“King Conan” Receives Warm Finnish Welcome
By Irish America Staff
April / May 2006
Conan O’Brien, host of NBC’s Late Night talk show, marked his arrival in Vantaa, Finland on February 12 by kissing the ground at the Helsinki-Vantaa Airport, renamed “Conan O’Brien Airport” for the day. His visit was prompted by a supposed resemblance that O’Brien (pictured above) has to Finnish President Tarja Halonen (above right). The Late Show ran a series of mock campaign ads in which O’Brien endorsed Ms. Halonen.
O’Brien’s Finnish fan base came to the airport bearing signs which read “Welcome to Conelandia” and “Tarja is our president but Conan is our king.” About 2,000 people turned out to welcome the talk show host in the airport’s VIP lounge.
Aside from meeting with President Halonen at the presidential palace in Helsinki, O’Brien planned to meet with fans and sample Finnish foods like reindeer steak. The New York Times quoted O’Brien as saying, “I see this as an opportunity to create my own kind of travel show.”
Aside from Finland, O’Brien has no ambitions to take over other countries with his humor. “This whole thing grew organically, with one happy coincidence leading to another, first with the physical resemblance and then with the presidential election.” he told the Times.
During his time in Finland O’Brien was presented an award for “the most surprising and entertaining TV personality” by Finland’s oldest television magazine, based on a public vote. ♦