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‘Jersey Shore’ cast to N.J. governor: Lighten up!

The hard-partying crew of “Jersey Shore” says they are feeling the love in the clubs and the beaches of the Garden State — even though New Jersey’s own governor thinks they should go back where they came from.Four of the show’s eight regulars, who have become household names and cultural icons virtually overnight, appeared on TODAY to talk with Matt Lauer direct from — where else? —

The hard-partying crew of “Jersey Shore” says they are feeling the love in the clubs and the beaches of the Garden State — even though New Jersey’s own governor thinks they should go back where they came from.

Four of the show’s eight regulars, who have become household names and cultural icons virtually overnight, appeared on TODAY to talk with Matt Lauer direct from — where else? — the Jersey Shore. The mood was festive, perhaps due to the fact that each of the twentysomething reality stars had recently demanded and received major salary boosts. Even Gov. Chris Christie’s pointed comments about them on TODAY only a day earlier couldn’t dim the smiles on their faces.

On Wednesday, Christie told Lauer the cast doesn’t represent his state, since hardly any of them are actual natives of the Garden State.

“I have enough problems here,” Christie told Lauer in mock exasperation. “I mean, $11 billion deficit, I got to take Snooki and The Situation also? Come on — [there’s only] so much a man can take, Matt.”

Cultural touchstone

But even though he’s originally from Rhode Island, Paul “DJ Pauly D” Delvecchio proudly waved the figurative New Jersey flag Thursday. “I love New Jersey,” Delvecchio told Lauer. “I love coming here; it’s a blast, and everybody likes to have us here. We’ve got a lot of friends here.”

And a lot of fans in TV land. The reality series premiered last July to ho-hum ratings, but the show’s word of mouth — and controversy — spread faster than a computer virus. By the first season finale in January, “Jersey Shore” was averaging nearly 5 million viewers, tripling its audience in just a few months’ time.

Along the way, the show became a cultural touchstone — even President Obama has mentioned it. And the show produced its own breakout stars in 4-foot-9, self-proclaimed “guidette” Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi — subject of her own profile in the weekend magazine of the august New York Times, no less — and Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, known for his trademark washboard abs.

‘Exotic’ Miami

The show is currently shooting its third season back in its familiar Jersey Shore stomping grounds, but the show’s second season, premiering tonight on MTV, brings a fish-out-of-water element to the proceedings by transplanting the partiers to Miami.

Cast member Vinny Guadagnino told Lauer shooting in Miami was “more exotic” than the more working-class environs of New Jersey, and Delvecchio agreed that shooting the second season in Florida was a revelation.

“It’s a whole different scene; there’s a lot of tourists,” Delvecchio said. “The clubs are nice; they can close as late as 6 a.m., so you’re partying all night long.”

Good thing the young stars have fatter wallets to finance that extended revelry. The cast originally held out to double their $5,000-an-episode pay from the first season, and then went for even more: Rumors have it that Snooki and The Situation may be pocketing as much as $45,000 an episode.

When Lauer asked the foursome gathered for the TODAY interview — which also included Jenni “JWoww” Farley and Snooki herself — whether they were happy with their current pay, they all raised their hands, albeit a bit slowly. But they agreed that their pay, and the fact that some of them now get more than others, is not a bone of contention.

“We don’t come here to talk about money; we come here to party,” Snooki told Lauer. “We haven’t discussed those things, and we shouldn’t. We just come here to have a good time.”

Just being themselves

Lauer also noted that the cast now get paid up to $50,000 just to put in an appearance at a nightclub. But Snooki insisted they are unspoiled by all the attention and continue to be their

same spontaneous selves on camera. “When we come here, we don’t think about what’s going to be cut and screwed, we just come out to have a good time,” Snooki said. “We don’t think about [the show’s editing]. Because if you do, you’ll drive yourself crazy and you won’t be yourself.”

Delvecchio added: “The best thing about our show is we’re all ourselves. It’s not scripted; we’re just doing what we normally would do, and they catch it on film.”

Still, the cast obviously enjoy their newfound fame and fortune. When Lauer asked if any of them had splurged on themselves with their fatter paychecks, Snooki smiled and said she bought a 2011 BMW (though, since she doesn’t know how to operate a manual transmission, the car is relegated to gleaming in the driveway).

While “Jersey Shore” has come under fire for promoting Italian stereotypes and generally loutish behavior, Guadagnino put the cast’s antics into perspective. “We’re young kids; we go out to clubs, and sometimes things happen.”

Still, as spike-haired, impeccably gelled Delvecchio pointed out, “Jersey Shore” is not all play and no work.

“They have to work on me a little earlier than the rest of the guys,” he said. “I mean, it takes me 25 minutes to do my hair.”