Blog Post

Puppy justice: How John Oliver won the Internet

John Oliver may have just cracked the code to not only make Supreme Court arguments interesting, but actually make them go viral on YouTube: Oliver recorded a reenactment of a recent Supreme Court case using dogs for the latest episode of his HBO show Last Week Tonight, arguing that the court could benefit from the same cuteness factor that made the keyboard cat’s music video so popular.

The skit was pretty hilarious, featuring real dogs with fake paws, including Samuel Alito as an adorable poodle, Clarence Thomas as a glasses-wearing Rottweiler, Elena Kagan as a pitbull, a goose as an assistant and a pecking chicken as a court stenographer.

But Oliver didn’t just leave it at that. He also released 10 minutes of raw footage of the dogs in robes without any audio on YouTube, “for anyone to do with as they please,” as Oliver said, adding:

And if there are not full reenactments of every major court case of the past four years online by next Sunday, then you will never see us here again.

Of course, Oliver won’t have to follow through on this threat, as animals and memes are two of the internet’s most favorite things. Combine them, and you’ve got yourself a certain winner.

Speaking of winners: John Oliver’s show has become a hit on an unlikely platform ever since Oliver made the jump from Comedy Central to HBO in April. HBO has uploaded large parts of each weekly episode to YouTube, where recent videos have been seen by as many as five million people each.

Publishing its shows on YouTube this way is new for HBO, which has been reserving most of its online content to paying HBO subscribers, to be consumed through the company’s own HBO Go platform. But Last Week Tonight obviously resonates with YouTube’s audience, and Oliver knows how to reach those viewers. That could be crucial once HBO launches its own online-only subscription service in 2015, at which point we may see fewer of Oliver’s skits on YouTube.