Last Week Tonight Episode Review: To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Scam



For those of you (all of you?) who may be scratching your heads in puzzlement or, possibly dry scalp, I took the title of my piece from a nursery rhyme, recalled from my earliest childhood. The rhyme began, “To market, to market, to buy a fat pig…” Okay, enough of me imagining myself trying to be funny. The more important reason for the title is the main segment of ’s latest show: what he and the producers have to call “multi-level marketing”, but which we all should know good-and-well, even without copious prompting from the host, is about pyramid schemes.

I am quietly confident that all of you know what a pyramid scheme is, but, if there are any who do not, feel free to google it, or better yet, catch one of the many re-broadcasts of this latest edition of Last Week Tonight. In his exposé of the practice, Oliver, gave us not only a list of the most successful of the schemes and schemers, he also provided a tutorial on how they work and the extent to which they have become a global presence or, rather, menace.

I was able to sniff this type of operation the first time one of them tried to ensnare me. A co-worker and friend tried to enlist me in Amway (which did not get so much mention in Oliver’s presentation, but operates exactly on the same lines). I quickly said nix to his recruitment efforts, but, just to spare his feelings (of desperation?), I bought a whistling tea-kettle from him. The guy is no longer a friend or co-worker, but the kettle still whistles at me to this very day. Even if I did not understand the faulty principle of the thing, I could sense his desperation as he tried to sign me up and his misery when he failed. The point John Oliver was making is there are a lot fewer people like me in the world and a lot more of them like my desperate co-worker than I might have imagined.

Let me throw in one more anecdote on this subject, and then I promise to move on. Another of my co-workers fancied himself a real ladies man and would shamelessly flirt with any sexy voice he heard on the phone. Well one day, he hit pay-dirt. The girl with the sexy voice agreed to a date. The upshot of it was, she was old enough to be his mom, weighed close to 300 pounds and the entire date consisted of her trying to recruit him for Amway.

Okay, back to the show and the host. Their choosing to spend so much of the show on this theme, just prior to the 2016 election, was a little surprising. I am still not sure whether it was a good idea or a bad one.

On the positive side, it was refreshing to hear something other than what lying sacks of fertilizer the two major candidates are—in fact, something entirely off the subject. That said, if we were to find out that one of those candidates made some bucks off of “multi-level marketing,” my first guess would not be the Democrat.

On the negative side, with people still falling for this scam in such distressing numbers, I wonder how deeply the message will sink in with all the electoral hoopla dominating our every waking thought.

Of course, with the big day so near at hand, there had to be some nod toward the situation. You can check out that nod in the clip below.

All in all, an informative and witty show. Don’t act so surprised.


Last Week Tonight, HBO, November 6, 2016

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Thomas Cleveland Lane

Thomas Cleveland Lane is a semi-retired freelance writer for pay and a stage actor for nothing more than the opportunity to make a fool of himself. Well, he does get a small stipend from the Washington Area Decency League, after playing the role of Hinezie in The Pajama Game, to never, ever appear on stage in his underpants again. When he has not managed to buffalo some director into casting him, Thomas can often be found at his favorite piano bar, annoying the patrons with his caterwauling. Thomas is the author of an anthology called Shaggy Dogs, a Collection of Not-So-Short Stories (destined to become a cult classic, shortly after he croaks). He is also the alter-ego to a very unbalanced Czech poet named Glub Dzmc. Mr. Lane generally resides in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and was last seen in the mirror, three days ago.