A friend of mine - let's call him Richard - recently pointed out that I "should be shouting Oliver's name from the rooftops rather than Winfrey's."
He was referring to English comedian and "Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver.
At first, I was all, pffffff! Come on Dickie! No one compares to Oprah! But then I looked into it, and John Oliver certainly is impressive.
I'm not sure shouting his name "instead of" Oprah's is the right way to put it though. Perhaps, "as well as" would be more appropriate, because when it comes to kindness and philanthropy, it doesn't matter how big or small or widespread the act of giving may be. As long as it's happening, I will happily shout names from rooftops.
So here I am, Dickie, shouting* JOHN OLIVER, just for you.
*the babies are asleep, so I had to whisper.
This whole thing came up after Dickie sent me an article about John Oliver paying off $15 million in medical debt for nearly 9000 people in the US. See for yourself above. Pretty amazing stuff.
It all happened last year, when Oliver decided to shame the companies who buy up collection agency debt then use predatory and often shady tactics to collect the money. He did this by starting his own debt collection agency online, called CARP - Central Asset Recovery Professionals. It cost just $50 and within weeks of being in the business, CARP was offered nearly $15 million in medical debt for a $60,000 payment.
Of course, Oliver's collection agency bought the $15 million debt and was given the personal info of close to 9000 people who owed the money in the process. But unlike the dodgy companies who usually buy agency debts, CARP "forgave" them - essentially paying off the multi-million dollar debts for just $60 grand!
(So yes Dickie, this technically beats Oprah's record of $8 million when she did that whole "YOU GET A CAR! AND YOU GET A CAR!" thingy a few years ago, making Oliver's giveaway, the biggest in television history. But like I said, the dollars don't matter. The act of giving does.)
And then there was that time Oliver raised thousands of dollars for Médecins Sans Frontières.
He wanted to make a point about televangelists dodging taxes and ripping off their followers, so he decided to set up his own fake church. As a joke, he encouraged his viewers to send in cash donations to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption and he would offer "blessings" in exchange - but viewers actually did send in cash! The amount was never fully disclosed, however, he made sure all donations were forwarded to the relief organisation.
Earlier this year, he partnered up with the Kids Wish Network (sort of like our Make-A-Wish Foundation here in Oz) to help out one of his fans. Teenager Josh Danielpour, who suffers from a life-threatening illness, was flown from Ohio to New York to meet Oliver and spend some time with him on set. Think that smile on Josh's face says it all really.
I have to say, after writing this post, I've become a bit of a John Oliver fan! Still an Opraholic, but expanding my taste.
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