Comedy Central features Issaquah Highlands’ unemployment ‘scapegoats’

October 19, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

Funnyman Stephen Colbert shined a spotlight on the Issaquah Highlands last week for a serious message about unemployment.

Colbert sounded the alarm about illegal helpers — scapegoats — “gobbling up our jobs” and causing unemployment to rise.

Scapegoats? No, actual goats.

Stephen Colbert, host of the cable news spoof ‘The Colbert Report,’ gestures at the end of a segment about landscaping goats in the Issaquah Highlands. Contributed

So, the goats hired to landscape the highlands trotted into the national spotlight. The piece — a “People Who Are Destroying America” segment for the Oct. 14 episode of “The Colbert Report” — highlighted the Issaquah neighborhood and Rent-A-Ruminant.

In September, a Comedy Central crew filmed a segment on the living lawnmowers. The crew also interviewed Russ Ayers, Issaquah Highlands Community Association landscape manager, for the piece.

“I had no idea what they were going to do with it,” he said.

The crew asked the highlands landscaping team to appear in the segment, but Ayers said the group decided to pass. Instead, Comedy Central turned to a Tukwila business, New Beginning Garden & Lawn Care, to portray landscapers edged out of business by hungry goats.

Colbert also muckraked into the dark side of goat landscaping.

“Goat landscaping’s No. 1 problem is No. 2,” he said.

The goats had already gained some notoriety as the star ruminants in PEMCO Insurance’s “Goat Renter Guy” spot. Next up for the goats: a “Nightline” segment.

Rent-A-Ruminant owner Tammy Dunakin started the business six years ago using only a couple of goats. The success, she said, has been a pleasant surprise.

The goats chomped across highlands hillsides last summer and again in June. The goats — more than 120 from Rent-A-Ruminant on Vashon Island — nibbled through tall grass and invasive plants.

For the Comedy Central piece, the goats returned last month for filming, and the highlands received some free landscaping as a result.

In the segment, Colbert takes on Dunakin, because she uses cheap goat labor.

“We should not be afraid of goats at all. They’re no threat to us whatsoever,” she deadpanned. “Well, not unless the only thing they’re stealing is crawling around on the ground in the brambles eating blackberries or poison oak.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or Comment at

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