“No Cute Old People”
Sleeping – or Not - While Old

EVEN John Oliver Does It

UPDATE 2:30PM PDT: Sarah Wrightson says in the comments below, "someone edits Oliver's FB page: my comment is gone, as are many other people's on a range of topics."

If this is so - and I have no reason to doubt Sarah - I am even more disappointed in (and add disgusted with) John Oliver than I am at the original reason for this post. Please try Twitter instead of Facebook and especially the email to HBO.

And please come back here and let us know in the comments that you have done so. I wouldn't have followed up if there was no response to my post and your commentary but now I'm pissed off big time so it will help to know that you have complained.

* * *

Last Sunday on his HBO program, Last Week Tonight, John Oliver opened his feature essay with this:

”Progress,” he said. “It's the reason your grandparents' views are better not spoken in public. 'Why did I bring you to Straight Out of Compton, Papa?' This is partly on me.”

Apparently, neither Oliver nor any of his writers, researchers and producers, nor the 10 or 12 well-known websites I've read praising and promoting this video see the irony in exposing discrimination against the LGBT community while bashing old people.

Imagine if Oliver had opened the show with any one of these:

“Progress. It's the reason black people's views are better not spoken in public.”


“Progress. It's the reason women's views are better not spoken in public.”


“Progress. It's the reason Muslims' views are better not spoken in public.”

Shall I go on? You can imagine for yourself the backlash if Oliver had used any of those references instead of elders.

When a man who builds his television career on pointing out the large variety of inequities in American culture and brilliantly defending the rights of every oppressed group you can think of (and some you haven't) engages in this kind kneejerk ageism for a cheap laugh, it is indisputable that old people are the last acceptable prejudice.

On Monday I wrote about ageist language in No Cute Old People and normally I would not repeat a topic so soon. But I saw this video, as I usually do with Oliver, first thing in the morning and nearly spit out my coffee.

It's not like Oliver's words are new to me. Ageist attitudes and speech have so thoroughly permeated our culture for so long that people who would blanch at being accused of racism or sexism see nothing wrong with stereotyping old people.

And Oliver, like his mentor, Jon Stewart, is not new to this. They both, when a reference to old age is called for in their performance, always go straight to derogatory, demeaning and dismissive.

Don't think this stuff doesn't matter. Every time such as statement as Oliver's is made, (thousands of times a day), it helps make it okay to fire a perfectly competent old person, allows certain kinds of politicians to believe they can eliminate Social Security and Medicare and as Yale professor Becca Levy discovered in her research, can negatively affect longevity by up to seven-and-a-half years. And that is just for starters.

One reason elder bashing continues and continues to be acceptable is that old people don't complain enough. Mostly we mutter among ourselves, whether it is as public as Oliver's offhand disrespect on television or one-on-one in our daily lives (“and how are you today, young lady”).

Let's change that this time and I'll make it easy for you. Link to this post or repost it on your blog or Facebook page. I don't care. And take it a step further.

Below are a variety of web addresses for Oliver's program, Last Week Tonight, for John Oliver himself, for one of the show's executive producers and for HBO.

Pick one or two or more and send a note letting them know that it's hard to take Oliver seriously about LGBT discrimination while in the same breath he dismisses elders with an offensive stereotype.

Be polite – trolling gets everyone less than nothing. But be clear, be firm and if you think it's helpful, include the URL to this post: http://www.timegoesby.net/weblog/2015/08/even-john-oliver-does-it.html

Here are the addresses:

Facebook page
Twitter: @LastWeekTonight

Twitter: @timcarvell

Facebook page
Twitter: @iamjohnoliver

Facebook page
HBO online message form

What makes this lapse worse coming from John Oliver than it might from some people is that he is otherwise a force for good in the world, an agent of change that Time magazine earlier this year named among the 100 most influential people.

What a good thing it would be for him to influence others by taking a patented Oliver look at the widespread gratuitous ageism in the culture.

Except for that dismissive lead paragraph, Oliver's Sunday essay on LGBT discrimination is as funny, spot on and important as all his weekly videos are. Here it is the full segment:

Don't forget to follow up on letting HBO, John Oliver and his executive producer know what you think about elder bashing while defending LGBT people from discrimination.


Thank you Ronni for posting the links so I can put in my two cents to the proper places.


Ronni, if you'll give your permission, I will repost this as my Friday blog, with the title "Speak Up for Yourself!" And if you'll permit, anyone with a blog should do the same, just to multiply the backlash. We could get something going here. So let us know.

