Conan has become somewhat of a sensation in Finland this year, as he bears a pretty amusing resemblance to Finland's red-headed president, Tarja Halonen. Conan even did fake campaign commercials for her as segments on his show - all in Finnish.
My favorite fake campaign ad was Conan sitting with two Finnish-speaking actors discussing the candidates around an ice-fishing hole. After jokingly talking about the benefits of re-electing Halonen and taking a swipe at her opponent, a fish jumps out of the hole. Says Conan in halting Finnish, "See? Fish commit suicide just at the mention of her opponent's name!" It was all a joke - for the benefit of O'Brien's growing Finnish audience, but it actually became a campaign topic in Finland - was O'Brien's joking affecting the election? (Halonen's opponent was not amused, though I doubt the occasional joke from a late night American TV comedian really made a profound effect on the voting results.)
During the Olympics, O'Brien made a sojourn to Finland, where he received an overwhelmingly kind and positive welcome. He was feted by President Halonen and chased by paparazzi, which had to be quite something for the pale, skinny, very self-deprecating O'Brien. I get the impression that Conan was really amazed by his popularity with Finnish viewers.
Tonight, his show is devoted exclusively to his trek to Finland. I can't wait to see it. Sometimes his humor is spot on, sometimes it misses, and sometimes it makes me squirm with discomfort. Let's see where his off-kilter sense of fun takes us this time.
I'm trying to imagine him waking up to the breakfast buffet at the Hotel Presidentii in Helsinki. I remember my first stay in Finland - for Americans raised on "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer," seeing reindeer meat on the breakfast menu is a shock at first. (But it's pretty damn tasty.)