If there’s anything we needed after all the storm and stress of 2020, it was a bit of comic relief, and the laughs have now arrived in the form of Danbury’s mock feud with the HBO comedian John Oliver. The punchline, delivered after an 18-1 vote by the City Council, is that the Hat City’s new $110 million sewer plant will be officially known as the John Oliver Memorial Sewer Plant.
Why “memorial,” when Oliver is still very much alive? Probably just some prudent planning on the city’s part. After all, why spend taxpayer dollars to replace the sign sometime in the future when Oliver meets his demise? And HBO, getting in on the gag and saving even more public money, is said to be paying for the initial sign.
But it’s a win-win: Oliver gets some publicity, as does Mayor Mark Boughton, as does Danbury — and Oliver agrees to donate $55,000 to local charities in exchange for the renaming. According to Boughton, this public tiff, which has been all over the news and social media, has already led to a surge in donations to local food banks.
“If I can put food on people's table for Thanksgiving by naming a sewer plant after a very popular comedian, we'll do it all day long,” Boughton said.
If this all sounds pretty strange, it is. Back in August, for reasons that aren’t entirely clear, Oliver launched into an expletive-filled tirade about Danbury on his show, "Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.” Something to do with racial disparities in the jury selection process.
Not to be outdone, Boughton posted a video of himself at the sewage plant, saying the city was going to name it after Oliver. “Why?” the Republican mayor asked. “Because it's full of crap just like you, John.” And the tongue-in-cheek feud was on.
“I didn't know that I wanted my name on your (expletive) factory but now that you floated it as an option, it is all that I want,” Oliver said.
Boughton also specified that Oliver must attend the official renaming ceremony, for which a date has not yet been set.