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Stephen Colbert kicks off New Zealand week with an airport pickup by the Prime Minister

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Stephen Colbert
Screenshot: The Late Show

Stephen Colbert loves him some New Zealand. And what’s not to love? Noted J.R.R. Tolkien geek and The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug star (as “Laketown spy,” of course) Colbert is all about Peter Jackson. There are no snakes there. It was the first country to let women vote. And, as Colbert found out when he arrived in the country after a 16-hour flight a few weeks ago, the Prime Minister will even come pick you up at the airport. And, sure, Colbert is all famous and stuff, and he’s had a few warmly received Late Show visits from New Zealand’s PM Jacinda Ardern since she was elected back in 2017, but Ardern did pick him up at the terminal while he was still wearing his airplane neck pillow, sleep mask, and fuzzy slippers, so it’s still pretty cool, all things considered.

Speaking of cool, the PM didn’t even kick up a fuss when Colbert, noting how his country’s leader is all about the Twitter, repeatedly attempted to open her cell phone, plying her with sly questions (baby’s birthdate, etc), before discovering that he’d locked the Prime Minster’s personal phone. She also belted out some enthusiastic “Bohemian Rhapsody” with Colbert, the pair of them brazenly flouting James Corden’s claim on the bit. And when a passing motorist recognized Ardern, she gamely rolled down her window to exchange a friendly “kia ora,” while Colbert had to settle for the driver not knowing who he is, other than the guy the Prime Minster was picking up from the airport.

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Back at the PM’s house, Colbert interviewed Ardern on a variety of topics (Are New Zealanders more polite than Canadians? Why doesn’t she order an audit of Peter Jackson since he passed her over in her Lord Of The Rings audition?) before asking her about more serious stuff. Noting how she, the youngest female head of government in the world, managed to pass a countrywide ban on all military grade assault weapons only one month after the deadly shooting at a Christchurch mosque, Colbert, “asking for 350 million friends,” looked to Ardern for advice. “We’re pragmatists in New Zealand,” the PM said simply, noting that the white supremacist attack in her country was enough to get all by one member of Parliament to vote for a complete ban. “That can’t stand,” said Ardern definitively of her reaction to the massacre.

Colbert, who’d been suspiciously trying to get his host to open up a proffered can of peanut brittle throughout the interview, to no avail, then settled in for a traditional New Zeland state dinner, sausages and white bread, grilled in the backyard by Ardern’s partner and fiancé Clarke. Luckily, another New Zealand celebrity was on hand as well, and she was just too darn polite not to take Colbert up on that peanut brittle offer. Having no snakes whatsoever in the whole country, she really just had no chance.

Look for Colbert’s New Zeland segments (“Stephen Colbert: The Newest Zealander”) all week on The Late Show.

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Dennis Perkins

Contributor, The A.V. Club. Danny Peary's Cult Movies books are mostly to blame.