On Last Squeak Tonight John Oliver Reveals the Plight of Chuck E. Cheese

Comedy News Last Week Tonight
On Last Squeak Tonight John Oliver Reveals the Plight of Chuck E. Cheese

We don’t write a lot about Last Week Tonight anymore, not because it got bad, but because the all-consuming rage bait of politics and the culture wars has made it hard to enjoy even legitimately funny political comedy. We still dig the show, and we still dig John Oliver, whose exasperated mockery of partisan horseshit and corporate state domination still tickles the ol’ funny bone more often than not. It’s just that with one party becoming more brazen in its bigotry and hypocrisy, more overbearing in its blatantly undemocratic and self-serving machinations, it simply isn’t fun to think about politics more than absolutely necessary, even when that party is being righteously eviscerated by a nebbishy Brit who has aged about 20 years in the last decade. Sorry, John: it’s us, not you.

That’s why we’re excited to have a largely apolitical Last Week Tonight segment to talk about today. Last night’s episode featured a main segment about buying homes, and since, as Oliver notes, that’s something nobody under the age of 35 will ever be able to do, they went ahead and uploaded a whole second episode to the internet about a topic younger viewers would find more interesting: the rise and fall of Chuck E. Cheese. We can’t embed the 28 minute video here, as it’s not on YouTube, but Oliver’s team uploaded what it’s calling Last Squeak Tonight to its own standalone site last night. If you have any memory of or interest in themed pizza arcades or children’s entertainment from the ’80s through the ’10s, it’s worth watching.

The half-hour special tracks the history of Chuck E. Cheese from its beginnings under Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell, to its war with ’80s competitors and knockoffs, to its resurgence in the ’90s, to its gradual collapse throughout the 21st century. It’s a little sad, a little wistful, definitely nostalgic, and, most important, consistently hilarious, with Oliver clearly enjoying himself as he makes fun of increasingly bizarre Chuck E. Cheese ephemera. In tracking the history of Chuck E. Cheese he also summarizes some of the most odious corporate trends of the last 40 years, from the cookie cutter homogenization of chain businesses, to deteriorating customer service, to a collapse in public decorum. And then he wraps it all up in a bow with a surprise appearance from Last Week Tonight‘s most recent mascot, which is based on a, uh, fairly popular mouse mascot for another company, and whose existence on Oliver’s show seems determined to test the limits of fair use, satire, and copyright laws. Good stuff.

Check out Last Squeak Tonight‘s one-off episode at its own website today. You can find the rest of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver at HBO and on HBO Max.


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