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#DCPublicSchools: John Oliver starts a viral Emmys hashtag, because he can

The Last Week Tonight host shows why he’s winning Emmys — and late-night comedy.

Aja Romano writes about pop culture, media, and ethics. Before joining Vox in 2016, they were a staff reporter at the Daily Dot. A 2019 fellow of the National Critics Institute, they’re considered an authority on fandom, the internet, and the culture wars.

At the 2017 Emmy Awards, while accepting his trophy for Outstanding Writing for a Variety Series, John Oliver reminded viewers what’s behind much of the success of his hit HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight With John Oliver: virality.

Oliver has influenced the masses time and again since his hit news commentary series debuted in 2014, and in many different ways, from repeatedly crashing the Federal Communications Commission’s website over his calls to defend net neutrality to persuading New York City to relax its harsh bail requirements.

However, at the Emmys on Sunday, Oliver wasn’t thinking about wielding his influence for anything overtly political — he just wanted to reach out and connect with viewers at home. How did he do it? By praising the US education system and instructing the Emmys audience to trend #DCPublicSchools on Twitter, because “I think it’d be great if it started trending on Twitter tonight for no reason whatsoever.”

Oliver was referencing a moment from earlier in the evening, when Dave Chappelle, who grew up in Washington, DC, randomly quipped, “Shout-out to DC Public Schools,” while presenting the Outstanding Directing in a Comedy Series Emmy alongside Melissa McCarthy.

Thus, the hashtag #DCPublicSchools was born — and it immediately hit No. 2 on Twitter’s worldwide trending list, behind the Emmys hashtag itself.

HBO was into it.

And so were DC Public Schools:

While Oliver clearly meant the joke in fun, it’s a powerful reminder of how popular Last Week Tonight has become. Segments from the show routinely rake in millions of hits on YouTube and Facebook while repeatedly shattering the show’s own records. In the battle of Daily Show alumni who now host competing news comedy shows, the 2017 Emmys may have been Stephen Colbert’s night to shine as the host of the ceremony — but it’s clearly John Oliver’s world.

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