On Sunday night, in front of his weekly audience of millions, British-American lampoonist John Oliver – host of HBO news satire program Last Week Tonight – offered Melbourne a deal he thought we couldn’t refuse.

In exchange for 10 Australian dollars, as well as a $10,000 donation to Foodbank, $5000 dollars to the koala chlamydia ward at Australia Zoo (which is bizarrely named in his honour) and a garish prop in the form of a large, “belligerent” alligator giving the finger, Oliver urged the city to “Send us your banana!” He gave the council one week to respond.

It’s not the first time the arresting 1.8-metre-tall, anthropomorphised, skull-faced and semi-peeled fruit has found its way into the news cycle. “Split” – as it’s been nicknamed by a fan account created on Twitter this week – stood in place on the corner of Rose and Brunswick streets in Melbourne’s inner-city suburb of Fitzroy for just two weeks last year before a masked attacker attempted to decapitate it with a hacksaw in November. It was removed for repairs and replaced by a large yellow flowerpot (which Oliver noted “clearly isn’t close to being as good”) and hasn’t been seen since, sparking ongoing enquiries into its fate.

We know this much: it won’t be heading stateside anytime soon. Oliver’s enthusiastic bid was met with a thanks-but-no-thanks from Yarra mayor Sophie Wade on Tuesday. She said the sculpture was still recuperating after its “traumatic experience” and was not for sale – but she did offer the host a private visit with the fragile fruit while it continues its convalescence.

“I would like to officially extend an invitation to John Oliver to come Down Under and visit Yarra. I would be happy to take him on a tour of our wonderful city and organise a private viewing of the banana, so they can get acquainted.”

For the artist behind the banana, Adam Stone, the ongoing, and often unflattering, attention on the work – which he told Broadsheet last year was a comment on Western culture’s “innate hubristic tendency towards unsustainable excess”– has been bewildering.

The ridicule and criticism, he said at the time, had left him “a little tender” but ultimately glad the work was generating discussions around the value and purpose of public art.

And those conversations continue. Far from fading into insignificance, the banana is now a transpacific talking point, and Oliver’s offer has given Stone’s work the kind of international publicity most artists can only dream of, but Stone remains earnest.

“I'm not really interested in what a John Oliver thinks of the work,” Stone told Broadsheet in his first public comment on the banana since November. “And engaging in his cat-and-mouse game undermines the conceptual integrity of the work and how it is framed.”

Stone isn’t the only one who thought Oliver’s proposal was a tad goofy. Melbourne-based consultancy firm Anywise – which donates 20 per cent of its profits to philanthropic causes – called the comedian’s conditional offer of charity “a bit cheeky”.

“It’s great to raise the profile of charities but someone has to follow through,” managing director Adam Evans told Broadsheet.

On Wednesday morning, after a flurry of late-night discussions, Anywise made a $10,000 donation to Foodbank, and publicly challenged Oliver to do the same, banana or no banana. Anywise has reached out to Oliver to discuss his next move, and hopes other individuals and businesses will follow suit in what has been dubbed the #winterapeel.