Yes, the Peacock sent some of its vaunted Today cast—Matt Lauer, Meredith Vieira, and Hoda Kotb—to preside over Brazilian filmmaker Fernando Meirelles’s (City of God) much-hyped Opening Ceremony. And the results were… strange.
“Now, the buildup to the Rio Games has been turbulent, with Brazil experiencing a massive recession, protests in the streets, and a Zika outbreak, but on Friday, NBC urged us to forget all that and focus on the Opening Ceremony,” said John Oliver on Friday’s edition of Last Week Tonight.
“The centerpiece of any Opening Ceremony is the Parade of Nations: that inspirational moment where athletes from around the globe come together—as one—to have Today show anchors point out everything that’s wrong with their countries,” he added.
As each country emerged, with their athletes “forced to dress like flight attendants from shitty airlines”—with one glorious exception being Tonga, and their buff, oiled-up mascot—the announcers from NBC ran down a list of terrible things to happen to each country, from Turkey’s “attempted coup in July” to the numerous “terrorist attacks” in France to the “devastating earthquake” in Nepal. They even referred to Sudan as a “troubled nation.”
Not nearly as soul-crushing as the Republican National Convention, but a bit depressing nonetheless. “Holy shit! It is a good thing the anchors don’t behave like that during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” joked Oliver. “There goes Shrek, obviously jaundiced and beset by weight problems stemming from chronic diabetes; here’s Charlie Brown, clearly losing his fight with leukemia; and finally, there is Snoopy, who of course is going to be put down later today.”
The elephant in the room, of course, is the current state of political upheaval in the Olympics’ host country of Brazil. President Dilma Rousseff, the first female president of Brazil, has been suspended since May amid allegations of corruption and did not attend the Opening Ceremony. She told Brazilian news, “Imagine you’re going to throw a party, you work on it for years, you set it all up, and then on the day of the party someone shows up, takes your place, and takes over your party. In this story of the games, I am the Cinderella.”
Her replacement, current acting President Michel Temer, appeared in her stead yet was largely hidden from the proceedings. As our own Nico Hines reported from inside Maracanã Stadium, “After three and a half hours, Temer was finally forced to do his duty and declare the games open. Organizers kept his face off the big screens in the Maracanã to try and limit the reaction, but as soon as his voice was heard, a cacophony of boos rained down from all sides. Another round of fireworks was launched but they could not drown out the verdict of the crowd.”
According to Oliver, “Those boos actually make sense for a couple of reasons: First, he is unelected and is planning to push through a number of austerity measures, and second, he is a poet who once released a book of poetry titled Anonymous Intimacy, featuring this actual poem.”
The comedian then recited Temer’s poem “Red,” which reads as follows:
Of redFiery flames of fire.Brilliant eyesWhich smile with scarlet lipsFiresThey take hold of me.Of my mindMy soul.All mineIn heat.My bodyOn fireConsumedDissolved.FinallyAshes are leftThat I spread on the bedTo sleep.
“Now, what is interesting about that poem is nothing, but what is relevant about it is that his muse is his wife, Marcela, who is 42 years younger than him,” said Oliver. “He is 75, she is 33. And I’ll say this: At least when 70-something American politicians get creepily handsy with 30-something women, they have the decency to do so with their own daughters,” he continued, before throwing to a clip of Donald Trump manhandling Ivanka at the RNC. “Have some class, Brazil! Have. Some. Class.”
“But wait, it gets one step worse, because she apparently has a tattoo of [Michel’s] name on her neck, which seems like a tradition that’s part of a wedding ceremony at… Señor Frog’s.”