November 4, 2015

It’s said that the best comedy is steeped in truth. So is the case with HBO comedian John Oliver’s twenty-minute take on America’s failing infrastructure. Beneath the punchlines are harsh truths: crumbling bridges, antiquated dams, and leaky pipes all exacerbated by a dearth of funding and a lack of urgency. As Oliver says, “it’s not a sexy problem, but it is a scary one.”

I was pleased to see that Oliver didn’t only talk about the challenges facing our roads and bridges which often dominates the infrastructure debate. He also highlighted our more invisible, but essential, water infrastructure—including the recent water main break at UCLA and the fact that our nation’s dams are 52 years old on average.

A key point that Oliver makes is the critical importance of maintaining our nation’s infrastructure in a state of good repair. While water and wastewater agencies know that asset management is critical, fixing leaky pipes doesn’t lend itself well to ribbon cuttings and press releases.

“Every summer, people flock to see our infrastructure threatened by terrorists or aliens,” Oliver says. “But we should care just as much when it’s under threat from the inevitable passage of time.” Oliver’s missive closes with a spoof movie trailer to a summer block buster, Infrastructure that features an all-star cast including Hope Davis, Ed Norton, and Vincent D’Onofrio that brings Hollywood appeal and humor to the importance of routine maintenance.

You can check out the clip here.