Local Wire

John Oliver Mocks Fox 10's Cory McCloskey Over His Confusion About Transgender Women

Arizona has provided a lot of fodder for cable TV comedy shows and comedians over the past few years. In fact, we've been the butt of well-timed jokes by such Comedy Central yukksters as Daniel Tosh, Dave Attell, and outgoing host of The Daily Show, Jon Stewart. (Heck, our state has been skewered and satirized so many times on TDS that we had to put together a list of its best bits.)

And just this past weekend, Arizona was once again the target of a cable TV comedian, specifically John Oliver.

On the latest episode of his HBO satirical news program, Last Week Tonight, the British comic (and Daily Show alum) took aim at Fox 10's Cory McCloskey over comments that the Valley weatherman made a couple of weeks ago in connection with the recent controversy involving local transgender woman Briana Sandy being refused service and kicked out of Tempe Tavern because of her gender identity.

During a broadcast of Fox 10's morning news show earlier this month, McCloskey (who serves as the program's weatherman) seemed to be confused about the term “female transgender” after the story had been covered as one of the headlines of the day.

McCloskey brought up the issue back up later during his weather segment and questioned the morning show anchors on the definition of the term.

“Let's bring it back to that earlier headline,” McCloskey said. “Now what is a 'transgender woman?' What does that even mean now?"

"She used to be a guy," co-anchor Ron Hoon responded.

"But now is a woman," piped in a female anchor.

After hearing this, McCloskey went silent and stared blankly for a few seconds before throwing his hands up in the air and getting a little exasperated.

"Aren't you just saying a woman then? I don't . . . I can't even keep up any more!"

After airing the clip of McCloskey's antics on this past Sunday's episode of Last Week Tonight, Oliver proceeded to needle the weatherman.

“Holy shit! I...I really hope that's also how he reports the weather,” Oliver said before launching into an mocking imitation of how McCloskey's might deliver a forecast in the same confused fashion.

“'Wait! Wait! It used to be rainy and now its sunny!?! So...so...so now it's just sunny!?!?! I CAN'T EVEN KEEP UP ANYMORE! I can't...this doesn't make my head work,'” Oliver said while imitating the weatherman.

(Oddly enough, McCloskey would probably handle surprising changes in the weather quite well. Back in January, for instance, he earned online fame after hilariously dealing with a malfunctioning weather map that forecasted ungodly hot temperatures into the thousands of degrees across Phoenix.)

As he's wont to do on Last Week Tonight, Oliver used his skewering of McCloskey – whom he called a "bamboozled weatherman" — as a segue into a larger issue — specifically, the mainstream media's oftentimes confused, awkward, or uninformed coverage of transgender issues, as well as the state of transgender rights in general in America. (Arizona also got another shout out much later in the segment when Oliver cited a proposed “bathroom birther” state law from 2012 that would've criminalized the use of a public restroom if the sex on someone's birth certificate didn't match up with the particular gender on the door.)

In regards to McCloskey, Oliver used his antics as an example of how mainstream media outlets can be confused or unfamiliar with the specifics of being transgender.

New Times reached out to both McCloskey and FOX 10's management for comment on the matter or some reaction to Oliver's jokes but neither was forthcoming.

Despite being the butt of Oliver's barbs, McCloskey got off relatively light. In fact, the Last Week Tonight host was a bit conciliatory after ribbing on the weatherman.

“Look, let's give him the benefit of the doubt,” Oliver said, “Maybe for him, and for many people, this is new information. Maybe he's thinking about transgender issues for the first time, and he needs a minute to try and understand it.”

Or maybe McCloskey, a stand-up comedian in his spare time who is known to ham it up on the air (including during that aforementioned weather map snafu) and was probably trying to get some laughs. 

We're willing to bet that his speechless, deadpan reaction and mock exasperation on the air were an attempt to milk some humor out of the confusion that some in the general public and mainstream media have had while trying to understand transgender issues post-Caitlyn Jenner.

In his defense, we suspect that (prior to his arm-flinging and excited exclamations) McCloskey was trying to say  “transgender women” should just be referred to as “women.” The weatherman admitted as much in his only online comment regarding to the whole issue, which was a reply to a post on his Facebook account.

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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.