John Oliver would like you to add footage of a dancing zebra – or at least, a social media hashtag mentioning zebras – to any news footage you share about Donald Trump, in the latest silly and, let’s face it, John Oliver-y call to action from the Last Week Tonight host.
On Sunday’s episode of Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, the host did as he usually does, covering the news with his characteristic blend of sarcasm and humor. Like much of the news has been lately, some of the segments were bleak and depressing.
— Paste Magazine (@PasteMagazine) March 20, 2017
As the show wound down to a close, according to Bustle, Oliver turned things around. He introduced the segment by mentioning the strange connection between zebras and traffic fatalities in Bolivia.
“I know that you’re thinking, ‘Wait, hold on. Your happy story involves fatal car accidents in Bolivia?’ But wait, wait, wait. Trust me. Because this is the solution that they came up with.”
As it turns out, Bolivia has a problem with fatal traffic accidents, according to March 2017 report in The Atlantic. An innovative solution came in the form of an old idea from another South American country: Bogotá, Columbia’s then-mayor, Antanas Mockus, dealing with similar traffic issues in his town, came up with the idea that shaming drivers for poor driving, rather than ticketing them, was the way to go. So Mockus sent out a fleet of mimes to mock and shame drivers who broke the rules.
In Bolivia, La Paz government worker Pablo Groux remembered the mimes and decided that a similar approach might work in the Bolivian capital city. However, instead of using shame and mockery via mimes, Groux figured the Bolivians would respond to something a little more playful: zebras. Further, the locals refer to the black-and-white-striped pedestrian crossings in the capital city as “zebra crossings,” so Zebras made perfect sense to Bolivia.
To this day, dozens of part-time and volunteer cebritas patrol the city’s crosswalks, bringing humor and levity to a stressful situation, says Patricia Grossman, who headed the program from 2005 to 2011.
“On a lot of busy corners you will have police directing traffic, but their method of doing it is whistling at you, yelling at you, pulling you over, giving you a ticket. Whereas the way the zebras do it, if a car stops in the crosswalk, they will lay across his hood.”
Say what you will about mimes and zebras and public shaming, both programs seem to have worked: traffic fatalities in both La Paz and Bogotá have dropped significantly, in some cases over 50 percent.
Bringing it back to John Oliver: after considering the impact the dancing zebras had on the problem of fatal traffic accidents, Oliver figures that dancing zebras can be a useful tool to lighten up everyone’s mood in these days of continual, depressing news.
“Come on! Every interview is improved by a zebra head. There’s a lesson for everyone there. A stressful interview with 60 Minutes? Put on a zebra head. Tough questions on the red carpet? You put on a zebra head. Sean Spicer? Get yourself a zebra head, man!”
Oliver then went on to show how inserting a dancing zebra into the clip can lighten up any news clip. And as a special treat for the viewers, he provided a clip of a zebra dancing in front of a green screen. If you’re good at editing, you can use it to zebra-up any video.
— Last Week Tonight (@LastWeekTonight) March 20, 2017
“I think it’s pretty clear, with things in America the way they are now, we need these zebras like never before.”
If you use John Oliver’s dancing zebra in a video, please share it in the comments below this article.
[Featured Image by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images]