Saturday, January 14, 2006

Conan O'Brien embraces his roots and plays Finnish politics.

The redheaded late-night talk show host Conan O'Brien has been promoting President Tarja Halonen's re-election bid as part of a long-running joke about their supposed physical similarities.

"Why do I support Tarja Halonen? Because she's got the total package: a dynamic personality, a quick mind, and most importantly — my good looks," the comedian, whose show is broadcast on cable in Finland, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

In one show, O'Brien presented a mock ad for Halonen in which he and two Finns were discussing the election while fishing on a frozen lake.

When they talk about rival candidate Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen, a dead fish shoots out of the hole in the ice, prompting a joke about how the mere mention of his name causes fish to commit suicide.

"Fish recognize a bad leader," O'Brien says in broken Finnish to laughter from his studio crowd.

Halonen's opponents are not amused.

"He's just making fun of the whole election," said Harri Jaskari, campaign manager for former Finance Minister Sauli Niinisto. "If this decides the election, then we're in trouble. It gives a very poor picture of Finnish democracy."