John Oliver vs Miss America

It's 15 minutes that combines real investigative journalism, scathing satire, important social commentary, and, most importantly, compassion.

John Oliver is providing a template reconciling "real" news with the clickbait dystopia — producing clips like this that use the form of comedy and satire to tell significant news stories that expose corruption and help reform social attitudes.

In this absolutely magnificent segment, Oliver digs into the Miss America Pageant's claim to providing millions in scholarships to women, a claim that allows it to position itself as somehow progressive. Beyond simply demolishing the silliness of this claim — what legitimate reason is there for a program devoted to helping women go post-secondary education to judge those women based on their appearance in a bikini? — he actually digs into the funny accounting that the pageants use to grotesquely inflate their numbers, turning a few thousand dollars (or, in one case, no dollars) into millions by multiplying the potential scholarship benefits by largely imaginary and absurd coefficients. For example, if a winner is entitled to partial support at one of thirty colleges of her choosing, the pageant multiplies the scholarship by thirty, even though the winner will attend no more than one of them.

But Oliver digs deeper — without losing sight of his comedy — into the state of post-secondary education for women altogether, bringing the whole thing off so brilliantly that you're left gnashing your teeth in rage and holding your sides from laughing so hard. It's such a neat trick — and it's why Last Week Tonight is the most important thing to happen to news since Jon Stewart took over The Daily Show.

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Miss America Pageant (HBO)