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‘Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’ Recap: Season 10, Episode 4 – ‘TANF’

We all love the enthusiasm of John Oliver, who has exactly the same energy every week when he appears on “Last Week Tonight” and delivers some of the most concerning news with a brilliant punch of comedy mixed with hard-hitting facts. Oliver’s comic timing engages the audience, and while some people find newspapers or online journals boring, this show shows an unique way of presenting concerning topics with entertainment. The fourth episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” was released on March 12, 2023. The last three episodes have been very engaging and entertaining as well, and episode 4 is nothing less. Here is a detailed recap of episode 4.

Spoilers Ahead

John And His Love For Fox News

The fourth episode of “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” starts with the concerning news of the Silicon Valley bank collapse, which is one of the largest bank collapses in history.

We have seen how Oliver takes a few shots at Fox News in episode 1, and in this episode, he again brings up the topic of Dominion Voting suing Fox News for the alleged false claims that Dominion Voting’s machines helped swing the election in the favour of Joe Biden. Oliver then takes a few shots at Fox News’ chairman, Rupert Murdoch, and hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham.

Randy McNally And His Absurdity

Lieutenant Governor Randy McNally has been a part of anti-LGBTQ legislation over the years and also made public statements that marriages and relationships should be restricted only between a man and a woman. But surprisingly, he has been commenting on a twenty-year-old gay model’s Instagram posts in a supportive way. Oliver then shows snippets from the interviews with McNally that show very awkward interactions regarding his comments and the posts he likes on Instagram, which is funny and problematic at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with liking or commenting on queer people’s posts, but for a man who is a part of anti-LGBTQ legislation and a part of harming their rights, it is very much unfathomable.


The main story of Episode 4 of “Last Week Tonight With John Oliver” is TANF. Oliver opens up the conversation regarding this topic by sarcastically saying the acronym TANF stands for That A**hole Nigel Farage in Britain, then says in the United States, the correct acronym is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It is a federal program that has been designed to help families who are struggling financially with little to no income.

TANF is a vital resource, but it has been all over the news recently for Mississippi’s ongoing scandals involving Brett Favre. The NFL Hall-of-Famer apparently gets involved in a campaign to aggressively lobby for millions of dollars from the state welfare agencies to build a massive volleyball facility at the University of Southern Mississippi. Brett Favre was involved in getting a huge amount of $5 million in TANF funds, which he funneled into establishing the volleyball stadium at his alma mater.

Oliver states that Favre’s story is just the tip of the iceberg, as from 2016 to 2019, at least 77 million dollars from federal welfare money was stolen or misspent in Mississippi. It is very bizarre how former athletes are involved in the scandal; even WWE’s former superstar Ted DiBiase is also involved in scandals. But both Favre and DiBiase got away without any current criminal charges against them.

The concerning part is that for years in Mississippi, the families who were in dire need of help could not get it. Oliver shows a clip that addresses the FBI’s investigation of welfare fraud. Reportedly, in 2022, just 2600 children among roughly 19000 who were living in poverty received the monthly aid. Interestingly, a report shows that for every hundred families living in poverty, only twenty-one received TANF cash assistance.

Anti-Welfare And Welfare-To-Work Campaigns

TANF has become a very important aspect for the masses because it is the only anti-poverty program that provides monthly cash assistance. Although it is undeniable that welfare is an important part of most people’s lives, especially for those who face financial issues and suffer from poverty, over the years, many anti-welfare campaigns have included comparing people who receive welfare money to alligators and other animals. However, the welfare-to-work approach was a very successful program in Riverside County, California. The program did increase the recipients’ earnings by nearly fifty percent. Oliver shows the interview of the man overseeing this program, Larry Townsend, and then showcases the ridiculous work ethic music album that used to be played in the welfare-to-work offices.

Oliver then highlights several reports that show TANF funds are getting lower over the years and that they are also being misused by some of the states in America. TANF money can be used in harmful ways, for instance, by funding crisis pregnancy centers, which are fake abortion clinics designed to convince people to see pregnancies through to term and often pass on misinformation. Oliver mentions that at least 10 US states have siphoned millions of dollars to crisis pregnancy centers, which is very problematic.

Problems With TANF

TANF often fails to deliver on what it stands for, and there are many such incidents that show how people in dire need of help get rejected when they apply for welfare money. Even single mothers who are struggling, face several issues proving the identity of their child’s father in bizarre ways to be eligible to receive welfare assistance. In some US states, there are time limits on receiving welfare money, and often it comes with an obligation to perform activities like job searching and proper training. This program is meant for struggling parents, but it is very difficult for them to go through the criteria TANF often requires to send support, especially for the parents who do not have access to childcare.


Oliver shows footage of a lady who was in a coma, and the government cut her off from receiving welfare money because she didn’t report, which is apparently impossible for a person who suffers from a serious health condition and is hospitalized. The reports show TANF funds provide an extremely low amount of money for the multiple obligations poor families need to face to avail of it, and it is also very difficult to maintain the absurd stipulations that come along with the welfare assistance. In the closing moments of the episode, Oliver discusses what can be done properly with welfare funds like TANF, followed by a quick and funny “And Now” segment.


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