Conan O’Brien did a Q&A with the studio audience in Mexico City for his Conan Without Borders: Made in Mexico special, in which he talked about moments that didn’t make it to the show and “this thing I’m really interested in, which is comedy as diplomacy.”
“I’m very comfortable being made fun of…Comedy seems to work in these countries where they maybe think, ‘Oh, the American is coming and he’s 6’4 and they’re a powerful country and he’s rich, and they’re imperialists.’ What I like to do is go there and put them them in the power position,” he explained.
In January, O’Brien announced he and his TBS late-night show would head to Mexico City. The announcement came just hours after the president of Mexico canceled plans to meet with newly sworn in President Donald Trump after Trump signed an executive order expediting construction of The Wall between Mexico and the United States, and again insisted Mexico is going to pay for it.
“There are a lot of people in their own echo chamber, they’re on the internet, they get worked up, they listen to one news network,” Conan told his Made in Mexico studio audience. “They get disconnected from humanity and I think that’s sad, but can be overcome if enough of us make an effort.”
Conan is a rare late-night host who seems to eschew politics yet inserts himself into some significant political stories.
The TBS star made headlines in February 2015 when he and a small crew became the first American late-night show to film in Cuba since the U.S. embargo on that country began in 1962. Conan followed that road trip with a visit to South (and, very briefly, North) Korea, to Qatar with then-First Lady Michelle Obama, and to Armenia. In December, TBS aired his latest road trip, Conan Without Borders: Berlin.
Conan’s Cuba visit came in the thick of then-President Barack Obama’s controversial efforts to normalize relations with that island nation. Similarly, the show’s Berlin visit debuted as our country was about to swear in Donald Trump, elected on an isolationist platform. It premiered the same week German Chancellor Angela Merkel advocated for a ban on full-face veils in her country, as she hoped to score another four-year term despite far-right forces there having made some significant gains.
With Berlin, as with Cuba, O’Brien said he kept the purpose of his visit simple: Meet the people, play the clown, make friends.