It took just 19 days from the day the news broke (on August 15) that President Trump was eyeing Greenland for a national real estate purchase, to the airing of Conan O’Brien’s Greenland travel special this week on Tuesday night.
The trip and the show that resulted from it represented a great effort on the part of Conan, his long-time producer Jeff Ross and whoever else from Team Coco who tagged along for this kook's tour of the world's largest island (Australia is larger, but geographers and cartographers classify it as a continent, not an island).
At one hour in length, the Tuesday night special seen on TBS, titled “Conan Without Borders: Greenland,” was twice as long as regular episodes of O’Brien’s TBS late-night show “Conan,” which was slashed to a half-hour from an hour last January.
On the new “Conan,” the set is sparse (as if a collection company came and repossessed the furnishings), there is no band and Conan, 56, is outfitted in waist-length jackets and skinny ties instead of suits.
Despite the changes, the show is still an attractive option at 11 p.m. weeknights. But when he leaves the cramped confines of his talk-show studio, Conan sometimes exudes a spirit of liberation. He seems looser and cleverer.
This was no less true on his August swing through Greenland, in which he met and conversed with a number of locals, sampled some regional foods such as whale skin and seal fat, visited some towns and took a cruise among glaciers and icebergs.
All along the way, he made wan attempts at persuading Greenlanders that they should welcome President Trump's overtures for the purchase of their island (technically “owned” by Denmark).
He even made up a new version of the famous red Trump “MAGA” cap with the words “Make America Greenland Also” emblazoned on it. The recipient of this hat was a high school teen who came to interview Conan for the school paper.
Wherever he went, Conan was warmly welcomed. He was interviewed on TV, and was also given an opportunity to deliver a weather forecast on a local TV station in the native Greenlandic language that he attempted to read from a teleprompter. This weather bit was apparently a big hit in Greenland.
He found little support from the Greenlanders he met for the sale of their country to the United States. They seem more than content with their lives as semi-autonomous Danes.
For Conan, this Greenland trip was only the latest in what is becoming a long list of far-flung travels he has made in pursuit of international laughs. His other destinations in his “Conan Without Borders” travel list have included the Korean peninsula, Armenia, Haiti, Israel, Cuba, Mexico, Ireland and Italy (TBS re-aired his Italy special from last year directly after the “Greenland” show on Tuesday night).
In 1993, Conan was the surprise newcomer who Lorne Michaels plucked from obscurity to replace David Letterman as host of NBC's “Late Night.” Today, Conan is late-night's elder statesman -- the sole survivor from the late-night era that started just after Johnny Carson decided to retire in 1992.
With his travel specials, it is great to see Conan and his team still making the effort to ply the showman's trade, and doing a bang-up job of it.
Who knows? Perhaps after “Conan” runs its course on TBS, “Conan Without Borders” (a brand Conan might actually own) might have a future somewhere else. National Geographic Channel, anyone?