John Oliver on Weird 2024 Commencements: Robot Speakers and Name Mishaps

John Oliver highlights this year's most bizarre commencement moments

by Zain ul Abedin
John Oliver on Weird 2024 Commencements: Robot Speakers and Name Mishaps
© Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

John Oliver delved into the peculiarities of this year's commencement ceremonies on Sunday’s episode of "Last Week Tonight." Highlighting the general chaos, Oliver pointed to both ongoing protests over Gaza and some rather unusual occurrences.

One standout moment came from Thomas Jefferson University College of Nursing, where the announcer struggled to pronounce common names like Sarah, Meghan, Elizabeth, Molly, and even Thomas. The mistake stemmed from reading off the phonetic spellings, leading to a hilarious and embarrassing mishap.

Oliver found it particularly amusing, remarking, “Mispronouncing ‘Thomas’ at Thomas Jefferson University is just spectacular”.

Controversial Commencement Speakers

Adding to the list of commencement controversies, Oliver discussed Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker’s speech at Benedictine College.

Butker condemned abortion, euthanasia, IVF, surrogacy, and the LGBTQ community while emphasizing traditional gender roles. He praised his wife for embracing the role of homemaker, despite his own mother being a physicist specializing in brachytherapy and Gamma Knife medical physics care.

Oliver sarcastically noted, “Her most important job was probably raising this absolute ham sandwich of a man”. Oliver also mentioned social media entrepreneur Chris Pan, who admitted to using Ayahuasca to prepare his speech at Ohio State University, where he advised the audience to invest in Bitcoin.

Furthermore, he humorously predicted the outcome of President Joe Biden’s upcoming speech at Morehouse College, saying, “I’m sure it went great,” with evident sarcasm. The segment concluded with the most bizarre commencement speaker choice this year: Sophia, an AI robot, at D’Youville University in Buffalo, New York.

The robot delivered a generic motivational speech, encouraging graduates to embrace lifelong learning and pursue their passions. Oliver quipped, “I’m sure students will fondly remember those stirring words as robots take all of their jobs before eventually tracking them down when they’re hiding in an abandoned warehouse during humanity’s final hours”.

Through these examples, Oliver highlighted the unpredictability and, at times, absurdity of this year's commencement ceremonies.