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Political Science Student Bases Entire Political Knowledge on John Oliver Specials

Eric Liebowitz/HBO

Penn students in the Political Science program take on a rigorous curriculum which educates them on the complex workings of our political system. The major leads some to working on the Hill, researching public policy, or living unemployed out of their parent's basement. 

Students are expected to remain up to date on current events through outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, or BBC World News, among others. 

For Dave Pearson (C ’19), one member of the program, staying up to date with current events means watching John Oliver, a British-born comedian of the weekly news program Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. Although Oliver has explicitly stated he is “not a journalist,” Pearson said he still takes the taped specials as the gospel truth.

When asked whether he considers the show to be comedy, Pearson appeared confused, asking, “would you consider a textbook for the Penn Bookstore to be comedic? No? Then why are you asking me about my main source of information, huh?”

Pearson has stopped attending lectures and instead sits in his Radian apartment, rewinding the comedy specials in the dark, chuckling manically at the dry humor of the bespectacled man he considers to be his Knowledge God. 

Pearson will often have no knowledge of events not covered by the program. When asked about the recent government shutdown, Pearson, who is from DC and has a sister who was a furloughed for weeks, claimed he had no idea the shutdown occurred. 

“Did John cover it? If not, I can’t claim to have any real knowledge about it. I need his authoritative British voice caressing my ears, telling me right from wrong. I haven’t had an independent thought in over two years, and it has been wonderful."