Hollywood star calls Singapore ‘barbaric’, a ‘benevolent dictatorship'
By Ben Tan Sunday March 20, 2011 09:44 pm PDT
It may have been tongue-in-cheek but Hollywood star Seth Rogen's jokes have sparked furious debate among Singaporeans.
The Canadian actor and comedian, 29, has come out to say that he was "afraid" of Singapore, calling it "a very frightening place".
In a tongue-in-cheek interview on popular late-night US television talk show ‘Conan' on 10 Mar, the star of Green Hornet told host Conan O'Brien that most people wouldn't go to Singapore because of its strict laws, much to the audience's amusement.
He said that the nation's "claim to fame was in the ‘80s when that dude did graffiti and got caned a bunch of times by the government.", referring to Michael Fay, who was sentenced to caning in 1994 after he was found guilty of theft and vandalism.
He went on to say that "it was very frightening to be there", because of the death penalty for drug smugglers, which he called "his second career".
Rogen, who was in town on 25 Jan along with Jay Chou to promote his movie, also weighed in on the ban on chewing gum, with O'Brien expressing incredulity that such a thing could be banned in Singapore, calling it very "hardcore". He also jokingly called Singapore "a benevolent dictatorship... where no one has ever voted."
Conan is one of the most popular late-night talk shows in America, with each episode drawing an average of 1.3 million viewers.
Local celebrities Yahoo! Singapore spoke to said Singaporeans shouldn't get too worked up about Rogen's comments.
Actor-cum-singer Nat Ho tweeted in response: ‘I've just watched it, I think it's all right in the context of the talk show la. We shouldn't get our knickers in a bunch over this. ‘Cos' I think that would only prove how uptight we are. Live and let live. It doesn't hurt anyone.'
Popular actress Joanne Peh told Yahoo! via a tweet: "I promise I will enlighten him about Singapore when I am cast in Green Hornet 2."
However, other Singapore netizens thought Rogen was ignorant and insensitive.
Forum user smartrader said: "He talked like a moron. He did not know that by saying such things he should never step into Singapore again - if he is so scared."
Monkeyface expressed disappointment with the actor, wondering: "Is he trying to be funny because he is on the Conan O' Brien show or just displaying his ignorance?"
Others, however, called the interview funny.
Brainiac said: "Hey guys... Don't you think you are taking this video too seriously... I actually thought what he said was pretty funny! There's a difference between insulting a country in a derogatory manner and poking fun at its idiosyncrasies... If you think about it, the things he says about our gum being banned and people not being able to vote is pretty true!"
Undergraduate Jonathon Jacob, 24, felt Rogen "jumped to conclusions too early from stories he heard prior to his trip. Anyway, he was on an American talkshow. Nothing like an American making fun of an Asian state."
Twitter user Vinyarb (@vinyarb) also tweeted, "Aiyoh, can we really take him seriously, knowing 1) he's a comedian and 2) he's on Conan.
Is he going overboard ?