As noted in my post, please - anyone who wants should republish this post on their blogs, Facebook pages, whatever. Let's see if we can get Oliver and his crew to pay attention.

I'm in. I will certainly voice my feelings with the proper sources. The LGBT movement has the logo "Gay Pride". Let's make ours "Elder Pride."

Thanks Ronni, for making this so easy! I hardly ever use Twitter but I did today lol!

Gotcha covered, Ronni - on twitter @_theantiblog_ and at http://theantiblog.net/theconversation/too-old-to-matter

I confess I don't subscribe to HBO and have never watched one of Oliver's videos, but I understand he's usually brilliant. (I like him, but have a short attention span.) Time for him to do one of his brilliant pieces defending and praising the elder population. He wields a lot of influence. Or maybe he just can't relate to any group older than himself and/or assumes his target audience just won't be interested.

I'm not a regular watcher of HBO but I've seen John Oliver's show both live and in rebroadcast. I agree that he's usually spot-on, but not this time. Elder bashing is NOT O.K. He's making some interesting (and inaccurate) assumptions about how ALL elders would react to "Straight Out of Compton". My husband is 80+ and I'm in my late 70s; we're progressives who are dumbfounded every time "the leading Repub candidate" opens his mouth--which is constantly! There's a very wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, life experiences, belief systems and thought processes among elders, but I think most of us agree that we're tired of being ignored, belittled, demeaned and discounted.

I'm with PiedType on this. In addition to communicating via Facebook and Twitter as Ronni suggests, I think it's way past time that more POSITIVE (but not airbrushed) segments were done about "regular" elders. Some positive advertising featuring older people could help, too. Just today a friend in her early 50s called me "feisty". Because I know she didn't intend to belittle me, her heart is in the right place and we were in her workplace, I didn't call her on it. But wouldn't it be great if such appellations as "cute" and "feisty" were simply no longer acceptable when applied to older people?

Done--I posted my objections and your link on Facebook's pages for both Last Week Tonight and HBO. Hmm. I guess i'll go back and post on John Oliver's page as well. Thanks so much for catching and highlighting this, Ronni. I too am a huge fan of Oliver's. I guess none of us is perfectly enlightened--maybe we can bring him up to speed on ageism.

I'm hoping he hasn't already been hearing from the dingo lobby.


I've just gone back and seen that someone edits Oliver's FB page: my comment is gone, as are many other people's on a range of topics. All that is there now are comments from whomever is writing Oliver's FB page.

You know... I think I might be willing to give him a pass on this one. This time.

I really like the issues he takes on, and the moral force with which he makes the case for a fairer, better, society. But I have noticed that his style of comedy always involves being cruelly offensive to certain people. Some of them arguably do deserve some sort of public shaming (like that unfortunate baker who is never, ever going to live this down!), but many others are innocent bystanders being skewered just to draw a brief, shocked laugh. His "grandparents" joke falls in the latter category -- we notice it more because this time it's us he's jabbed.

He uses stereotypes all the time, sometimes ironically, but often not. He takes the easy shots because he has time to fill and he needs to break up the serious message with laughs. Like it or not, old-people jokes still work. I predict we're not going to get him to stop tossing them out for a quick laugh until they stop sounding funny to audiences.

Oops, I posted before I finished my thought.

I'm giving him a pass... despite the fact that in every show he makes me wince for his drive-by victims at least once... because take him all in all he does far more good than harm. That's as true for this episode as it is for every other we've seen.

In the long run, though, what ought to happen is a dialogue. Sometimes he's going to be tackling issues that really matter to elders, and it's at that time, when we're the serious issue he's talking about, that he, his writers, and his producers need to be able to keep in mind that old people are not all the same.

I just happened to read this, not having heard about John Oliver's comments. What's funny is the first I heard about Straight Out of Compton is from a 75 yr old woman, a neighbor in the large 55+ senior apartment and condo community where I live! We'd just introduced ourselves and she said she was looking for someone who wanted to see that movie with her. I laughed delightedly and said I'd love to! As a kid, I remember living near Compton, known in the 1950s for lots of car dealerships, advertising on tv all the time. I also enjoy Key and Peele, Kamau Bell. I enjoy a wide variety of music, cuisines, literature, encompassing many cultures. My life is richer thanks to my open inquisitive mind and warm heart. If my joints were as nimble as they were when I was 60, I'd be twerking with the best of them!

