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Oz talker makes L.A. home

Australian show tapes in Hollywood

There’s a talkshow greenroom stocked with Foster’s beer, Tim Tam biscuits and Vegemite sandwiches. Remarkably, no Qantas reservations are required. The greenroom can be found right in Los Angeles.

Aussie comedian Rove McManus began lensing his new talkshow “Rove LA” in front of a live studio audience of raucous Angelenos at CBS Television City last month. The yakker, which follows the traditional latenight format, will air weekly in primetime in Australia on FOX8, in New Zealand on TV3 and in the U.K. on E!

The novel approach has studio marketers buzzing, given that Hollywood stars can now promote their new films to a trio of important territories without venturing far from the 405 freeway. After all, a 15-minute drive costs far less than a 15-hour flight.

“To have the show here is a definite advantage,” explains McManus, one of the most popular TV personalities Down Under, having hosted a previous incarnation of the show for 10 years from Melbourne. “The Fox 8 people said, “It just makes sense to do the show from L.A. Why drag these Hollywood stars all the way down here? Do the show where they’re already based.’?”

Indeed, the stars are aligning for McManus and “Rove LA.” The first episode, which featured Lisa Kudrow, Kathy Griffin and “Entourage’s” Jerry Ferrara on the couch, was a hit back home, where it airs one week after its L.A. taping. “Rove LA’s” preem on Sept. 19 quadrupled the Monday 8:30 p.m. timeslot average year-to-date and enjoyed a whopping 5.1% share, one of Fox 8’s highest ever.

Hugh Jackman, Steve Carell and Justin Timberlake have already signed on to appear in future episodes — not an easy commitment to secure given that the show’s format calls for all guests to stay for the entire duration of the hourlong broadcast, including McManus’ monolog. By contrast, thesps appearing on many American yakkers typically drop in only for their segment, clocking less than 10 minutes of airtime.

“We’ve been blown away by the response,” says “Rove LA” talent exec Rachel Goldman, who has already booked more than half of the first season’s guests. “I’m seeing that the opportunity to get that international (presence) without leaving L.A. is very appealing.”

Overseas talkshow hosts tend to stay on home soil. The long-held belief stands that the format, which relies so heavily on local humor and customs, needs a local studio audience. But Fox 8 challenged that notion.

“A foreign city allows Rove to hit the road and compile quirky stories, which he couldn’t get away with in Australia,” notes Foxtel’s head of TV Brian Walsh. Plus, basing the show out of L.A. provides it with access to a wide range of talent, such as actors, comedians and musicians.

“Australia is a long distance from the U.S., so we don’t necessarily get visits from that pool of talent,” Walsh adds.

In fact, Australia is typically seen by studios as an inconvenient stopover on the way to an Asian press tour. With “Rove LA,” studios can reach the Down Under demo for a fraction of the cost. And that savings will certainly prompt the question: Could the “Rove LA” experiment serve as a template?

“I see no reason why this couldn’t be done for other markets as well,” McManus says. “This is … going to be a wonderful little melding of cultures.”

Still, McManus makes an ideal test case. Though he is far from a household name in the U.S., the onetime standup enjoys some Stateside recognition, thanks to appearances on NBC’s “Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and E!’s “Chelsea Lately.” That local notoriety helps keep the live audience interested and energized.

Goldman adds that it doesn’t hurt that McManus’ Melbourne-shot show, which wrapped in 2009, was a top destination for Aussie-bound Hollywood stars for a decade, garnering frequent repeat visits.

McManus says that first-timers might be the only ones thrown off by the unique cultural exchange.

“It might be weird for these poor American guests on the show,” he quips. “We’ll be on their turf, and yet they’ll be playing by Australian rules. Our censorship laws are a lot looser than they are in the States. You can get away with a lot more swearing, nudity. You name it, we’ll do it. Swearing is almost part of our culture.”

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