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March 30, 2020

John Oliver desperately wants to buy rat-erotica painting by Pennsylvania artist

The 'Last Week Tonight' host is offering $1,000 to the current owner of 'Stay Up Late' by Brian Swords, plus a $20,000 donation charity

TV Last Week Tonight
John Oliver President Trump Coronavirus Last Week Tonight/YouTube

On 'Last Week Tonight," John Oliver declared he wants find the owner of a rat erotica painting titled 'Stay Up Late' by York, Pennsylvania artist Brian Swords. He also criticized the White House's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Last Week Tonight" returned Sunday following a one-week hiatus and, as could be expected, John Oliver had his wit zeroed-in on President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic ... but it wasn't the only thing on the comedian's mind.

UPDATE: John Oliver obtains sought-after rat-erotica painting by Pennsylvania artist

During the second portion of the episode, Oliver delved into the weird world of early-90s erotica, specifically paintings by artist Brian Swords from York, Pennsylvania, who had a series of pieces featuring anthropomorphic rats in various romantic embraces.

Sword's paintings had been featured on a 1992 fundraising telethon for WITF, the PBS station out of Harrisburg. Four of Sword's rat-erotica paintings were sold at auction during the telethon, each selling for less than $100.

Oliver made it clear that he wants one thing, and one thing only – the piece titled "Stay Up Late" in which Swords has two rats semi-reclined on a bed. To get it, the host is offering $1,000 to the current owner, whoever that is, plus a $20,000 donation to the food bank of that person's choice. 

"I want that piece of art hanging behind me on this wall next week," Oliver said pointing to the white backdrop behind him. Oliver recorded Sunday's episode in a makeshift studio at his home because of the coronavirus pandemic. "And if I don't get it, I will keep looking for it, because this is America. Where, sure, you can't get a test for COVID-19, or Purell, or a ventilator, or a sense of empathy from the person in charge (President Trump). But if you try hard enough … you can get a picture of two nude rats locked in a passionate post-f*** embrace hanging on your wall."

Just in case you were wondering ... some of the other paintings in the collection include "The Smell of Wet Fur" and "Sheets and Pillowcases." 

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of this painting can email Oliver at

Before sharing his new obsession with rat erotica, the main segment of "Last Week Tonight" addressed the lack of medical supplies in hospitals, like ventilators for COVID0-19 patients and protective gear for hospital staff. 

"As a wartime president he has a major tool at his disposal — the Defense Production Act," Oliver said. "It enables the federal government to compel companies to prioritize the production of essential supplies. People have been begging him to use that authority for weeks now, but he only did for the first time on Friday to force GM — and only GM — to make ventilators."

Oliver later said, "Trump has failed to give this crisis the seriousness it requires. This was always going to be hard, but it didn’t have to be this hard."

"Last Week Tonight" is pre-recorded. So with the episode wrapped and Trump then extending social distancing guidelines until the end of April, instead of ending restrictions on Easter as he suggested he might, Oliver's jokes lost most of their sting. But he still makes a valid and poignant plea to help out health care workers. Watch the segment about coronavirus below.

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