COMMENT:

It's safe to say New Zealand's attempts to promote itself via The Late Show have been somewhat rocky in the past.

If you cast your mind back 10 years to when John Key was still the Prime Minister and David Letterman was still the host of the popular US late night talk show, you might remember Key appeared on an episode to read out the "Top 10 Reasons You Should Visit New Zealand".

I re-watched that infamous John Key clip as I awaited The Late Show's return to New Zealand on Prime this week. I don't suggest you do the same, unless you enjoy the feeling of wanting to hide behind your couch. Although Key gamely tried his, um, best, he looked and sounded nothing more than a novelty act, put on that stage purely for Letterman to poke fun at.

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Some noises were made a couple of years after Key's Late Show appearance regarding the amount of money paid to secure it. There were reports at the time that an American PR firm was paid to lobby for Key's appearance, with figures up to $10,000 being bandied about.

That's just a tenth of the amount of money Kiwi taxpayers have forked out to get Letterman's successor, Stephen Colbert, to promote New Zealand to his 3.5 million viewers on The Late Show this week. But in this case, the phrase "you get what you pay for" springs to mind. Because the exposure New Zealand is getting in the American market this time around is top shelf comedy by comparison.

John Key on the David letterman Show in 2009. Photo / NZPA
John Key on the David letterman Show in 2009. Photo / NZPA

Colbert opened the first of his "New Zealand Week" episodes by talking about US President Donald Trump's impeachment.

"The fate of our nation hangs in the balance," he said. "That's why all week we will have complete coverage of my amazing trip to New Zealand."

He then quipped it was the furthest he could get from the dumpster fire that is American politics "without getting pecked to death by penguins".

Colbert's opening spiel certainly featured $100,000 worth of adulation for all things New Zealand. He talked about the country's "incredible people" and "breath-taking" landscapes. He obsessed over the fact we don't have snakes. (Like, really obsessed over it.) And he openly admitted to being a big fan of Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Ardern returned the favour by picking Colbert up from Auckland Airport and driving him to her house for an interview, in a performance that certainly won't dent her international appeal.

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Amongst other things, she deftly handled Colbert's jokes, indulged in a Carpool Karaoke rip-off featuring Bohemian Rhapsody, and laughed off Colbert accidentally disabling her phone. As Ardern herself quipped to the talk show host, "I'm a woman, I multitask."

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The segment's single solemn moment came as Colbert and Ardern discussed the gun law reforms that followed this year's Christchurch mosque shootings. Sure, passing laws in New Zealand don't face quite the same hurdles as those in America, but their conversation will likely still resonate with a country despairing over its own gun violence.

As the interview came to an end, Ardern and her fiancé Clarke Gayford were seen treating Colbert to dinner. It had all the standard hallmarks of a Kiwi backyard BBQ, too, including sausages, buttered bread and international superstar Lorde (who found herself being The Late Show's novelty act to poke fun at this time).

Colbert's New Zealand adventures will continue all week, as the talk show host enjoys a few rugby lessons, goes on some Lord of the Rings adventures, and takes a tour of Wellington with Lucy Lawless and Bret McKenzie.

America (and New Zealand) should prepare to be completely charmed.

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert airs weeknights on Prime.