North Dakota’s interstate signs reading “Be Kind.” and “Be Polite.” have piqued interest on a national scale.
John Oliver, host of “Last Week Tonight,” used the quirky billboards as he reported on tragedies of North Dakota’s oil industry in a recent monologue. The comedian used the Newman Outdoor signs as inspiration, as his team rented billboards urging North Dakotans to “Be Angry (Please)” about oilfield deaths and a lack of regulations.
Oliver weaved humor and commentary throughout the 20 minutes set on oft-forgotten North Dakota. The state’s low profile, he said, has changed ever since the oil boom of the Bakken region completely changed the state.
“Like Channing Tatum, North Dakota suddenly became a lot more interesting when it was covered in oil,” Oliver said.
The British funnyman expressed his concerns of North Dakota’s lack of regulations in the oil industry and among certain oil companies, including a worker death at an Oasis Petroleum well site. He also said how oilfield accidents happening in the state are “not nice” — the opposite of what all the highway signs are promoting people to do.
“North Dakota wants to be business friendly, but the danger involved in oil industry makes it difficult, which is why other states ban or limit some indemnification clauses in the oil industry,” Oliver said. “ … We get it, North Dakota, you are friendly and that’s fantastic, but this has gone too far. Oil companies need to be held accountable when bad things happen.”
He concluded his broadcast by telling North Dakotans to get angry and, in the “most North Dakotan way” he knows, the “Be Angry (Please)” billboard went up near Minot reading.
In response, Sky Digital, a Fargo-based billboard company, ran advertisements in 10 North Dakota cities.
Sky Digital’s ad reads, “Hey John Oliver, don’t be angry. Be ‘North Dakota’ nice (it really works).”
Sky Digital’s sales manager told The Forum that Oliver’s monologue and sign were a slap in the face.
“Hey, this is what really works in North Dakota, we play nice, we are nice, we’re great people,” Hilt told The Forum. “Might not work for you in New York where everybody’s an a—–e, and I use to live there for four years — or whatever that might be.”
“At the end of the day, we are a great state and we shouldn’t have to be slapped in the face,” he said.