean our women, we prefer our
women choose to demean themselves at strip clubs or Hooters,
unless they get pregnant after which they can get a crappy
office job. How is your culture different?”
VI. Sum-up. [:15]
John: “Perhaps it’s about how we all treat one another…”
Gives examples: Dems vs. GOPers (GFX), Kmarters vs.
WalMarters (video footage of Black Friday stampedes), Whites
(GFX: old-timer Republicans) vs. Very Whites (GFX: Tea
Guns Don’t Kill People, Guns Just Let Us Do It More Easily
Summary: Taking on the idea that no new gun laws are
necessary; satirized by using the MOST-used comparison of
“There are more car deaths than gun deaths” and also breaking
down the 2nd Amendment in a manner pointing out the
ridiculousness of the current popular interpretation.
(Estimated times of each section outlined is in [brackets])
I. Intro to the U.S. and Our Guns [:30 – 1:00]
FOOTAGE of LaPierre/NRA press conferences from early 2013.
He sums up NRA’s stance after Newtown and other massacres:
John: “Essentially he’s saying, ‘Fuck…you…everyone.’ And
of course the subtext, ‘We have excruciatingly small
II. Solutions/Arguments [:30]
– New laws? No, we wouldn’t want to regulate Guns (sarcasm)
– “If they take our guns, what comes next…our cars! People
are killed by cars every day!”…
But cars have other functions
besides killing people. They were
actually built — and you can look
this up in the history books — to
transport people from one location
to another.
No, really. That’s a fact.
III. In the field – reporter explains “The increasing numbers
of cars IS causing more deaths on the road.” [2:00 – 3:00]
Solution: Rickshaws.
Yes, with rickshaws on the road,
John, there’ll be far less car
crashes, perhaps a few splinters, a
corn or two on the ball of the
FOOTAGE: A rickshaw being pulled down a highway – in the left
(fast) lane.
– A car behind it, driver angry, honking, waving arms.
– Reporter discusses how “obvious it is that this low-tech
piece of equipment” makes the road safer, that rickshaws
cannot accidentally kill anyone at that speed.
– Rickshaw driver is soon fed up with driver honking/yelling.
– Rickshaw driver pulls a gun, shoots wildly at car.
– Car drives over rickshaw.
Field Reporter, emotionless, has observed all:
Clearly, it’s safety first in this
scenario. If we increase the number
of rickshaws, it wouldn’t be long
before car deaths went down. Is
this a metaphor for gun control?
Don’t be silly. Guns and cars
aren’t even comparable. Back to
you, John.
IV: The NRA is Not at Fault [2:30 – 3:00]
– Explains their job is to be a pro-gun lobby
– Details they must defend gun rights to protect their
One letter can fix everything. Yes,
just a letter. This entire matter
resolved with a “T”…
GFX: National Rifle Association logo becomes “National Trifle
Association” – the eagle replaced with a chocolate trifle
John describes a Dinner Party where he wants people to come
together to form a “union” of dessert-lovers:
However, to watch over this union,
I would need a controlled group,
nay a band of fellows with trifles.
And if others would wish to be part
of my band of regulated Triflebakers
(and in turn have Trifles of
their own), none shall stand in
their way.
He pauses to let the 2nd Amendment metaphor sink in.
And, if later on, should someone
quote me as saying, “John said
anyone can willy-nilly go out and
bake a trifle of their own and none
shall stand in their way.” Why,
that would be ridiculous. I mean,
ignoring the first half of my
sentence, where I clearly stated
“Should any others wish to be part
of my band of regulated Trifleholders,”
would make as much sense
as if reading the First Amendment
this way–
ON SCREEN SCROLL: First Amendment as written here:
Congress shall make No law respecting an establishment of
religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or
abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the
right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition
the Government for a redress of grievances.
John reads Amendment, skipping “no,” essentially
making it sound as if Laws banning of free speech shall exist.
At end of segment –
ON SCREEN SCROLL of Second Amendment: A well regulated
Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the
right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be

2 Responses to “John Oliver Comedy Packet”

  1. January 30, 2017 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! (And great packet.)

    Any idea if the packet submission requirements have changed now that the show is live? I.e. Maybe they want a full long format script for their 15-20 minute pieces? Also did you already know John Oliver’s people to reach out to them, or did you just cold call them?

    • February 2, 2017 at 4:32 pm

      Hey, Ben, thanks for the kind words! You should assume, yes, that they would now want a packet that correctly mirrors the show’s current format. And, no, I didn’t know Oliver’s people. I read on, like, THR or some other site, who his reps were, contacted them myself and CC’d a lawyer-friend so that it had an air of legitimacy. They in turn sent my lawyer-friend the packet. From that point on, it was just me following up (although, an assistant at an agency did make a call or two for me [she wanted her agent to rep me, the agent decided, after weeks of talking about expanding, to keep focusing solely on actors] which is how I found out the packet got to the top). Good luck. If you like, follow me on Twitter (@ZTVComedyNews); I’ll follow back. -K

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