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Watch: John Oliver Takes Down the Tech Industry, and the Industry Guffaws

| February 11, 2014
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John Oliver, beloved former fake news correspondent on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” was at San Francisco’s Davies Symphony Hall Monday night to host the 7th Annual Crunchies Awards. You know — the annual event hosted by tech sector news sites TechCrunch, Gigaom and VentureBeat to celebrate success and innovation in the technology world.

Some of Oliver’s commentary in his introductory standup got a little attention: He cast a comically critical eye on gentrification and the Google bus issue. But the audience, at least, seemed to take the critique in stride, if its laughter is anything to judge by.

Here’s a partial transcript of his introduction:

I don’t get what is happening here. Why do you need an awards ceremony in the tech industry? What more adulation — you already have almost all the money in the world. Why do you need awards as well after that? It is absolutely ridiculous!

You’re no longer the underdogs. It’s very important that you realize that. You’re not the scrappy people that people get behind. It used to be people in the tech industry were emotional shut-ins who you could root for. Now those days are gone. You’re pissing off an entire city. Not just with what you do at work, but how you get to work. [Lots of laughter and some cheers.] It’s not easy to do that.

I heard the latest design for your buses was to use tinted windows but reverse, with the tint on the inside, the reason being, ‘Look, I don’t mind if the peasants see me. I would rather not see them.’

You’re being accused of over-gentrifying a city that was already the most expensive city to live in in America — that’s not mathematically possible! You’re gentrifying something that was already gentrified three times before you. You can’t gentrify it any more without going full circle and turning this into a shithole.

And more coverage here:

TechCrunch: John Oliver Roasts Silicon Valley at The Crunchies

Valleywag: John Oliver on The Crunchies: ‘Why Do You Need an Awards Ceremony?’

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About the Author ()

Dan Brekke has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.
  • Eamon Banta

    I always wonder how much of these commentaries to take with a grain of salt. Some people have been acting like John Oliver is somehow “calling out” the tech industry and being part of the protest. But he hosted the Emmys, so he knows from first hand experience that awards ceremonies are made for the rich. How often do you hear of awards ceremonies for the poor or disenfranchised? Or even to celebrate those who help the poor and disenfranchised? And even less are hosted by John Oliver.

    Not to mention that I (and I haven’t lived in San Francisco for awhile so I’m not fully connected to what’s going on there at the moment) find the whole idea of San Francisco being against the tech industry sort of laughable.

    • NunyaDangBisness

      You’d think so, but apparently us techies are “ruining the city” with our careers. Somehow it’s entirely our fault that rent prices are skyhigh and people are experiencing gentrification. Nevermind the rental and housing policies in the city that prevent a lot of new housing to be created, much less to help drive down rental costs.

      • Fart

        It is the conscious decision to live hours from where you work and dramatically out-bid people on housing in blue-collar neighborhoods in a city that you are not adding any sort of interesting dimension or culture to. Its the ‘well, I can afford it’ attitude. BARF!

        • NunyaDangBisness

          “Hours”? The Valley is about an hour commute, which, last I checked is pretty normal for all kinds of people all over the country. Not adding “dimension or culture” – says who? The culture police? You get to define what the “culture” is for the whole city? And I hate to tell you, since you’re so clearly ignorant of how diverse the tech industry is, there are far more of us that CANNOT afford the rent or housing prices in SF than who can. Where’s the rage towards the “hand over fist” banking/financial industry that has a giant footprint in SF? Lemme get this straight – hedge fund investors who can afford a $4K 1BR apartment are GOOD, but the kid who just graduated from University with his shiny new CompSci degree (that will take YEARS to pay off) is your enemy? That’s some logic train you’re on there.

        • NunyaDangBisness

          p.s. SF hasn’t been a “blue collar’ town in YEARS…where you get that notion is beyond me. I think you meant to say “Oakland”.

          • LF

            FYI: My husband walked to work in Silicon Valley for his entire career.

      • sfnative

        If techies are moving into apartments where an Ellis Act eviction has occurred (and that is easily searchable), then yes, they are helping to ruin the city. You can’t profit off of others’ misfortune and not expect to get some of the blame. The fact that you think San Francisco should be responsible for housing thousands of people who work an hour or more from the city is ridiculous. Yes, an hour commute is not so unusual, but usually that happens in the opposite direction: from the suburbs (which can expand, which the city cannot) into the city, leaving the rental prices in the city more or less alone so that people who live and work in the city, many of whom don’t necessarily have jobs lucrative enough to make a commute feasible, can stay there. As it is, San Francisco’s rental prices are being entirely swayed by the ridiculously wealthy, and we’re about to have a mass exodus of, for instance, teachers. Now why exactly should someone being paid a teacher’s wage try to keep their job in San Francisco if the have to move out to Hayward or wherever they can afford to live now that you all have turned the city into your luxury bedroom community. Can you really not see the bigger picture here?

    • Rocketpilot

      I rather think Oliver recognises the truth that film and television celebrities are famous but not especially powerful. The movers and shakers of the tech industry have power that extends beyond their domain.