An open letter to John Oliver

2:14 pm on 17 May 2017

Opinion - New Zealand comedian Robbie Nicol, aka White Man Behind A Desk, responds to the Last Week Tonight host's recent lampooning of Prime Minister Bill English.

Robbie Nicol.

From one white man behind a desk to another: Robbie Nicol responds to John Oliver. Photo: Sally Bollinger.

Bill English did not ask me to write this letter, but RNZ did. RNZ is a government-funded organisation, so maybe their request is a direct offer from the man himself. To the Right Honourable Mr Bill English: I accept your offer and you are welcome. What follows is an open letter to a fellow white man behind a desk: John Oliver.

Dear Mr Oliver,

Bill English, noted comedy critic and man I have never seen smile, recently drew my attention to your "unfunny" work. I quickly went to YouTube to watch your series of rants on the glorious nation of New Zealand. It goes without saying that I was mortified. However, to stress the point, I'll say it very quickly: I was mortified.

I would try to take you on myself, but I have roughly three subscribers on a YouTube channel I film in a bedroom at my parents' house. That was sufficient for a national newspaper to call me "the Kiwi John Oliver". I hope this gives you a sense of scale.

In fact, our country as a whole is too small to respond to your continued barrage of comedy. Last year the company that owns your network, Time Warner, had a revenue of roughly 17 percent of our nation's Gross Domestic Product. And that was a good year for us.

I have yet to talk it over with Bill, but I imagine we cannot devote a fifth of our nation's GDP to responding to your jokes.

What's more, our prime minister himself simply cannot handle your continued attacks.

John Oliver

A screenshot from this week's show - featuring the glorious nation of New Zealand and its Right Honourable PM, Mr Bill English. Photo: Screenshot / HBO / YouTube

It was OK when you mocked John Key. He was extremely well-liked. Bill English only just took over the National Party, and he's desperately trying to seem like a relatable guy before the election. It's not going well.

Yes, I know it's surprising, but the pony-tail pulling man with the dildo minister was extremely popular. Imagine how bad at PR you have to be to look worse than that. You are now imagining Bill English.

Things are already tough for Bill on the satire front here at home: online media outlet The Spinoff has started producing clever, profitable content; gosh-darn-feminists have taken over New Zealand TV with Funny Girls; even the sketches on Jono and Ben have started to have a satirical bent. What's next for poor Bill? A White Man Behind A Desk live show? Coming to Circa Theatre from the 6th to the 10th of June? Yes

While I may not have the means to fight you, I want it to be known that my allegiance will always be to this proud nation and our prime minister, unless you can offer me a writing gig. In which case, I have a piece on Paula Bennett I think you'll really like.


Robbie Nicol

Robbie Nicol is the host of political satire webseries White Man Behind A Desk, available on YouTube, Facebook and TVNZ OnDemand.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs