New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has won a new legion of fans after a hilarious appearance on a popular US talk show.
Ardern, who is in New York for a United Nations summit, sat down with The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert for a chat about all things NZ and left the host and his audience laughing as she regaled an awkward run-in with Donald Trump and her unsuccessful audition for The Lord of the Rings.
Colbert – who outed himself as diehard Hobbit fan – described Ardern as the biggest thing to hit New Zealand since “Frodo dropped the ring into Mt Doom”. When he asked her about growing up near Hobbiton, Ardern joked she found it “slightly offensive” that people think every New Zealander starred in The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit.
But when he asked if she had, she said: “Some of us auditioned but weren’t successful ok?”
Elsewhere in their chat, Ardern recalled an earlier run in with Trump at the UN in which her partner Clarke Gayford knocked over a flag pole while she was trying to discuss a trade agreement with the US president.
The US imposed steel and aluminium tariffs on New Zealand earlier in the year, and Ardern said she was determined to raise the issue with Trump during her New York trip.
However, when the moment finally came she was thwarted by Gayford’s accidental clumsiness.
“…the flag went down,” she said. “As I turned around he [Gayford] was holding a long metal prong. I’m surprised no one leapt on it at that point because it looked like a weapon!”
Colbert asked if New Zealand was friends with Australia, which secured an elusive deal with the US to avoid the steel and aluminium tariffs, to which Ardern replied: “Yes, we’re friends with Australia.”
She added: “It’s just like that kind of friendly rivalry.”
Ardern had already made headlines around the world during her New York visit for being the first world leader to bring their baby to a UN general assembly meeting. The prime minister gave birth to her daughter Neve in June and returned to work after just six weeks maternity leave.
US audiences seemed stunned at Ardern’s relaxed attitude and funny quips, and were surprised to hear she regularly stops to chat with voters while getting her groceries and even when buying maternity bras.
“Wow, a world leader that seems smart, wellspoken and intelligent? See America, it isn’t that hard,” one person wrote.
“Intelligent, witty, articulate, humble, great sense of humor, highly competent at her job . . . now that is a worthy world leader,” added another.