Bohemian Rhapsody and a BBQ: Stephen Colbert visits Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand

Angela Cuming in Dunedin

The Late Show’s Stephen Colbert engaged in potentially copyright-infringing carpool karaoke with prime minister Jacinda Ardern and pranked Lorde at a barbecue – aka a “New Zealand state dinner” – as he made good on a promise to get as far away as possible from news about Donald Trump.

The chat show host got straight to it in his sit-down interview with the New Zealand prime minister for Tuesday night’s opening episode, called the “Newest Zealander”, pleading to become a citizen and offering to marry Ardern and partner Clarke Gayford.

Ardern seemed keen, Gayford less so (“Um, I mean, sure ... let’s talk”).

The US chatshow host also gave Ardern, of whom he said he was a “huge admirer”, a suggested 2020 election campaign slogan: “New Zealand, same prime minister”.

Colbert’s week-long visit to New Zealand began with the host being suitably impressed that Ardern picked him up at the airport. Ardern explained how she managed to fit it into her schedule: “I am a woman, I multi-task.”

Colbert bagged the most memorable moment of the episode: a duet of Bohemian Rhapsody. He earlier warned: “That is James Corden’s thing and that guy is mobbed up with lawyers. He will come after us with a sharp stick.”

Then it was on to a good, old-fashioned Kiwi barbecue with usual ingredients: sausages, buttered white bread, a garden salad, and New Zealand pop star Lorde.

There was a sombre moment, too, when Colbert and Ardern discussed New Zealand’s gun law reforms that followed the Christchurch mosque shootings in March. “I just went out there and said: ‘Our laws will change’.”

It’s a far cry from the cringeworthy appearance by former prime minister John Key on the Late Show with David Letterman Show in 2009, where a clearly nervous Key fumbled his way through a “top 10 reasons to visit New Zealand” list.

Key’s appearance at the time cost taxpayers $10,000 and while Colbert’s trip has cost 10 times as much, it has been largely viewed as far better value for money. The talk show host, who has a television audience of 3.5 million, is an enthusiastic and vocal fan of New Zealand, and Tourism New Zealand has said it was expecting a “significant return on investment” of $5m in estimated advertising value from Colbert’s trip.

Colbert’s Kiwiana experience will also feature other bucket-list items in future episodes, including Sir Peter Jackson and Hobbiton, rugby lessons and tour of Wellington with Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless and Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame.