Palmerston North's heap of payback on Cleese

The Minister of Silly Walks now has an entirely new jurisdiction, thanks to the good people of Palmerston North, still faintly smarting after he dubbed their city the "suicide capital of New Zealand".

After his tour of New Zealand in 2005, British comic John Cleese earned the wrath of the Manawatu city's citizens when he said: "If you wish to kill yourself but lack the courage to, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick".

Cleese said the audience there laughed in all the wrong places and he had a "thoroughly bloody miserable time" in the city.

"We stayed in a little motel, the weather was grotty, the theatre was a nasty shape and the audience was very strange to play to."

His comments created a furore at the time.

However, 18 months later Cleese may have been tricked into thinking time could have soothed the ruffled feathers.

Not so.

Palmerston North has just been biding its time. It has now bestowed a dubious honour on the Academy Award-nominated, Emmy Award-winning actor.

Cleese's name is gracing a compost heap at the local landfill.

City council waste and water manager Chris Pepper said no one was taking credit for the sign, which was quietly put up about a month ago.

Entertainer John Clarke (aka Fred Dagg), originally from Palmerston North, had suggested more than a year ago that the landfill be named the "John Cleese Memorial Tip".

Members of the council had a good old laugh at this, and then somewhere along the line the "Mt Cleese" sign was constructed.

"We're all backing off from the responsibility," Mr Pepper laughed.

"The tongue has been firmly planted in the cheek."

Hopefully the sign demonstrated the suicide capital of New Zealand had a sense of humour, he said.

People seemed to like it and the sign would stay up until the letters from Cleese's lawyers came in.

- NZPA

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