John Oliver took on the obviously hilarious topic of payday lending on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight, and once again proved that it’s possible to do some really smart advocacy journalism in a comedy format and make it work — almost as if he thinks that comedy can do more than just give us a cheap laugh or something. And with payday loan outlets more plentiful than either Starbucks or McDonalds, it’s probably worth looking at — especially since payday loans are the financial equivalent of fast food, except you only pay for your McAnusBurger once or twice.
So watch this thing, and prepare to be amazed at the incredibly adaptive and creative ways the payday-loan biz has evolved to outsmart attempts to regulate it. For instance, in Arizona, the companies just started doing “title loans” — so they could rip people off AND take their cars — and in Ohio, they morphed into “mortgage lenders,” offering home mortgages for $400 or so. And of course in Texas, the industry has it figured out — the people who “regulate” payday lenders all work in the payday loan industry. Talk about filling an evolutionary niche!
Also, Sarah Silverman stars in a counter-ad for the best possible alternative to taking out a payday loan: Literally Anything Else.