Australia’s international image is formed and
shaped by our television soaps. Similarly, I can write all sorts of columns about Finland, but many
people in Australia will always think of Finland as being Aki Kaurasmaki’s Drifting Clouds, one of the most popular films at the Sydney Film Festival in
the late 1990s.

And in Finland, the US is Late Night with Conan
O’Brien
, an American late night talk
show that’s huge in Finland. And as O’Brien has mentioned a number of times
on air, he gets lots of emails and postcards from Finland.

But what happens when there is a
wormhole in the universe, and the universe starts reflecting back on itself? What happens when Conan O’Brien starts
referring to Finland? Conan is the
US – so the US is commenting on
Finland. It’s news.

Finland is a self-conscious country. There’s a Finnish joke – an American, a
Frenchman and a Finn are on safari and come across an elephant. The American thinks “How much money can I get
for the tusks?” The Frenchman thinks “What sort of love life does the elephant
have?” The Finns thinks “I wonder what
the elephant thinks of me…”

Last year, Conan had a segment “Conan Hates My Homeland” where he said a
few nasty things about a number of countries each episode and then waited to see
how many emails and postcards he would receive – click here
for the full list of insults.

But Finland couldn’t wait and started sending
emails and postcards before Conan even got past the Bs, prompting this insult:
“Finland: We’re so dumb, we can’t wait to be insulted to send a meaningless postcard with
a tire on the front.”


That was met with an unprecedented avalanche of Finnish feedback and
Conan apologised for the insult, sitting in front of a Finnish flag
holding a Swedish flag with the legend “Sweden Sucks.” This picture is
plastered all around the University of Oulu. The skit – check it out here – was big news and
reported in the mainstream press.

And now it’s happened again. Last Wednesday, Conan revealed that he
looks like Finland’s president, Tarja Halonen, and provided a face
next to face comparison. He then mentioned that the Finnish
presidential elections are coming up and promised to use his “immense
popularity” to ensure that Halonen is re-elected.

He even produced a
cheesy “Tarja for President” ad – watch it here – in which Conan encourages Finns to vote for her because “she looks just like me.”

The segment makes the front page of Friday’s Ilta
Sanomat
, Helsinki’s main tabloid newspaper and the Finnish Ministry of Foreign Affairs news website.
The Tarja campaign loses no time.

Finland broadcasts Conan’s show a few days
after it’s broadcast in the US, so when the skit is finally shown in
Finland, there is a “Tarja for President” ad before the show starts and
ads throughout the broadcast.

There’s even
talk that Conan will actually shoot a few episodes in Helsinki. The universe will collapse into itself.