With US talk show host Conan O’Brien in town after an earlier visit by Kim Kardashian, it seems that swinging by Armenia to shoot episodes for US-based TV shows may be becoming a bit of a thing for American celebrities. But whether or not the country can boost their ratings is open to debate.
Regardless, Armenian comedians Narek Margaryan and Sergey Sargsyan were thrilled to have O’Brien on their ArmComedy show on October 14. The pair said the experience would be just perfect if only their celebrity guest agreed to let them make him an Armenian.
“The national sport of Armenia is starting rumor [sic] that this or that celebrity is Armenian,” explained Margaryan, before asking O’Brien to sign a release form that would allow the comedians to claim that he is, in fact, an ethnic Armenian with the last name of O’Briyan.
Despite his new Armenian credentials, O’Brien, unlike the Kardashians, did not get to meet the country’s prime minister, Hovik Abrahamian. But he did get a crash course in the Armenian experience for his November 17 broadcast. He put meat on skewers for grilling, played backgammon, and vowed to export to the US the Armenian (and the rest of the Caucasus’) custom of men walking together, arm-in-arm.
O’Brien said he went to Armenia at the suggestion of his American-Armenian assistant Sona Movsesian, who accompanied him. “It was either that or give her a raise,” he tweeted.
But some might see another motivation, as well. O’Brien’s on-location show from Cuba this March ranked as his top-rated since his 2010 premiere on the US cable channel, TBS, deadline.com reported. For a comedian with three more years on his contract, and a show not busting the ratings — bringing in, on average, 700,000 viewers per broadcast in 2014, according to The Wall St. Journal — destinations with vibrant US Diaspora communities could have their attractions.
For the Kardashians, though, the trip to Armenia appears to have done little for their audience size. The family used the Mother Armenia show to kick off their current season, but its 1.2 million viewers were more than a 50-percent drop from the preceding season’s premiere, according to Nielsen ratings. A subsequent uptick has not lingered.
But that doesn’t worry many in Armenia much.
Kardashian did gain some unintended laughs when she strode about Yerevan with a cardboard cutout of her brother Rob’s head, so that he, too, can see their ancestral homeland. But, per Caucasian tradition, the ArmComedy hosts described Kim Kardashian’s rapper husband, Kanye West, as their brother-in-law — a title used to describe a foreigner who’s married someone of Armenian heritage and, hence, become the entire nation’s son/daughter/brother/sister-in-law.
Who’s going to be the next Armenian-curious American celebrity to visit Yerevan is anyone's guess. Cher, anybody?
--Caucasus news editor Elizabeth Owen added reporting to this post.