VICCO – The tiny town of Vicco made national news yet again last week, and a seven-minute segment on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” may not be the last America sees of Vicco on national television.
A crew from “The Colbert Report,” a satirical show airing on late night cable, was in Perry County in February to film a piece that aired Thursday regarding Vicco’s fairness ordinance, a measure which prohibits discrimination within with city limits based on a number of factors, including sexual orientation. Vicco is one of only a handful of cities in Kentucky to have passed such a law.
Mayor Johnny Cummings, who himself is openly gay, said he found out the piece would air earlier on Thursday and wasn’t sure what to expect. But he added he was happy with the way the show depicted Vicco and Eastern Kentucky, and the response since then has been mostly positive.
“I knew they were going to rip me apart, but that’s part of the show, and I enjoy the show so we thought we should do it,” Cummings said. “Basically, we wanted so change the stereotype of Eastern Kentucky.”
Cummings said he thinks the show, which included interviews with six Vicco residents or employees in favor of the fairness ordinance, turned upside down the region’s stereotype of the backwards hillbilly.
“Everyone thinks everyone is close-minded and everything else, which there are still people who are, but there will always be,” Cummings said. “Now the rest of the nation knows that we’re no different and no less of a person than they are.”
Tony Vaughn serves as Vicco’s police chief and was also interviewed for the show. He said he “loved” the piece and what it will mean for Vicco.
“The response was just overwhelming,” Vaughn said. “We’ve got people from overseas that want to come and visit and donate money and help the community. That was the whole thing, to let everybody know we’re all the same, and to not try to place us into that little backward mindset.”
Not all of the reaction has been positive, however. The piece included an interview with pastor Truman Hurt, who said he is not in favor of the fairness ordinance. Cummings noted some people in the local community felt the show was making fun of religion.
“I do believe in God and we weren’t doing that,” Cummings said.
Still yet, Cummings said he believes all of the exposure Vicco has received will ultimately jump start growth in the city. Officials have received several calls from people wanting to make donations, along with different groups of people wanting to visit Vicco.
“On Saturday we had a man and woman come down from northern Virginia,” he said. “They saw the show and wanted to stop by and talk for a while.”
A few national media outlets have also taken notice. Articles were posted online about Vicco on The Huffington Post, and Mother Jones posted a story on Monday.
And all of this attention could result in a reality TV show. City officials turned down offers to appear in a show in February after the town’s fairness ordinance garnered national headlines from publications like the New York Times. Cummings said on Monday, however, that he is currently in negotiations to appear in a new show. He said the city has been contacted by at least three production companies, and he thinks the idea could be floated to different networks if a deal is made.
For the city of Vicco, Cummings said a television deal will represent a financial windfall and will help pay for projects the city cannot currently afford, including a new city park, river walk, and fishing pier. And with any show in which they appear, he added, he expects to have some creative control.
“Anything we do, we want to get production rights so that we can get out or stop any negatives,” he said. “The negative is over. We did that with satire to break that stereotype. Now that everybody sees we’re different, it’s all going to be positive.”