Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in New York started on a sombre note today after news of the tragic shooting at a school in Texas broke.
The Late Show began filming very soon after the news of the shooting in Uvalde in which at least 18 children and three adults were killed.
Colbert, who has taken aim at US politicians for their failure to act on gun reform on his show in the past, began by asking Ardern about it after New Zealand's own experience with the Christchurch mosque attacks in 2019.
Ardern said New Zealand had gone through those attacks – "But when I watch from afar and see events such as this today, it's not as a politician. I see them just as a mother and I'm so sorry for what has happened here."
Colbert then asked about New Zealand's gun reforms after the attacks. Ardern – who once said she did not understand the United States' lack of action on gun reform after multiple mass shootings – said not everything was perfect and there was still gun crime, but the Government had resolved to do everything it could to prevent any repeat of what had happened in 2019.
The long and often serious interview covered topics from gun reform and the war in Ukraine to what Neve's reference to "fishy kisses" in the Mother's Day card she gave to Ardern was.
Ahead of her trip Ardern has said she would be "shameless" in taking the chance to promote New Zealand – and she went to the extent of inviting Colbert to her wedding in an "invitation" written onto an advertisement for Air New Zealand's new direct flights between New York and Auckland.
She also gave Colbert a chilly bin full of New Zealand beef, after attending a Silver Fern Farm event beforehand to launch its Zero Carbon beef in the US market.
Colbert helped her along in her push for tourists, saying he had enjoyed the times he visited New Zealand and urged others to go.
Ardern said the borders were now open after two long years, and New Zealanders were waiting.
"Hospitality is part of our identity, we call it manaakitanga. So please, come back and make us whole again. You're welcome."
Ardern also made sure to mention New Zealand's high vaccination rate – a measure to help address wariness about travelling while Covid-19 is in the community.
He also asked her about the Covid response, noting that if the US had had the same death rates as New Zealand, 65,000 people would have died instead of one million.
It was Ardern's fourth time on Colbert's show – she went on in 2018 and 2019, and Colbert also travelled to New Zealand in 2019 and did a series on the country just a few months before the borders closed because of Covid-19.
Colbert also asked about her wedding to Clarke Gayford, which had to be postponed from February because of the Covid-19 outbreak. In response, Ardern said the date was yet to be set – but handed Colbert a personal invitation she had written onto an advertisement for the direct New York – Auckland route Air New Zealand is starting.
He also asked about a reference in Neve's Mother's Day card to "fishy kisses" - Ardern declined to demonstrate, saying it would be "a career-defining moment, in a bad way" but told him it involved pursing your lips and making quick kiss noises.
There was also a bit of cultural confusion – Ardern said she had brought Colbert an esky or chilly bin of New Zealand beef from a Silver Ferns Farm launch of its Zero Carbon beef, and he asked what a chilly bin was – the American term is a "cooler".
Ardern replied that it was self-explanatory: "It's a chilly bin, so it's a bin that is cold. I've brought you a cold bin of beef."
Both Ardern and Colbert have recently recovered from Covid-19.
Entry for the audience to the filming in the Ed Sullivan Theatre required evidence of being fully vaccinated and boosted, face masks and waivers to be signed – during the peak of the pandemic, the show was done by Zoom.
This article was first published by the NZ Herald and is republished here with permission.