Continuing his international travel series, seeking to find adventure and participate in cultural and culinary adventures in far-away places, TBS late-night host Conan O’Brien traveled to the West African country of Ghana in Conan Without Borders.
Landing in the country’s capital of Accra, Conan immediately met with a local man to learn the language and cultural customs. “It’s important to me that I’m very popular in Ghana,” the late-night comedian joked. He learned not to let his thumb drop too low while giving a “thumbs up,” as that is considered offensive, and how to address someone with a handshake and greeting.
Later on, a solo Conan took to the streets to participate in dance demonstrations, crack coconuts and try on t-shirts emblazoned with Ghana flag. At one point, he identified a framed Trump picture and asked “WTF?” to the camera.
Joined by Veep actor and comedian Sam Richardson, a Ghanaian who grew up between the African country and Detroit, the two visited the well-populated Makola Market with guide Agnes Arthur — who didn’t speak English. There, they learned from a local woman that they would be sent home if they were to start street fighting.
Speaking to locals around town, Conan was asked what it’s like in the United States. “It’s a shitshow,” he said. “You can go there … but not right now.” Richardson jumped in and said, “Give it two years, maybe six” [depending on the outcome of the presidential election].
During the episode, Conan taped an appearance on Ghana’s number one cooking program McBrown’s Kitchen. He followed up that experience by learning about the traditions surrounding the end of one’s life. “Death is celebrated, funerals are a huge deal … Saturday is funeral day,” said Conan. He shared another finding: fantastical coffins — explaining that Ghanians can choose to have coffins in the shape of something was meaningful during their lifetime. Meeting a local artist, Conan saw a coupe of coffins that people have had made, in the shape of a fish and Coca-Cola bottle.
And suddenly, Conan was looking at a coffin made specifically for him, in the shape of his body, by the Ghanian artist. “You got the face right,” he said, before making a self-deprecating comment that it’s the face he makes when he looks at his own show and realizes that it was never quite what he wanted it to be.
Further into the show, Conan recorded a song with Ghanian popstar Kuami Eugene. He also learned that Ghana is famous for creative renderings of movie posters, often of movies they have not seen. He was shown an alternative poster for his own show created by artist Daniel Anum Jasper, featuring the severed head of Dwight D. Eisenhower and Conan’s face atop a muscular body.
In the city of Kumasi, Conan met local kente cloth weavers and was fitted in an authentic robe that he continued wearing throughout his meeting with the Queen Mother. Wearing his regular clothes, Conan was then taken to a castle that was established in 1661 during the slave trade, learning that it is now the 400th anniversary of transatlantic slave trade. Talking to a local group, Conan was exposed to young people who arrived in Ghana from the United States to learn about their history. “When you understand what our ancestors went through, [you] understand we are survivors of a Holocaust” said a local man.
As their Ghana trip came to a close, Conan sat down with Richardson to get his final thoughts. He described the experience as “literally coming home” and noted that he’s going to keep a “foothold” in Ghana, perhaps in the form of an apartment.
Since beginning the travel series in 2015, Conan has traveled to countries including Greenland, Australia, Japan, Italy, Haiti, Israel and Germany.