John Oliver examines the thin line between “horse fanatic” and “wacky authoritarian dictator” in this week’s edition of Last Week Tonight. Recent rumors surrounding the Turkmen president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s death spurred on (pun fully intended) Oliver’s in-depth analysis of the leader’s unhealthy equine obsession. The comic also manages to throw in some absolutely savage criticism of the Guinness World Records before episode’s end. Don’t worry; we’ll get there. As Oliver promises:
In 20 minutes, you’re not so much going to be wondering why we’re talking about Turkmenistan as why we’d ever talk about anything else ever again.
Things get weird right out of the gate—okay, that’s the last horse pun—with Oliver’s look at the autocrat’s penchant for shows of physical prowess. See how strong Berdi is, bench pressing without any actual weights. Be wowed by Berdi’s impressive ability to shred on guitar while completely enveloped in stage fog. Like any dictator worth his salt, the man is devoted to narcissism and self-aggrandizement.
But Oliver spends much of the episode on Berdi’s, shall we say, unusually strong appreciation of horses. Seriously, the man loves horses. “Like the incorrect amount,” Oliver notes. He gifts Turkmen horses to world leaders. He’s written multiple books on the hooved animals, one of which Oliver snagged a copy of on Amazon. And the comic’s favorite passage is a doozy:
“Witnesses never wearied of being astonished by the steed-and-human intercourse brought to full perfection,” which I’m hoping is a mistranslation, but probably isn’t.
This is a guy who holds horse beauty contests and awards himself the title of “the people’s horse breeder.” Though, Oliver admits, can we really blame him? Turkmenistan’s national horse is the Akhal-Teke, a breed the comedian gleefully describes as “a super f*ckable horse.” You know, if he were a horse and not human, because that would be weird.
So where does the world’s most pointless collection of world records fit into all this? It seems Berdimuhamedov’s other bizarre obsession is collecting superlatives. Turkmenistan is the proud owner of the highest number of fountain pools in a public space, the world’s largest horse head statue (of course) and the world’s largest cycling awareness lesson. Video of the last event reveals an official Guinness adjudicator in attendance. “What is an official from Guinness World Records doing in one of the most repressive countries on Earth certifying records for an autocrat?” Oliver asks.
Turns out the company charged with collecting such quirky achievements as “oldest male stripper” makes some real money off this stuff. Breaking records brings publicity, and companies and individuals with the cash capitalize on that—staged events can cost upwards of $500,000. Who knew the biz was so profitable? This all leads to the most impressive portion of Oliver’s clip, a world record attempt we will not spoil here. Even though official Guinness judges said “neigh” to a Last Week Tonight appearance—yeah, that “last horse pun” thing was a lie—Oliver and his team still hold the incredibly specific record in our hearts. (Guiness would appear to disagree.)
Watch the clip below.