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After over a week of promos, Conan O’Brien finally unveiled his “Conan in Haiti” episode on Saturday night, relocating his act to Port-au-Prince for a one-hour special that celebrated the country in the wake of reports that President Donald Trump had referred to it (along with El Salvador and certain African countries) as a “shithole.”
O’Brien spent four days in Haiti for the special, which saw him traversing the country and providing a comic briefing on Haitians’ complicated feelings about Americans, their public transportation, beer and strong feelings about the American leader.
O’Brien kicked off the special with a brief history lesson for viewers, reminding them of Spain and France’s colonization of the island and suppression of its indigenous peoples, the import of African slaves and the eventual slave revolt, followed by crushing debt to world powers, the U.S. invasion and withdrawal, and the 2010, 7.0 magnitude earthquake and devastating hurricanes. “The Haitians have been dealt the worst hand in the Western Hemisphere,” O’Brien concluded, “But their spirit remains intact.”
The two-minute tutorial sets the scene for O’Brien’s first real attempt to talk to Haitians. When his presence in Place Boyer provoked a group of Haitians to talk angrily among themselves, O’Brien learned that the group was upset that American journalists often come to the country and “only show the bad parts.”
O’Brien, approaching the group, explained that he is here to show positive images of the country and to prove Trump wrong — then filmed their angry messages for the U.S. leader. “In the show, make sure that Trump knows that you guys are the ones that have bullied us and have caused us to be in the state that we’re in,” one woman told O’Brien.
“Tell him I said that he needs to go tell Trump to do his research and look into one of our forefathers by the name of Jean-Jacques Dessalines,” another said.
O’Brien told the group that he knew one way Trump will listen to them: He slapped a Fox News logo on the bottom of the screen blaring “More Praise for Trump” as Haitians issued their messages.
Next, O’Brien visited Port-au-Prince’s Ecole Nouvelle Zoranje, which provides scholarships to children from poor and dangerous neighborhoods, where he tried to participate in a dancing game with the children, let young girls put ribbons in his hair and butchered his pronunciation of Haitian Creole French in a classroom.
When a group of students confronted O’Brien on his way out, a little girl told him, “We don’t need the help of the U.S. They’re going to come here and take our stuff.” She and other students also held O’Brien’s arm, fascinated by his freckles.
Later, O’Brien rode a tap tap — a taxi — and learned that “Coco” (one half of the show’s social media moniker, Team Coco) means “vagina” in Haitian Creole French. This realization lent new meaning to one of his fellow riders’ enthusiasm when he first saw O’Brien and yelled “Team Coco!” Still, he gave out “Team Coco” T-shirts to men he met, and a “Team Zozo” (translating to Team Penis) tee shirt to one woman.
Next, O’Brien set up his cameras outside a book vendor and gave the camera to Haitians to insult Trump. “President Trump, please come visit Haiti. Because every time you leave your country, you make America great again,” one said. “We have beautiful golf courses here,” another added. “Please come cheat on them.” One woman said, “I want to send a message of love to the leader of America. Oprah, we love you!”
In other segments, he met a tap-tap artist, visited a cooking school and the Prestige beer brewery, and met with a group of expat women who returned to the country to start a business. The organization, DOT, produces liquor, aphrodisiac tea, corn flakes and aphrodisiac oil. “You are an all-female business and I see a theme of aphrodisiacs, like you’re trying to tell us we’re not measuring up,” O’Brien joked.
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