John Oliver lauds San Antonio’s Radiant plumbing, mocks McConaughey

John Oliver lauds San Antonio’s Radiant plumbing, mocks McConaughey

You know this is a Central Texas-tinged episode of “Last Week Tonight,” in which the main segment — about the border and President Biden’s immigration policies — hardly deserves a passing mention.

On Sunday night, HBO’s weekly newscast host John Oliver made several references to the I-35 corridor. From favorite son Matthew McConaughey, who was born in Uvalde and has strong ties to Austin, to ATX and Alamo City plumbing company Radiant, this was perhaps the most Texas-heavy episode yet.

The first mention of a Central Texas icon was a brief reference to McConaughey’s 5½-hour motivational seminar, The Art of Livin’, originally held on April 24th. The seminar features a half-buttoned McConaughey as Oliver only gives viewers a “taste” of the video lecture.

“In 1999, all I had was a dream that I was floating naked down a river surrounded by anacondas, sharks, piranhas and crocodiles,” says McConaughey. “And along the crest of the river stood thousands of African tribesmen, each with a shield and a spear. And it wasn’t a nightmare. It was actually a wet dream.”

Oliver pokes fun at the “rather sensitive racial imagery” before noting McConaughey’s…enthusiasm.

“I’m not sure what lesson to take from this,” says Oliver, “unless you try to do drugs with Matthew McConaughey, you’re going to die.”

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Later in the show, the program presents another segment entitled “Is Matthew McConaughey Alright?” The segment includes numerous quotes from McConaughey’s nearly six-hour lecture.

“I believe the recipe for your special secret sauce is under the hood of what you’re good at, not what you’re not good at,” says McConaughey in one example.

“I fall down, I get up and dust myself off like that,” he says, using another, particularly vivid example. “I step into a shit pile, I keep walking while cleaning the shit off my shoe along the way. I’m going to step into the same turd every time I turn the corner because I never stop taking inventory of exactly where that turd was that I keep stepping into.”

Oliver finally reaches Radiant Plumbing before the show ends for the week. In early March, the show challenged the Austin and San Antonio-based company, founded in 1999. The company’s ads are “elaborate, movie-related” parodies, including those satirizing “The Avengers” and “Dune.”

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“You know, when Frank Herbert wrote ‘Dune’ he probably didn’t realize that the quintessence of his story wasn’t being written by Jadorowsky, not by David Lynch, not by Denis Villenueve, but by a bunch of Texan toilet specialists with an After Effects login.” says Oliver.

Because the show loved Radiant’s “ingenuity,” they issued a challenge. If Radiant created an ad spoofing a movie chosen by the show, Last Week Tonight would run that ad on its program and donate $10,000 to Austin’s Central Texas Food Bank.

It took the company 48 hours to respond with a parody of “Last Week Tonight.”

The chosen film turned out to be 1999’s Magnolia, directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.

“Right, we asked her to adapt PT Anderson’s sprawling, three-hour epic into a commercial for a toilet repair company,” says Oliver. “Which is easier said than done.”

Oliver continues that it won’t be an easy process, but that the show is confident in Radiant’s abilities. The ad, titled “Magtoiletolia,” spoofed many of the film’s signature scenes, and Oliver noted that Radiant “really outdid themselves.”

“Like ‘Magnolia’ itself, this ad is a work of art that needs to be viewed multiple times to truly appreciate it,” says Oliver. “Because the level of detail here is absolutely insane.”

Oliver says every detail in the ad is intentional and has more Easter eggs than a “10-episode Marvel TV show.”

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More than 20 people were directly involved as actors, producers, set designers, sound engineers and more, all of whom were either employees or family members of employees, Radiant co-founder Brad Casebier said in a phone call. While most of Radiant’s ads take about a week to create, the “Last Week Tonight” video took longer.

“With 12 to 15 different scenes, a lot of different CGI work, there was a three-week turnaround,” Casebier said. “All filming took place in the second week and post-production in the third week. It took us about six hours to figure out how to tell the story and understand the film, so we put some time into it.”

Finding out that Oliver wanted Magnolia of all things was “devastating,” Casebier said.

“There aren’t many worse films that we could have gotten. There are 10 different storylines involving cocaine, suicide and child abuse; there’s just not a lot of happy stuff happening,” Casebier said. “It’s bizarre to make these complex storylines into a comedy.”

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“Not only did they do everything,” says Oliver, “they’re even matching our donation with a donation to the San Antonio Food Bank.”

Oliver gives Radiant plenty of praise, stating that the company is unparalleled when it comes to toilet theater and he can’t wait to see what the company does next.

“It was perfect. We hoped he would like it,” Casebier said of Oliver’s reaction. “We gave it to his production staff a couple of weeks ago and they were ecstatic so we were very confident coming in – very lovely to hear what he wanted to highlight and what he had to say.”