As may have been foretold, in this week’s episode of Last Week Tonight John Oliver turned his attention to — you guessed it — psychics, who he describes as, “the only people with more misplaced confidence than Michael Avenatti.”
While “it’s easy to dismiss psychics as a joke,” Oliver said, a recent poll found that one out of 10 Americans believe in psychics, a statistic he put into context by noting that out of all the people who saw John Travolta’s movie Gotti, “four of them believe in psychics.” Not only do people believe in them, but people are willing to shell out a lot of cash to the daytime TV staples, according to Oliver, it‘s a $2.2 billion industry.
For Oliver, he finds mediums — the people who claim to be able to commune with the dead — to be particularly egregious, as their business comes at the expense of people who are desperate to hear from their deceased love ones. That said, even Oliver has to admit it makes for compelling television, even if he does think it is odd that the “conduit to the after-life” is Long Island Medium star Theresa Caputo, who he describes as “living proof of what would happen if you added too much baking soda to Edie Falco.”
According to Oliver, psychics work by either “hot reading” people, which involves doing preliminary research into the subjects of their reading, or “cold reading” people where they make calculated, if scattershot guesses in the hope of eliciting responses, for example by “indiscriminately shouting the names of dead Irishmen in a hotel ballroom.“ Once people respond, it helps the psychic narrow down their questions until they make a connection with an audience member. “It’s not an exact science,” Oliver says. ”It’s not a science at all.”
For Oliver, at best it is reckless and at worst when psychic ability is presented as authentic, it can open the door to graft, fraud and heartlessness. According to Oliver, parents whose children are missing are frequently targeted by psychics and, as he notes, the last thing parents seeking information about their missing children need is to be targeted by “attention-seeking parasites that feed off human tragedy like a human-sized deer tick.”
Luckily, Oliver has a solution — his very own psychic on his very own daytime talk show, Wakey Wakey with John Oliver, which airs “sometime between 9 and 3 in the afternoon.” To help him promote this new venture, Oliver brings out noted psychic Wanda Joe Oliver. She is not only a psychic, but also his loving wife (and also former SNL star Rachel Dratch). She joined him on stage to help solicit customers to get psychic readings at their two new websites: wandajofreepsychic.com or mediumimpressive.com. Those in need or those who are just curious, can simply click on the link and get a free psychic reading that Oliver promises is “exactly as accurate as any psychic reading that you would pay money for.“