Canberra bashing goes international

James Joyce, Megan Doherty April 12, 2012

Ajay Rochester and

Ajay Rochester and "Mardi" from Canberra were plucked from the audience at the beginning of the show. Photo: 11 / CBS

Fraser MP Andrew Leigh says he would happily take Aussie film star Guy Pearce and American talk show host Craig Ferguson on a tour of Canberra to show them the national capital is ‘‘the best city in Australia’’.

The Labor MP and passionate Canberran doubted there was any lasting damage from Ferguson calling the national capital  ‘‘a [CENSORED] dump’’ and Pearce declaring ‘‘there’s a lot wrong about Canberra’’ on The Late, Late Show, just part of a strange anti-Canberra tirade that dominated much of the program.

‘‘I think most Canberrans have a robust love for the city which is strong enough to sustain quips from overseas,’’ he said.

Ferguson, the Scottish comedian tipped to succeed David Letterman as the leading night show host on CBS, devoted much of Tuesday's edition of his program to mocking the Australian capital, including with obscenities bleeped out by the network's censors.

Ferguson opened the show by chatting to two Australians plucked from his studio audience.

One was former host of The Biggest Loser Ajay Rochester, now based in Beverly Hills, California.

The other woman identified herself as "Mardi" from Canberra.

"Here's the thing I know about Canberra, " the unpredictable Ferguson told the pair. "Even Australians, diehard patriots of the lucky country, say Canberra is a [CENSORED] dump."

A small Aussie flag obscures Ferguson's mouth as his Australian-accented obscenity is masked by the sound effect words "crikey dingo".

Asked if she is from Canberra too Rochester says " no, thank god ", she's from Sydney, which Ferguson notes is, like Beverly Hills, " infested with Kardashians ".

Admitting he's never been to Canberra, Ferguson asks what there is to do there.

"Not much - go to Sydney lots," Mardi says, before some familiar but outdated gags about fireworks and pornography.

Hollywood star Pearce, the headline guest on the show telecast on Network Ten's digital channel Eleven on Wednesday night, happily joined in the Canberra-bashing when asked later by Ferguson " am I wrong about Canberra?"

Pearce: "No, no, there's a lot wrong about Canberra but you're not wrong about Canberra."

The Emmy-winning star of LA Confidential and Priscilla Queen of the Desert evidently missed the plea last week from Canberra centenary creative director Robyn Archer for all Australians to stop "Canberra bashing" and get to know their nation's capital.

Tourism boss Ian Hill also hit back against the attack, seeing it as a "call to arms" for proud citizens of the national capital to counter some of the criticism via their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

The acting director of Australian Capital Tourism invited actor Guy Pearce, who has been part of the latest Canberra-bashing, to come to the national capital and recreate his most famous scene from The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

"We should invite Guy Pearce to come down Northbourne Avenue on the top of a bus," he said, with a laugh.

ACT Tourism Minister Andrew Barr has also weighed into the debate, suggesting via Twitter that Pearce is now officially off his hot list.

Undirected ambivalence

Guy Pearce told host Craig Ferguson during the show that he once filmed at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra but admitted he did not know what the city's residents called themselves.

"People from Canberra usually deny they are from Canberra," he said.

Ferguson: "Perhaps we should have a competition."

Pearce: "What do you call someone from Canberra?"

Ferguson: "[CENSORED]"

Asked if Kylie Minogue is from Canberra, Pearce laughs: "she's not actually and she'd hate you for saying that".

But the former Neighbours and Home and Away pin-up struggled to articulate his apparent ambivalence toward the city.

"The thing about Canberra is it's like a series of circles and you end up going round and round and round and never end up getting out of there.

"It's like Washington, I guess, a totally man-made city and constructed for the government."

Ferguson: "A lot of cities are man-made though."

When Pearce jokes "I'm thinking of moving there" Ferguson cautions him: "I wouldn't right now. I 'd let this episode die down".

Ferguson concludes the episode with a segment to camera with his gay robot skeleton sidekick Geoff Peterson.

"Geoff and I would just like to assure anyone watching from Canberra that the views expressed by proper Australians are not those expressed by CBS corporation or ourselves. We quite love Canberra and are looking forward to taking the show there ... Never."

The Late Late Show screens at 12.30am in the US where it is regularly watched by almost 2 million viewers. It is also syndicated worldwide.

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