John Oliver spent a portion of his March 8 episode of “Last Week Tonight” slamming the Disney-owned streaming platform Hotstar for censoring episodes of his HBO late night talk show. Hotstar is one of India’s biggest premium streaming platforms and carries “Last Week Tonight” online in India. The streamer did not upload Oliver’s recent episode in which he criticized India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, but the host explained, “What’s worse is, it’s apparently not even the first time they have censored us. We’ve discovered that they’ve been quietly doing it for a while now, but not for the reason that you might expect.”
As Oliver discovered, the Disney-owned streaming platform has edited out parts of “Last Week Tonight” episodes in which Oliver is heard making anti-Disney jokes. During a 2019 episode of the show, Oliver showed a clip of a 1980s census advertisement that featured Mickey Mouse. Oliver joked about the clip that Mickey was a cocaine addict. Hotstar edited the joke out by jumping to a close-up of Oliver’s face.
“Did you catch that?” Oliver asked viewers. “That barely noticeable moment when they smashed to an unflattering close-up of my face. You probably didn’t, because it fits so seamlessly with the familiar rhythms and consistent visual style of this television show.”
Oliver continued, “Why did they do that? It’s hard to say, but it might be because Hotstar is actually owned by Disney, and they seem extra-sensitive about Disney references.”
Another 2019 episode about China’s one-child policy featured Oliver referring to Donald Duck’s penis as “shaped like a corkscrew.” The joke is edited out on Hotstar, even though Oliver argues that it is factually accurate that ducks have corkscrew-shaped penises. The host added that he voiced a character in Disney’s live-action “The Lion King,” so he has every right to make Disney jokes.
“I frankly resent that factually accurate joke being cut out almost more than I resent our Modi episode being pulled,” Oliver said. “And let me say this to Hotstar right now. If you think that you have to remove anything that reflects poorly on Disney from this show, I have some bad news for you, my friend. I’m fucking Zazu right here. Everything that comes out of this beak is a ‘Disney Fact.’ If I say that Cogsworth collects Nazi memorabilia, guess what? That’s canon, baby. That’s a ‘Disney fucking Fact’ right there. And for the foreseeable future, Hotstar, you can look forward to learning a lot more of them on this show because we’re going to be sliding them into our stories like Chip and Dale slid into Richard Gere. That’s right — ‘Disney Fact,’ motherfuckers.”
New episodes of “Last Week Tonight” air Sundays at 11pm ET on HBO.