I posted my comment on JO's FB page, also on Twitter--last time I looked, my FB post was still there. However, I'll send it to HBO's FB page as well.

I think I'm with Sylvia on this. I wasn't offended because this is John Oliver's comic shtick. I like her term "drive-by" victims except that I can't work up a feeling of victimization about this. For one thing, I predict that when Oliver is 75, he'll still be making grandpa jokes if he thinks he'll get a laugh. As for me, I find the idea of "Straight Out of Comptom" offensive because I understand it omits all the truly offensive attitudes and actions (against women, mostly) of the "gangsta" rappers it enshrines. Full disclosure, I personally hate all kinds of rap and hip-hop, and it has nothing whatever to do with racial bias or being old---at least, I don't think it does.

Why is it that Oliver (or anyone) would never say that Blacks, women's or Muslims views are better not spoken in public, I'll tell you. It's because those groups have leaned that protest and outrage DOES get you recognized and does change things. Unfortunately, "old folks" don't do this. At least not on a scale that attracts media attention. The people who read your blog or write their own are not in the mainstream of senior thinking. I would venture to say that the majority of seniors don't know who John Oliver or Jon Stewart are or even know about the "Out of Compton" movie. I am also sorry to say that the majority of seniors could not care less about the "ageism" dilemma. They are mostly too concerned about their money, their health and Bingo to worry about what people say or think about them.

I just wrote to HBO asking them to be aware of the agism and suggesting that an exposure of how it plays out in every day life and in the media would be a great subject for Oliver to tackle.

I never miss your Saturday column because I want to see Oliver and being a TV-less rebel, I depend on his video on your blog. I admit the opening ageist slur missed me. Most don't. I tend to irk friends with when I point out remaining sexism in their conversations and I'm tired, tired, tired of all the jokes, including those by older comedians about the deficits of aging (physical, mental).

I posted the column to the show's FB page and to HBO's comment address with my own plea for JO to use his powerful voice to call out ageism. We expect better from him!

I don't want to give the impression that I don't agree with Ronni's point about the public accepting the ageist reference when there would have been an outcry had the reference been to black views or women's views. I completely get it. But this particular JO joke was about 5 seconds of a 30 minute show and, in fact, it was a very bad lead-in that didn't make much sense in context or even seem to have much to do with the rest of the show, which was about LGBT issues. I'll defend against ageism along with my peers, But as Bruce says, the majority of elders aren't doing a whole lot to defend themselves. And they"re not much on standing up for others either.

It would be great if our defense could be grounded in a more "progressive" attitude among elders about issues like LGBT rights, but the fact is that only 32% of us support gay rights compared to 68% of millenials. And the silent generation isn't so good on abortion rights either, with 42% supportive compared to 59% of millenials. Elders are getting better on immigrant rights but still more than 30% feel that immigrants have no right to be here and only 41% support a path to citizenship. On gun control, we can feel a little better about our cohort, however, with 51% of elders supporting gun control over the right to own guns compared to 49% of millenials. Elders are strong on pocketbook issues like Social Security and Medicare, of course, where the rate of support grows in direct proportion to the respondent's age. But it's a sad fact that when we talk about "progress," we can't be that proud of our record. Maybe more elder progress = more elder respect.

(All statistics are from The Pew Research Center study titled "Millenials in Adulthood" which has many more comparisons of Silents, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millenials)

I am one of the elders who did not see the offensiveness in JO's comment about "Progressive" and grandparents, I loved my grandfather but would hardly cast his 19th C ideas into any conversation about Progressive or otherwise. And I have no idea about the :"Out of Compton" comment as I'd never heard of it. I'm going to Google it after I finish this, Also, what is demeaning about the word feisty? "Old Fogy" I get and it's use is demeaning but I think the focus on supposed "ageist" words is getting to be excessive, Like the college students who want to be protected from words that may upset them, or bring on PTSD. None of us, of any age or condition, is Constitutionally guaranteed the right to never be offended. ( See September "Atlantic". All of us fogies still have lives to live and enjoy without getting hung up over "ists" or "isms" in language.

This is a follow up to my looking up "Straight Out of Compton". There are so many contemporary films which, let's face it, which would make our parent's teeth fall out. May be our own, also, I took my mother to see "Bull Durham" back whenever it came out. "70;s or 80's? She thought it was "most disgusting movie" she'd ever seen. Go figure..

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